Nov 10, 2020
Building off Episode 343 on Alsace and the
Alsace class I taught, Phillippe Blanck
of the famed Domaine Paul Blanck joins to talk about his
family’s 420-year history in wine, the uniqueness of Alsace and its
sites, and how we need to reorient wine to tasting and sensation
versus elitist words. You will learn volumes about Alsace, terroir,
history, and taste from this wise, very tuned-in, wonderful
The Blanck wine story starts in 1610 when Phillippe’s Austrian
relative, Hans Blanck acquired vines in Alsace. 420 years later,
Domaine Blanck continues the legacy. Phillippe
operates the Domaine with his cousin Frederic. Frederic is the king
of the vineyard and cellar and Phillippe is the master communicator
and business person. With just 24 ha/59 acres of land, Domaine
Paul Blanck makes some of the most distinctive, terroir driven,
yet affordable wines in Alsace. And Phillippe tells us all about
Here are the show notes:
- Phillippe tells us the story of his family in Alsace. He
discusses the character of the people and the wines, and how they
evolved with French and German influence over the centuries. He
discusses his grandfather, Paul Blanck who (with the help and
advice of Burgundy producers) fought for recognition of Grand Cru
sites and wines of terroir. They got assistance from Champagne
producers to push through the Crémant appellation in the 1970s, and
the family was also instrumental in getting distinctions for the
late harvest wines – Vendange Tardive and Seleccion de Grains Noble
(We also clarify that the Blanck family is large, made up of many,
many distant cousins, so many Alsace wines and domaines may bear
the name – Paul Blanck is the one we are discussing).
- Phillippe talks about innovation in Alsace and how very
important it is to encourage young producers to push the envelope
here, even if it defies tradition in some ways.
- We discuss the various Grand Cru of Blanck and how about 1/3 of the vines are moved into the
basic AOC Alsace wine because the vines, although growing on ideal
sites, are too young for the Grands Crus. This means their base
tier wines are rich, and possess more terroir-driven character than
many wines of the region.
- Phillippe gives an excellent explanation about the differences
between Grand Cru wines and general AOC wines. He talks about the
broader picture of Alsace wine– that it is not just orthodoxy of
soil, but the unending permutations of styles available that make
the wine confounding and exciting. These top tier wines are special
because the sensation and precision of each and how they reflect
the land and also the skill of the winemaker and what they want to
show. A good Grand Cru is “readable”, according to Phillippe, it
needs to say something and the winemaker must have a good
understanding of the terroir to be the translator. Domaine
Blanck’s famed wines are those of Schlossberg and Furstentum
with other wines in Sommerbourg and Mambourg.
- I ask about the criticism of the Grand Cru system – many
critics complain that there are too many Grand Cru sites without
merit in Alsace that are undeserving of their status. Phillippe
gives another way to look at this – he feels that there are certain
sites that have no lead producer or flagship wine. Without those
things the wines can’t achieve status even if the site is great. He
uses the example of Andre Ostertag, who brought the Grand
Cru Muenchberg to great renown in the last few decades through his
innovative wines and labeling.
- We talk shop a bit – Phillippe discusses the sweetness
preferences of various countries (the US likes bone dry wines, the
Netherlands like wines sweeter), the importance of having an
excellent based tier wine to introduce people to your brand, and
how wine scores and wine fashion is a bit meaningless. Phillippe
gives us a tip: for industrial wine, the lower the price, the lower
the quality. This is the opposite for terroir wine.
- Phillippe discusses his other utterly fascinating passion – the
Chinese art of Qigong (chi kung), that
focuses on meditation, breathing, and calm for self-cultivation and
positive energy flow. He has been a teacher of Qigong for 20 years
and has applied the ideas to wine – he believes wine should be felt
in your soul and described in sensation or “touch” terms, creating
a universal language that people can relate to and using terms that
evoke emotion rather than staid traditional aromatic terms.
This was a great show. I encourage you to check out the Alsace
class that I taught. It’s on YouTube and free for all.
*All photos from the Domaine
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