My favorite candidate for the most unjustly overlooked wine grape award is undoubtedly pinot gris. This pink-skinned cousin of both pinot noir and chardonnay can produce wines of great power and real fruit expressions, yet at the same time remain soft and delightfully accessible. And it's not saddled with chardonnay or riesling's haughty, aristocratic pretensions.
Its original home is in the Alsace region of northeast France but it is grown successfully in the New World as well, so this week and next I am pairing two versions, the first from Alsace and the second from California.
The Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Reserve Romanus 2008 ($20) is named for one Romanus Albrecht who started making wine in the town of Thann near the Swiss border in 1425. The family must be doing something right because after one move, in 1698 to nearby Orschwir, an event following which the company literature claims, the "modern" era began, they are still making superb wines. I am particularly enamored by the Pinot Noir Amplus—yes, a pinot noir from Alsace.
But back to the wine at hand—and, yes, I am pleased to report that there is a glass at hand as I write. This beautiful pinot gris has a delicate, ethereal quality to it, with pretty floral notes and pronounced citrus elements.
It is a young wine and evolved quite noticeably in the glass over an hour or so, showing as it did the apparently contradictory nature of this intriguing grape; the yin and yang of its feminine delicacy matched by its far from obvious yet nonetheless very real assertive strength. So make no mistake, despite its pleasing approachability, this is no wimpy white here.
When to Drink: Now, and for the next year or so.
Breathing/Decanting: Yes, one hour helps.
Food Pairing: A perfect choice with Southeast Asian food.
Grapes: 100% pinot gris
Web Site: lucien-albrecht.com
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Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week
The Other Pinot ... Gris, That Is
Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.