tell me again where in oregon is alsace?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In his excellent 1WineDude post on 1WineDude yesterday, blogger Joe Roberts paraphrased some lengthy discussions about what younger (Millennial) wine drinkers want from a wine. I strongly encourage you to read the whole post. But for you slackers – his main points were that the new generation is looking for wines with authenticity, a good story, true (non-fabricated) quality, interest (as in non-boring), a connection to a time, place or person, and wines that generate discussion.

None of this is surprising, as Roberts himself acknowledged. But it’s especially useful when this checklist is used as a sort of a screening mechanism for a wine, a brand, or an entire category. Here’s a small example.

For the past couple of years I’ve been the keynote speaker at the Oregon
Pinot Gris Symposium organized by Jo and Jose Diaz. A third Symposium is scheduled for mid-June (details to follow). From the very beginning, I have urged member wineries to stop marketing their wines as made in an Alsatian style! They are missing the boat. Last time I looked, Oregon is a long way from Alsace. These wines are not Alsatian.

Comparing your lesser-known wines to those from an old, established wine region is an old and familiar strategy, but ultimately it’s self-defeating. Another example – I’ve lost count of the hundreds of Chardonnays I’ve tasted over the years, from Oregon, Washington, California, anywhere but Chablis – that have proclaimed that they are Chablis-like. And you know what? NONE of them are Chablis! They may be very good, they may emulate some of what makes Chablis a great white wine, but they are not from Chablis.

Yesterday I tasted two excellent bottles of genuine Alsatian Pinot Gris, both 2011 vintage releases. One was the Pierre Sparr ‘Selection’ ($16); the other from Zind-Humbrecht ($24). They were lovely wines, the Sparr just slightly sweet and more fleshy and fruity, the Zind-Humbrecht a bit more racy (despite 14.7% alcohol!), and detailed with bracing minerality. Mrs. G preferred the former, I gulped down the latter. It was a hot vintage, and they were rich, ripe, fruity wines. But neither was being marketed as “Oregonian” in style.

Which brings me full circle to Joe Roberts' list of what the new generation wants. How can any wine from a particular place identify itself as done in the style of a different place without sacrificing authenticity, compromising the story, and breaking the connection to a place?

Pick of the Week – Saint Gregory 2011 Pinot Blanc; $15
My experience with Mendocino County Pinot Blanc is just about zilch, at least recently. But Virginie Boone, who covers the region for Wine Enthusiast, liked this wine quite a bit, writing “Light and clean, this Pinot Blanc has layered flavors of flower, pear and mineral. It’s a fine choice to pair with Asian fare or to enjoy on its own as an apéritif.” I concur, finding it well-rounded, fair value, and distinct from Oregon (or other California) bottlings, with interesting highlights of Asian spices. Part of the Graziano Family of Wines, Pacific Rim distributes in Washington.

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