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:
Let's check it against our earlier tasting note. We wrote:
In the nose, classic pinot blanc: honeydew melon, salted almonds, biscuit, a hint of dried herbs
In the mouth, think [...] melon again, artichokes, aloe skin cream.
Now coat this mixture in white chocolate with salted pistachio pieces, and you have it.
Mmmh, indeed. Check.
[...]as it got a little warmer in the glass, the malt and herbal liquor notes from the alcohol started coming in, pulling it out of balance
No. Not this time. This one, and here we have come to the crucial point at long last, is in balance. It stays on the tightrope where the earlier vintage had fallen down. None of that diffuse heat on the palate. Instead, the melon and pistachio fire burns off brightly and clearly.
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Having reached this point, we can posit as a working hypothesis that you shouldn't let heavily-built Pinot Blancs of this calibre get older than three to four years. We will still need to work on gathering more empirical data on this, of course. But in the meantime: Excellently done, Bercher family.
I've been following your ramblings ever since I googled for comments on Knipser's Cuvee X 2005, which I had with a friend a few months back. And now seems a good time as any to leave a comment. Especially since I had just been to the Berchers a couple of weeks back and tasted pretty much all their available wines, which Arne Bercher was kind enough to do. He presented their wines in pairs of two of the same varietal/grade/vintage from different vineyards resulting in a comparison of loess v. volcanic soil. Generally the loess wines seemed more approachable (at least that's what my notes claim) while the volcanic ones were more spicy. I only made a few sketchy notes since I didn't have a lot of time.
Weissburgunder Feuerberg Kabinett tr 2009 was tasty and had a fine/precise bitterness to it, which I quite enjoyed (8,50 EUR).
Weissburgunder Sasbacher Limburg Spätlese tr 2009 was extremely precise and smooth. (12,50 EUR)
Weissburgunder Feuerberg GG tr 2009: exciting tension, long finish, needs to settle (18 EUR)
Grauburgunder Schlossgarten Kabinett tr 2009: smooth entry, clear/fresh with a light bite to it (8,30 EUR)
Grauburgunder Feuerberg Spätlese tr 2009: good acidity, fruit unprecise (13,10 EUR)
I enjoyed the wines and got the Kabinetts, but wasn't totally over the moon. But this has mostly to do with me preferring Riesling to the WB/GB in general.
I had their red selection as well, but guess I'll save these ramblings for another day.
In reply to Visiting Bercher by nd
Re: Visiting Bercher
Thanks for commenting and sharing your notes, nd, we're always pleased to hear from our readers. I was quietly reminiscing just now, because I realised that almost three years have now passed since my own visit to the Berchers. Time to return there or place another order, I think - and from what you say, the Limburg Spätlese sounds especially good.
Nice read! I had mixed
Nice read! I had mixed experiences with Pinot Blanc as well. I sense that in very hot vintages they can become a bit too ripe and big and overly perfumed. The Schlangenpfiff by Münzberg is also a great vineyard for PB, but the 2006 I had also went through various stages over time: http://blindtastingclub.net/?p=137
In reply to Nice read! I had mixed by Alex
...is a fabulous vineyard name, Alex. If it also gave you something to smell and taste, all the better for you. But to stay on topic, overripeness and alcohol is an issue with Pinot Blanc, without any doubt. Co-Rambler Torsten has been there too, see his comment below.
Substantial Pinot Blancs
I am a big Pinot Blanc fan too, and I also had the occasional issue with heavyweights. Thinking back I am still confused about the Molitor Klosterberg 2005 that clocked in a scary 15% ABV. Not a bad wine, mind you, actually very good - but a bit to saturating to really excited. From previous tastings I remember Salwey had very nice GG Pinot Blancs that had both substance and elegance.
Have a great weekend, everyone!