The underpublicized Alsatian white wines are about to change their image once consumers begin tasting the 1983 pinot blancs. This truly remarkable vintage has produced from those pinot blancs, without a doubt, the greatest values in dry white table wines.
Alsatian wines usually bring to mind the splendidly spicy and exotic gewurztraminer and steely, lean riesling, easily the two most famous wines of this eastern region of France. In 1983 they, too, reached stunning proportions in terms of concentration, intensity of flavor, power and balance. But while they also represent good values given their quality, the pinot blancs are even better.
In average years, the pinot blanc grape renders a dry, medium-bodied, fresh, crisp wine with average character. Because of the excellent climatic conditions in Alsace in 1983, perfect grape maturity was obtained and the pinot blancs are significantly richer and more concentrated than usual. However, they have not lost the necessary acidity for balance and freshness. In tasting those '83 pinot blancs, one will no doubt be astonished by how much they resemble the chardonnays that are produced in the Maconnais area of southern Burgundy. They are dry, quite fruity, medium-bodied, and have good concentration. Since none of them is aged in new oak barrels, they have none of the vanillin, oaky character but rather layers of crisp, clean, spicy, well-delineated fruity flavors.
In searching the local marketplace, I found 10 Alsatian pinot blancs of which seven can be enthusiastically recommended. Given the exceptional quality produced in 1983, and the fact that they Are ready to drink today but will also improve in the bottle for two to three years, the best news of all is that none of these recommended wines costs more than $6. The following wines are listed in order of my preference.
1. 1983 Josmeyer Pinot Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes ($6) -- Perhaps the finest pinot blanc on the market, this wine is made from a special clone and is quite aromatic, complex, rich and stylish, with great class.
2. 1983 Hugel Pinot Blanc Cuve'e les Amours ($4.49) -- One will no doubt fall in love with the price and quality of this wine which is dry, quite fruity, round and generous and a perfect match for fish or fowl.
3. 1983 Schaetzel Pinot Blanc ($5.49) -- More spicy than many pinot blancs, this surprisingly concentrated fruity, rather full-bodied wine makes a dramatic impression on the palate.
4. 1983 Josmeyer Pinot Blanc Reserve FourWays (5.99) -- This is not only the the house wine of the FourWays Restaurant, it is also a special selection of wine made by the Josmeyer firm which is also available at retail shops. It has ripe flavors, surprising richness and length, and excellent freshness and balance.
5. Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Princes Abbe's ($3.99-4.40) -- One can easily confuse this full-throttle, rich, spicy, full-bodied pinot blanc with a $12 bottle of pouilly fuisse'. It is powerful and rich and simply an extraordinary wine value.
6. 1983 Trimbach Pinot Blanc ($5.59) -- The Trimbach style of wine relies on understatement, grace and elegance. This is not one of the most authoritatively rich and powerful pinot blancs but it is a delightful, well-balanced extremely attractive wine.
7. 1983 Willm Pinot Blanc Cordon D'Alsace ($3.99-4.99)-Vibrantly fruity, medium-bodied, fresh and crisp, this lovely wine offers remarkable value for its quality.