Cooking to the Wine: Zind Humbrecht Pinot Blanc with a Leek & Bacon Tart (#Winophiles)

A bottle of Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Blanc from Alsace paired with a Leek and Bacon Tart straddles the line between decadence and simplicity. This is a delicious and classic pairing that will transport you to a French bistro.


The wine in this post was sent as a media samples. Note that no other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.


Time for a little summer decadence! Straddling the lines of wanting something a little bit indulgent, but that’s not too crazy heavy on a warm day can be a little tricky, but a cheesy Leek and Bacon Tart with a simple green salad strike all the right notes, and a Pinot Blanc from Alsace made the perfect accompaniment.

ALSACE

Alsace is my favorite French region for white wines, and we’ve covered it a few times before. I love the texture, minerality, and aromatics of their wines, as well as their food pairing versatility. The region is tucked up in  France’s northeastern corner, right up on the border with Germany. This is one of France’s sunniest and driest regions thanks to the Vosges Mountains that block rain and harsh weather from reaching the area. As a result, Alsace enjoys a rather mild climate.

Image provided by Teuwen Communications.


This wonderful climate gives the region a leg up when it comes to sustainability. Warm, sunny days and cool nights without a lot of rain create an environment that’s essentially paradise for grapes. They can ripen slowly and steadily to develop flavor while maintaining acidity. Without a ton of rain, there is not a lot of disease pressure on the vines either, so Alsace’s location gives it an excellent starting point for sustainable farming practices. One-third of Alsace’s vineyards are organic or in the process of conversion, numbers that are continuing to climb as that represents a 33% increase from 2019. Alsace also is the number two wine region in France for biodynamic certifications, with 4.5% of producers having been certified and climbing.  

For a deeper dive into the region, please see this post

PINOT BLANC . . . AND AUXERROIS TOO

Alsace has four “noble grapes”:  Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris. But today, I thought I’d take a look at one of its underdogs – Pinot Blanc. Poor Pinot Blanc is pretty much the underdog in every situation, always a hard worker, but never the star. While each of its more glamorous Pinot siblings gets its time to shine in turn, Pinot Blanc is the dutiful child that diligently does the chores at home with a pleasant attitude, but gets overlooked in the process. Alsace is its spiritual home (having been first noted in Burgundy), but as mentioned, here too it’s shown up by the region’s more aromatic residents.

We’ve previously explored Pinot Blanc from Trentino-Alto Adige in this post.

Pinot Blanc’s identity is also often mixed up. Throughout its history, Pinot Blanc has often been confused with other grapes like Chardonnay and Auxerrois, a grape that was born of Pinot and Gouais Blanc. In Alsace its identity is still wrapped up with Auxerrois’, so much so that in a bit of a peculiarity for European labeling laws, wines from Alsace that are labeled Pinot Blanc can be a 100% Pinot Blanc or a blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois. (Today’s wine is an example of this.)

🤷🏻‍♀️ 

Pinot Blanc is a very friendly grape though and can be a great everyday wine since it’s often reasonably priced. It tends to have moderate acidity, although on average it has more than Pinot Gris. While it tends to be lighter in body, it also often has a rounded mouthfeel that can feel lightly creamy, giving it a bit of opulence, a factor that I often contend makes it a good alternative to Chardonnay for those who maintain the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) credo. In general, you’ll find apple, stone fruit, and citrus notes, which can be accompanied by light minerality. In examples from Alsace, you might also find light notes of fresh white flowers accompanying those peach and apple notes. It opens up readily and has that balanced structure that makes it an easy match for many foods. It’s just a generally easygoing wine.

Pinot Blanc is pretty obliging in the vineyard and cellar as well. It’s more productive and easier to grow than its fussy, diva sibling Pinot Noir. Much like Chardonnay, it’s a bit of a “winemaker’s grape” that will take easily to many treatments and techniques, so you’ll find many different versions and styles, oaked and unoaked. In Alsace, it’s also often used in the region’s Cremants.

