Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris Im Berg 2006
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Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris Im Berg 2006 Tasting Notes

Alsatian Pinot Gris is known as a full-bodied, food-friendly wine with rich flavor and forceful acidity. The cépage is not that widely planted in Alsace, yet, along with Riesling and Gewurztraminer, it is one of the region's “noble” varieties. The rise of Pinot Grigio of late causes much confusion in our own market as to what is the difference between the Pinots Gris and Grigio. The best answer is probably, “Same grape, different styles of wine.” Pinot Gris is the “serious” one.

Until relatively recently, the “Gris/Grigio” dichotomy troubled Alsatian winemakers very little; to them the varietal and its wine were simply “Tokay d'Alsace.” No longer. In today's European Union, Hungary's venerable Tokaji has ruthlessly expunged all sound-alikes. The Italians and Slovenians who produce (the unrelated) Tocai-Friulano are terribly discomfited by these legalities since they are forced to use the term Sauvignonasse for their wine, a name perhaps a little too French for their liking. The proudly-French Alsatians can adapt perhaps more readily to “Pinot Gris,” especially considering the strides this varietal has made in wine markets around the world. If they want to sell it in the United States, they can only gain by the fact that the Californians and Oregonians have been making a market for it here.

Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart have been running their small wine estate near the village of Wettolsheim organically for two generations. Viticulture and vinification among the Ehrharts is largely a family affair. This wine is 100% Pinot Gris. Each vineyard block is pressed and vinified separately in gravity-fed stainless steel vats. The wines are then transferred to neutral oak casks where they rest on their lees for up to six months before bottling. The label's “Im Berg” refers to this particular wine's “Lieu Dit,” or special place description within the broader Appellation Alsace Contrôllée designation.

The $18 wine sits elegantly in the glass; visually it is medium gold at the least, verging onto a deeper late summer goldenrod, with excellent clarity. The nose is pronounced, highly aromatic, and ripe: peach, mango, nectarine, citrus flower and dried apricot lead with some light spice. The wine is off-dry on first attack in the mouth, but this slight sweetness is immediately offset and complemented by some very well-matched acidity. A number of flavors shine through here—these are less tropical than the nose's aromas—led by stewed white pear and fresh apricot, followed by white flowers, honey, and a touch of white minerality. This full-bodied mouth-filling wine at times brings a touch of fruit liqueur. The finish is long, luxurious, and fully mouth-involving. Ultimately, as seems only right, the resilient acidity, brimming with concentrated fruit, wins out over a light sweetness at the finale.

Note I have previously reviewed the Domaine Ehrhart, Pinot Gris Rotenberg 2004

Verdict: Plenty of Personality
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In Pinot Gris, the Alsatians have got a great varietal going for them, even if they can only call it Tokay d'Alsace behind closed doors and among themselves.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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