2009 Domaine Mittnacht Frères Pinot Gris
Retail price: approximately $20
Available at Domaine Franey Wines and Spirits
French Wines: Asking More of Your Book Club Wine
Pinot gris is technically the French wine equivalent of pinot grigio, which is widely enjoyed as a cocktail wine among the book club set from Seattle to Saint-Tropez. For many social groups, entertaining sans pinot grigio as a white wine option would be social suicide. I’ve experienced this loyalty firsthand and can attest to the testy tenacity of its beholders. The defining characteristics of the most popular pinot grigios tend toward what makes them “fit in” with the crowd as opposed to what makes them stand out in the crowd. They are generally uncomplicated wines, quaffable without requiring much thought, and to be served in the coldest state possible. They really are perfect for most book clubs if you think about it.
The interesting plot twist here is that the grape itself it capable of so much more—if you’re of a mind to ask more of it. The Alsatian producer Domaine Mittnacht Frères is asking a lot more of his pinot gris, insisting on it, in fact. The Domaine’s dedication to disciplined biodynamic methods appears to yield impressive results and might even change the way many feel about the potential of the grape itself. To those wine drinkers who’ve only ever had the book club pinot grigio, the idea that a true Alsatian pinot gris might have a distinctive character of its own is probably novel.
The 2009 Mittnacht pinot gris is a lush example of the undeniable benefits of smaller, higher-quality production in vineyards with calcareous and biologically complex super soils: pale straw color with impressive concentration on the nose, revealing persimmon, melon, white flowers and citrus. On the palate, the hidden wow factor comes to life as the concentration carries through and develops a spicy quality of white pepper, basil and rosewater. This level of concentration on both the nose and the palate is the wine’s central theme, giving it resonance and intrigue.
As pinot gris or grigio goes, the Mittnacht expresses a unique point of view derived from its Alsatian terroir. The wine’s acidity, which has always been a bit of a challenge for the grape, illustrates this point beautifully, and in the 2009 it plays an important supporting role in the overall narrative. The cooler climate of Alsace preserves every bit of the grape’s limited acidity to ensure that the wine holds the dramatic tension between its fruit and its acidity.
The Mittnacht is not a light cocktail wine; rather, it’s best served with food. It is also a wine that allows a glimpse into the world of its creator, signaling the Domaine’s priorities and aspirations for its wines.
Enjoy with chèvre and beet salad, grilled chicken, smoked seafood and salmon tartare.
Editor’s note: Food and wine lovers heading to Paris might want to try one of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite cooking classes in Paris.