Taste of Alsace
By Hope S. Philbrick
Pierre Sparr was founded in 1680—that’s right!—and is located in the heart of the Haut-Rhin district, considered the finest in Alsace. Alsace has been celebrated for its lovely, dry white wines for centuries. Pierre Sparr follows a 300-year-old tradition of making wines that are aromatic, elegant, clean and vibrant.
Patrick Aledo, general manager of Pierre Sparr in Alsace, France, visited Atlanta, Ga., on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. We met for lunch and wine tasting at Canoe restaurant along the picturesque banks of the Chattahoochee River.
“We produce all our wines in a food friendly way,” says Aledo. “It is important to us to produce very clean wines that are aromatic not sweet.” Indeed, as we sipped and ate, we proved that the acidity of Pierre Sparr wines works wonders with food.
Seven major grape varieties are produced in Alsace: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Sylvaner. Pierre Sparr has planted vineyards with each of the major varieties, plus Pinot Auxerrois, which is blended with Pinot Blanc in the Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve. White wines dominate the portfolio; only five percent of the wines made by Pierre Sparr are red.
“Alsace is the driest region in France, but not the sunniest,” says Aledo. When growing seven different grape varietals, weather changes can be both a blessing and a curse. “When someone asks if it’s a perfect vintage year, it really depends on the varietal since nature doesn’t give the same things to all,” he explains.
Pierre Sparr maintains 15 hectares of its own vineyards and works with winegrowers to plant, grow and harvest another 130 hectares to meet the winery’s needs and specifications. “We don’t just buy grapes at the short market, we build longer relationships with grape growers,” says Aledo. “Because the life of a wine grape is not just the harvest; we need to know how the vineyard is managed.”
The wines may please sophisticated palates, but also casual imbibers. “My philosophy on wine is, ‘Do you enjoy it or not?’,” says Aledo. “All the rest is blah blah blah. I have to respect your palate because you’re right about what you like. My job is to respect the consumers and understand what they expect and enjoy then produce the best range of options for them. The wine is for you to enjoy and my palate is not yours.”
Pierre Sparr wines are crisp, food-friendly crowd pleasers.
Riesling is a best-seller and one sip proves why with its delightful crisp tone and balanced fruity/mineral flavors. The Grand Cru Riesling is more sophisticated. Sip the two Pierre Sparr Rieslings side by side and you can smell more minerality on the Grand Cru. “It’s more full bodied,” admits Aledo. “The Grand Cru is for the connoisseur,” he says, pointing out that it retails for $44.99; the other Riesling is $18.99.
The Brut Rosé gets its color in just seven hours of the juice being in contact with the Pinot Noir grape skins. It’s dry with fruity aromas and flavors. “We sell more and more rosé, and to be honest it’s getting to be a small issue for us,” says Aledo. “We use Pinot Noir for the Brut Rosé, still rosé and blends.” As demand increases, the winery can’t seem to grow enough Pinot Noir.
Don’t make the mistake of scoffing at bottles that lack corks. “The screw closure is the best to keep the wine fresh and crispy,” says Aledo. Some wines in the Pierre Sparr portfolio still use the traditional cork, however. “We use cork for the Grand Cru because we need to age the wine and need a small air exchange,” he explains. “The Grand Cru Riesling can age for 10 years. It’s not a problem. It has enough body to age well.”
Our advice: Stock up on Pierre Sparr wines.
Find Pierre Sparr wines on the menu at Canoe.
– Winery and Patrick Aledo photos courtesy Wilson-Daniels; wine label photos © HSP Media LLC
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