Pinot Blanc

This grape is known as Weißer Burgunder or Weißburgunder in Germany and the Italians call it Pinot Bianco. Weißburgunder wines have a less pronounced bouquet, yet more acidity, than the Grauburgunder (from which it mutated). Dry Weißburgunder is considered a very good food wine and Germans love it with (white) asparagus and fish.

Georg Mosbacher, Weißburgunder "sl", 2008

For me, the last couple of months were Silvaner and Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder) time - two of my favourite wines during asparagus season. A Pinot Blanc I was particularly looking forward to comes from Mosbacher, a well respected Pfalz winery. The Mosbacher Weißburgunder SL is made "sur lie", which is French for "on the lees", meaning that the wine spent extra time on the deposits of dead yeast - a process that is meant to result in more depth and substance.

label detail

I took the Weißburgunder with me to a four course asparagus menu, hoping it would be versatile enough to go with a range of dishes from asparagus soup to fish with asparagus spears and horseradish hollandaise.

Torsten Thursday, 30/06/2011

Wittmann, Weißer Burgunder "S", 2008

Every spring I look forward to the asparagus season. Leaving aside the fantastic Silvaner grape, Pinot Blanc is one of my favourite wines to be enjoyed with asparagus. It also happens to be one of my favourite white wines, and so I used the last couple of months to reduce my stock of Weißburgunder, as the Germans call it. Wittmann's 2008 Pinot Blanc has been sitting in my wardrobe for two years now, waiting for a special moment.

When a fantastic looking turbot and two handfuls of lovely English asparagus found their way into my kitchen, that special moment had come. I had fairly high hopes for this wine, as Wittmann's "S-Class" have never let me down, some of them turning out to be truly stunning.

Staatsweingut Meersburg, Hohentwieler Olgaberg, Weißer Burgunder 2009

Those of you who have ever followed up on our coverage under the no other place-tag know that we have a special thing for out-of-the-way wine growing regions. But that doesn't mean that we want people to judge these wines more benevolently because of the originality or their provenance, nor do we. What we want is emphatically both regionalism *and* quality in wine.

Dr. Heyden, Chardonnay & Weißburgunder, 2009

After taking a look at Pfalz wines in the last three reviews, time to bring you up to date on Germany's other bread-and-butter region, Rheinhessen. Many german wine drinkers turn there for lower-priced, everyday wines that they order in larger quantity, but don't necessarily talk about the way they would about last weekend's Großes Gewächs or the Mosel Auslese they serve at their own posh dinner party. Everybody has their place of choice - at the moment, mine is Dr. Heyden, whose workhorse wines are carefully made and very dependable, but who also overachieve significantly with their stylish and concentrated old vines-Silvaner and their truly excellent Frühburgunder. In what has become a little tradition, I have been going to see Frank Heyden behind his table at a twice-yearly wine fair in Munich for two years now, both to have a chat and to slip him a follow-up order.

Another wine that he served me there is his Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc cuvée. I liked it there and then. But how will it fare under the cruel light shone on the Wine Rambler's tasting table, where neither friendship nor enmity can hope to sway the incorruptible critic?

Wein und Sektgut Harteneck, Maxime, Pinot Brut

Our regular readers know that we think highly of Baden's southernmost subregion, the Markgräflerland, have enjoyed its original Gutedels and serious Pinots, and count on it to make its name in the international wine world fairly soon. You also know that we have explored the world of German sparkling wines with growing enthusiasm.

If we put those two together, what do we get? We get this all-organic sparkler from the (as yet) little-known Harteneck winery of Schliengen, halfway between Freiburg and Basel.

Dr. Heger, Weißburgunder Auslese trocken, Ihringer Winklerberg, 2002

As far as aged wines go, eight years may not seem seriously old, but Pinot Blanc, especially from Germany, tends to be drunk as a younger wine, light and fresh in style. Having said that, some German wineries also produce more substantial Weißburgunder (German for Pinot Blanc), matured in oak barrels, that can and should age a few years. Dr. Heger is one of those wineries, located in the Kaiserstuhl, the warmest wine growing area in Germany with fantastic volcanic soil.

The dry Auslese from the Winklerberg vineyard is one of those more substantial Pinot Blancs. The colour shows the wine's age, an intense honey coloured gold that promises substance and maturity.

Weingut Bercher, Burkheimer Feuerberg, Weißburgunder Großes Gewächs, 2007

It's been a while since we last talked Pinot Blanc. So gather round me, friends: Pinot Blancs's reputation is generally lacklustre. In Burgundy, it's rather like Stephen Baldwin to Chardonnay's Alec - the younger brother who doesn't quite have the talent and will always be outshone. Mostly though, it is because international drinkers get their Pinot Blanc bearings from Alsace and Northern Italy, where results are often very drinkable, but ultimately rather bland, that Pinot Blanc is still underrated. In Germany, though, where it makes for about 3.5% of vines planted, it can be granted great growth status when grown in the best vineyards, and can indeed turn out distinctive and quite majestic wines. When we last checked in with one of the country's very best Pinot Blanc producers, the Bercher family of Baden's Kaiserstuhl subregion, we were confronted with rather too majestic a specimen: The 2004 great growth dry Spätlese. Impressive for its power, but pulled out of balance by high alcohol content, was our verdict back then.

Well, I'm most happy to report back to you on a younger version of the same wine:

Salwey, Weißburgunder, Kabinett trocken, 2008

And yet again I am drinking a Pinot from sun-kissed Baden; this time it is a Pinot Blanc, known in Germany as Weißburgunder (=white Burgundy). As I have written a lot about the producer, the Salwey family recently, I will keep this introduction short and jump right into the wine:

The bouquet is a mixture of melon and apple - Bramley apple, in particular -, with earthy mineral, soft notes of hand lotion and, surprisingly, the faintest hint of petrol. Light, smooth and enticing.

Van Volxem, Weißburgunder, 2008

These days, I find myself drinking more and more Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). It can be very food friendly (especially when you go for lighter food, fish and the seasonal asparagus (even though the latter is always a bit tricky)) and I enjoy the contrast to the sharper Riesling. A particularly good and typical recent example for Weißburgunder came from the Saar river, very close to the Mosel. It looked a little bit like this:

Dr. Heger, Oktav, Weißburgunder Kabinett, 2008

Yet again it is back to Baden for the Wine Rambler (this year I seem to drink more and more wine from Germany's sun-kissed southern wine region), and yet again a wine from the Heger winery: a surprisingly fresh and fruity, but otherwise very typical Pinot Blanc, if you want the short summary.

Torsten Thursday, 08/04/2010