Albert Mann Alsace Pinot Blanc 2006
Maurice Barthelme, after marrying into the family of Domaine Albert Mann in Alsace,
gradually took over the winery reins, and now shares tasks with his brother Jacky. The
brothers are committed to sustainable agriculture, organic and biodynamic where possible,
certified when feasible, de facto when not; they are not alone in this view among the fiercely
The Pinot Blanc grape is hardly the star for either Domain Albert Mann or Alsace in general—that distinction is left to the four “noble” varieties Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris—but Alsace produces a good deal of Pinot Blanc, some of it, as here, a shade more stimulating than merely good. Pinot Blanc costs much less than the big grapes, in this case an accessible $13. The Pinot Blanc grape looks like Chardonnay though it is genetically not similar; like some Chardonnays today, Pinot Blanc may endure some rough handling. Pinot Blanc can hence reach the table a few shades too sweet, with correspondingly unsatisfying acidity. When is shows insufficient fruit and has a forgettable finish, Pinot Blanc can—let's face it—frequently qualify as Pinot Blah.
The present wine avoids these pitfalls and brings solid value for its price class. Getting to a key issue first, it has a respectable level of sustained acidity. The accompanying fruit doesn't scream, but it has a lovely quality: pear, green apple and lime citrus on both nose and palate. The nose gives white flowers (I am thinking acacia) and the palate shows a slightly (but pleasantly) bitter minerality with something of a powdery feel. The finish is not intense but is satisfyingly long, with balance.
I occasionally have nighttime dreams or daytime reveries in which a grape or a wine appears
in my consciousness like some great pleasure garden. Pinot Blanc has yet to appear in any of
these, and I am not holding my breath, since it is not the kind of grape that inspires poetry
(except in parts of Austria). Nevertheless, a good wine is a good wine, and the Barthelme
brothers have produced one. Pinot Blanc is often considered an entry-level grape for Alsace;
if that is so then the Albert Mann should function as an ideal gateway to the region.
Verdict: Well-made value
Alsace doesn't seem to yield its wine riches to those not willing to do a little homework.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman