Pierre Sparr – an Alsace producer with a fruity style and a practical sweetness scale on the label

Pierre Sparr is an Alsace producer located in Sigolsheim, and one whose wines I tasted together with the other producers at the Alsace tasting a couple of weeks ago. In the case of Sparr, most grapes used for their wines are bought in, because their own vineyards cover 15 hectares (about 37 acres) and the furthermore use 130 ha (some 320 acres) of vineyards owned by small growers, which in total makes Pierre Sparr a rather large wine producer.

In terms of quality and style I’d characterise Pierre Sparr as a mid-quality producer with fruity wines of varying levels of residual sweetness. Their Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer often show noticeable sweetness level, i.e. an off-dry character, already at the “basic” level. On the other hand, the fact sheets on their website indicate that Riesling is usually dry or at least almost dry at this address, but this is not something that I feel that I could guarantee is a general rule for Riesling from Pierre Sparr, because I haven’t tasted a sufficient number of Rieslings over several years to make such a call.

When a producer’s wine vary in terms of sweetness, it is very practical if one can know the level of sweetness to be expected before opening a bottle, in particular if that bottle of wine should be consumed with food, which would often be the case with Alsace wines (and most other wines as well). Pleasantly enough, in recent years some Alsace producers have agreed on a common numerical scale going from one to nine (1-9), to be found on the back label of participating producers. Pierre Sparr is one of those producers, and if I correctly understood their representative, they were the first to introduce this scale. (I was not able to confirm this from any online source, and I couldn’t find any information on the scale from their website.) Schlumberger and Michel Fonné are examples of other producers using this scale. The picture below show what the scale actually looks like. It covers everything from dry over off-dry to very sweet wines, i.e., also late harvest wine types such as Vendange Tardive and Sélection des Grains Nobles fit into the scale. So those who aim for truly dry or more-or-less dry wines should primarily aim for wines at level 1-2 on this scale.

Pierre Sparr skala Alsacedagen 20140127

Notice the sweetness scale just above the middle of the label, slightly below the Pierre Sparr logotype. The scale goes from one to none where 1 = completely dry and 9 = quite sweet, and a wine glass icon indicates where on the scale the wine in this bottle is located. To the the left the 2012 Riesling Sélection, a 1 on the the scale, and to the right a 2012 Pinot Gris Réserve, a 4 on the scale. The same scale can be found on the back labels of several other producers as well.

If I combine this tasting with some recent reviews that I’ve read online, I get the impression that the wines of Pierre Sparr have improved over recent years. To be perfectly honest, a few years back I’ve tasted wines from this producer that didn’t impress me at all. However, the four wines that I tasted this time were all quite OK, and these were my impressions:

2012 Alsace One Edelzwicker
A blend of Muscat, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. (The composition has been different in other recent vintages.) On the sweetness scale: 1 = completely dry.

Nose with peach and perfume. The palate is dry (just about bone dry) but is still fruity with peach and medium acidity. Rather perfumed for an Edelzwicker – the Muscat component definitely comes through. Rather young. 85 p?

An Edelzwicker is always a blended Alsace wine, and the style can therefore vary, since any traditional Alsace grapes are allowed in the blend. Rather often Edelzwicker wines consist of a significant portion of generally fruity but somewhat neutral grape varieties such as Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, and Auxerrois. This on the other hand is much more of a “toned-down Muscat” than a middle-of-the-road Edelzwicker, but I don’t mind.

2012 Riesling Sélection
On the sweetness scale: 1 = completely dry.

Nose with peach, ripe yellow apple and a discrete perfume note. The palate is completely dry with good minerality, rather good concentration, citrus, apple, and a good acidity. Young, 87(+) p.

This Riesling is actually less perfumed than the Edelzwicker!

2012 Pinot Gris Réserve
On the sweetness scale: 4 = off-dry with a rather noticeable level of sweetness.

Nose with ripe yellow fruit, peach, and some apricot. Palate with some sweetness (“off-dry minus”), fruity, rather good concentration, and medium+ acidity. 86 p.

Definitely better than some previous vintages of this wine over the last couple of years.

2012 Gewurztraminer Sélection
On the sweetness scale: 4 = off-dry with a rather noticeable level of sweetness.

Fruity nose with lychee, perfume, and roses. The palate shows some sweetness and is “off-dry (-)”, perfumed, with yellow apple, some tropical fruit, not too concentrated, very discrete spice note, and medium(-) acidity. Not particularly spicy for a Gewürztraminer, more of a fruity style. 85 p

Swedish version here.

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