Pinot-blanc.jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is blended in today’s bottle with Auxerrois. Besides having been often confused with each other, the two grapes do also complement each other well. Pinot Blanc is crisper, while Auxerrois tend to be a little fuller, adding body, and shows more complex aromatics. It shows a lot of citrus flavors, along with rich aromas that can become honeyed and nutty over time in good, aged versions. To add more confusion to Auxerrois’ identity, it should be noted that the name gets used in various forms for other grapes, most notably in Cahors where it is a synonym for Malbec.


THE WINE: ZIND-HUMBRECHT PINOT BLANC ALSACE

This wine was received as a sample, but as always, all opinions are my own. No other compensation was received.


Our Pinot Blanc today is by Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, one of Alsace’s most iconic wineries with a history dating back to 1620. (We’ve explored one of their wines before here.) It emerged in its current form when Leonard Humbrecht married Genevieve Zind, joining the families’ vineyards and wineries, which had previously operated under their separate names. 

Olivier Humbrecht manages the winery today. He’s one of the few winemakers in the world to achieve MW status. He’s also a major advocate for biodynamic farming and has served as President of the Syndicat International des Vignerons en Culture Bio-Dynamique/ Biodyvin (SIVCBD) since 2002.

Image borrowed from the Kobrand website.


Zind-Humbrecht has been certified organic since 1998, and certified biodynamic since 2002. As such, the Domaine practice low-impact farming with a holistic view of the vineyard, using natural treatments and homeopathic herbs to tend to any issues in the vineyard, instead of commercial fertilizer, weed killer, and pesticides. Animals are used to work the land instead of machinery, to avoid compacting the soil. Vines are tended by hand, organic compost is used in the vineyard, and the yields are restricted to maintain quality. In the winery, they use minimal sulfites and native yeast fermentations. (For more on Olivier Humbrecht's take on biodynamic, see here.)

The 2019 Pinot Blanc is a blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, and Auxerrois is dominant here with 65% of the blend. On the day we opened in I picked up lemon cream, gold apples, and few white flowers on the nose. These notes were joined on the palate with stone fruits and hints of nutmeg and ginger. The wine’s texture was silky and round with hints of minerality on the finish.


THE PAIRING

Pinot Blanc in general kind of gives me the impression of everyday luxury, like a cozy blanket you spend a little extra on because you know you’re going to curl up with it every day. It’s not a pricey or fancy wine, but that extra hint of texture brings in a touch of decadence to the mouthfeel. I’ve also had this wine in previous vintages, so had an idea of what to expect, and knew this is a version likely to be on the more elegant end of the spectrum for the grape(s).

I wanted to pair it with a dish that straddled similar lines as the wine, something familiar but with a bit of decadence to it, that was also appropriate for summertime. A classic leek tart topped with bacon and Gruyère seemed perfect, as I shared at the beginning. The combination seems to me just like something you might enjoy at a French bistro. 


It worked out beautifully. The cream tart filling and flaky pastry crust brought out the rounder side of the wine, with the stone fruit flavors emerging more in the pairing. The nutmeg in the dish brought out the same note in the wine. I also thought the weight of the food and wine matched each other nicely.

I definitely felt like I created a bistro at home for an evening!


OTHER POSSIBILITIES 

Pinot Blanc pairs easily with a lot of food, but it does particularly well with creamy textures so it’s ideal with cream sauces, soft cheeses, and egg dishes. I also think it’s a great pairing for roast chicken.

THE GEEKY DETAILS

Taken from the Zind-Humbrecht website which shares a lot of information on its wines, so see here for additional details. 

