The Beyer family has been making wine in Eguisheim since the sixteenth century, although the domain wasn't established until 1867. Since 1959, the estate has been run by Leon Beyer II, who today shares duties with his son Marc. The charismatic Leon, like his father before him, is the former Mayor of Eguisheim and well known for being a gastronome. Under his hand, Domaine Leon Beyer has become one of the best represented Alsace wineries in the fine dining and export markets, selling well upwards of half a million bottles yearly. Despite this commercial success, however, the wines of Leon Beyer are still of remarkably high quality and stylistic integrity.
The domaine bottles the full complement of Alsace varieties: Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Riesling, Tokay, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Roughly a third of the production is supplied by the domain's own 20 hectares of sloping, clay/limestone vineyards, with the rest sourced from local vineyards essentially rented by Beyer (these parcels are farmed under the direction of the domaine rather than functioning as contract growers). In recent years, Domaine Leon Beyer has made strides to more natural, environmentally conscious approaches in the vineyards. To our dismay, much of Alsace seems to be trending toward sweeter wines. However, Beyers' signature has always been that its wines are drier than the norm in every category, uncompromising yet eminently food friendly. Best here are the bone dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer bottlings at the Reserve level and higher.
Pinot Blanc Facts
Rich and medium bodied, with hints of honey, tropical fruit, and smoke
Poultry, seafood and pork
Pinot Blanc may not receive the same respect given to noble varieties like Chardonnay and Riesling, or even other Alsatian whites like Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. But at its best, with grapes from low-yielding vines, Pinot Blanc can produce exciting values: creamy, medium bodied wines, with honey-like aromas and flavors.
A relative of both Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is grown in a number of countries under a variety of names. In Germany, it is Weisseburgunder, while in Italy, it is called Pinot Bianco.
Still, the fact that we are most familiar with the grape as Pinot Blanc is a dead tip-off that the best examples of the grape come from France. In France, Pinot Blanc is most notably grown in Alsace, where it is either bottled on its own, used as a major component in the sparkling wine Cremant D'Alsace, or blended with other varieties in the region's traditional wine, Edelzwicker. We don't see much Edelzwicker, since the export market for this wine is virtually non-existent. But we're happy that we can get a decent amount of single-varietal Pinot Blanc from Alsace; the wine is made in some form by almost every Alsatian winery. These can be rich, sometimes tropical, smoky wines that are low in acidity. Look for offerings from Domaine Marcel Deiss and Domaine Schoffit.
In the U.S., some California vintners are producing Pinot Blanc with the same techniques used to make expensive Chardonnay, including new oak and malolactic fermentation. We're not convinced that this is the best way to showcase the grape, and lean more towards the wines being made in Oregon. Here, vinification techniques more closely follow the model established in Alsace, with fermentation in stainless steel or older oak leading to wines that are rich and smoky. Consider wines from Amity Vineyards and Elk Cove.
Pair Pinot Blanc with poultry, seafood, and pork.