Burgundy World


Kobus Tokay Pinot Gris 2002
Published:  February 14, 2012

It's always nice to serve tall elegant Alsatian wine bottles, but so often what is in them doesn't live up to the billing: too sweet in many cases, too thin in the case of red Pinot Noir. That said, I was intrigued that Robert Parker, the nosey American, rates them higher than Burgundies, if he rates Burgundy wines at all. That's another story. But did you know some Alsatian wines originate in Burgundy?

I enjoy Alsatian wines for the ceremony as much as anything else. The countryside is stunning too, and visiting caves via those myriad balconies, hanging geraniums and white and woodbeam houses is part of the route des vins experience there.

So is tasting Tokay Pinot Gris, if you can get it. Tokay appellations were halted in several countries about five years ago to protect the original Hungarian grapes and wines of the same name. I ordered a bottle of the forbidden stuff recently in Venice and the waiter whispered to me that he had no more left. The trouble is, Alsace (and probably Italy) had been producing Tokay Pinot Gris for a long time, and to be frank, it has nothing to do with the much heavier, Sauterne-like Hungarian variety (which are good but costly).

So now they call it just Pinot Gris, which is a bit of a farce, because certainly in Italy, what was Tokay was far better than the more dishwatery ordinary stuff they used to call Pinot Grigio and which you could pick up in cheap and cheerful Italian pasta joints in London.

In fact, according to folklore, Tokay Pinot Gris, which is a typical Alsace white, originally harks from Burgundy. Not impossible, as it ages in a similar way, takes on a deep yellow hue, and loses those sugars along the way. I am happy about that, because I have long been a fan of Tokay Pinot Gris but only learned about the Burgundy connection after I drank one tonight.

It was a clippy rich 2002 from F Kobus, based in Obernai, also home to great beers. We had it with fish and leaks, but could imagine it with meatier dishes. That's what good earthy white wines do: not just for fish, almost never for seafood, and totally drinkable on its own. Hence the success of chardonnay the world over.

I strongly recommend discovering Alsatian (Tokay) Pinot Gris (ssshh), but do hold on to them for a few years. There are plenty of other Alsatian whites to drink young, including most Rieslings and pinot blanc, and Sylvaner of course which also has to be drunk ice cold. But with good "old vine" late harvest Gerwurtstraminer, Tokay Pinot Gris is the richest Alsatian wine around. And no headache!

I give it a B+, or 8/10, or 16/20 or however you prefer it. And not because of the Burgundian link. But perhaps thanks to it.

©Rory's Burgundy World 2012



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