Alcohol:13% 
Blend: 35% inot-Blanc and 65% Auxerrois
Residual sugar: 2.7 g/l
Yield :75 hl/ha
Optimum drinking period: 2021-2029+
Average age of the vines: 44 years
Terroir: Oligocene calcareous and gravely soil

Vineyards: These grapes are grown on the Rotenberg vineyard in Wintzenheim and Herrenweg area in Turckheim. The earlier ripening gravelly soil of Herrenweg will bring power and aromatic intensity, while the cooler limestone in Rotenberg will bring structure and more aging capacity. The 2019 shows an ideal ripeness and balance and fermented dry.

Rotenberg vineyard. Photo courtesy of Zind-Humbrecht website


MONEY TALK 

The average price of this wine is $24, which I think is a Solide Value, particularly given the quality level of the house. However, I also often see it on sale, and then it’s very worth grabbing. This would also be an interesting wine to experience over time, buying a few bottles to see how it develops over several years. 


*****


tart, leeks, bacon
appetizer, tarts
French
Servings: Serves 6 to 8. Six light meal portions, or eight appetizer portions
By: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Leek Tart with Bacon and Gruyère

Leek Tart with Bacon and Gruyère

Prep Time: 15 MinCooking Time: 60 MinTotal Time: 1 H & 15 M

Ingredients

  • 10½ store-bought pastry crust (thawed according to package instructions), or Pâte Brisée shell
  • 2 lbs young slim leeks, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced into rounds (Or about 2 cups previously sautéd sliced leeks.)
  • 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream of crème fraiche
  • ¼ cup whole-milk ricotta or fromage blanc
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt, or as needed
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper, or as needed
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ to ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Prepare the pastry crust in a pie dish or tart ring. Keep the dough cold in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
  3. Soak the leeks in cold water to remove the sand and grit. Drain well.
  4. Place the bacon on a large baking sheet or oven-safe pan and place it in the oven. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes in the oven until the pieces are lightly golden brown and starting to crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven, scoop the bacon pieces onto a plate lined with paper towels, and set aside.
  5. Cook the leeks while the bacon is in the oven. Combine the butter and olive oil in a large skillet and warm over low to medium-low heat until the butter melts. Stir in the leeks, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, cover, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender – about 15 minutes. If the leeks begin to brown before they’re cooked through, add a bit of water to the pan to slow down the browning. Once tender, stir in the flour and stir well to combine. (You can also do this step a couple of days in advance, and stir in the flour when you’re ready to use.)
  6. Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream or crème fraîche, the ricotta or fromage blanc in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in the salt, peppers, and nutmeg. Add in the leeks and mix well. Remove the prepared pastry crust from the fridge and pour the filling into the pastry shell. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the top of the tart, pressing lightly into the filling, followed by the shredded Gruyère.
  7. Bake the tart in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the tart is puffed and lightly golden browned, and lightly set, and the pastry is golden. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes:

Adapted from the recipe for Tarte aux Poireaux in French Tarts: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes by Linda Dannenberg.


Did you make this recipe?
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For more about Alsace, see these additional posts: 
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The rest of the French Winophiles (#Winophiles) blogging group is exploring the wines of Alsace this month, hosted by Rupal of Syrah Queen. Check out the rest of their posts here:


Additional sources and extra reading:
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, from which I might earn a commission at no cost to you.


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8 comments

  1. I’m a huge tart fan and also adore leeks. The wine sounds amazing. Cannot wait to try the two.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I totally agree with you about Pinot Blanc - it's often the underdog but worthy of star status. Looks especially tantalizing with your leek/bacon tart! Really appreciating the direction of so many Alsace producers toward organic and biodynamic farming.

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  3. I happen to be a big fan of Pinot Blanc from Alsace. I did a tasting recently and had the winemaker refer to his Pinot Blanc and part Pinot Blanc and part Pinot Blanc Auxerrois. I didn't have the opportunity to discuss this with him further and I was curious about this. Thank you for the explanation.

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    Replies
    1. It's a weird little hidden detail. Thanks Robin!

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  4. Yes, more Pinot Blanc! This tart looks delicious too, and a. wonderful yummy pairing for summer and warm or cold weather pairings.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!