October 28, 2019 5 min read

In 2004, A Noble Blend was the very first wine made at JoieFarm. Recently, I had a lot of fun presenting “Taste the Noble Blend Again for the Very First Time” – originally as a public tasting at Vancouver’s Legacy Liquor and then at a trade event at the Two Penny Tea Room in Calgary. These events allowed me to put in context the time and place of its introduction (the Vancouver restaurant scene in the early 2000s), to taste two consecutive vintages side by side as well as break down A Noble Blend into its individual varietal components. 

This was such a fun, useful and interesting exercise that I wanted to extend the opportunity to all of our customers. To celebrate A Noble Blend's 15 year anniversary we are releasing a limited number of 'Noble Boxes' containing single varietal wines of each the blend's five components as well as two consecutive vintages. As you taste your way through it, I thought I'd share the initial inspiration behind it...

As a self-taught winemaker in a New World wine region, the notion of ‘learning to walk before I could run’ was important to me. In the beginning Joie was “non-land based”, meaning I didn’t always have full growing decisions over the fruit I worked with. So, in wanting to respect the wisdom of time-honoured European traditions, and in order to give myself more control over the character and balance of my wine, I looked to the classic blending techniques of Alsace – after all, it was that region’s famous aromatic white varietals that were the first vinifera vines planted in BC in the late 1970s.

The traditional Alsatian blend known as ‘Edelzwicker’ - literally translated: “Noble Blend” - dates back to the 17thcentury and can comprise any of the four “Noble” grapes (Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat and Pinot Gris) with other common regional varieties (we also use Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois). Each grape in these blends contributes its own unique taste and texture to the overall balance.  

The exact proportions of my Noble Blend do change slightly year to year, but I have always highlighted Gewürztraminer for the zesty spice it brings, Riesling for its mouth-wateringly juicy acidity, Auxerrois for its broad body, Pinot Blanc’s warming clove-like notes, and Muscat for its elegant floral qualities. I continue to work with some of the Okanagan’s oldest vines, taking full advantage of the complexity they offer (as you will no doubt taste).

Over the years I have always been enthusiastic to pair these wines with classic Alsatian food: pork sausages, choucroute, liver terrines and tarte flambés. Sixteen vintages later, however, folks just don’t seem to be eating that way anymore. I certainly don’t eat that way very often… and I once roasted a goose just to have the fat to braise my Riesling choucroute for my Sommelier instructor, Park Heffelfinger!

In 2019, the world is far more health conscious, more locavore and increasingly more ethnically inspired by our diverse West Coast culinary community. Particularly in Vancouver, consumers can so passively Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, or Persian. Our access to non-stop seafood and the increasingly popularity of plant-based dishes have certainly replaced foie gras torchon on Vancouver’s restaurant plates. Whether it is cuisine heavy with ginger, garlic and chilis, dishes redolent of cardamom, almonds and rose water, or foods enriched with curry spices and coconut milk, I still find A Noble Blend is a winner every time.

I think this versatility has been the enduring hallmark and reason for A Noble Blend’s popularity. It is a naturally balanced, satisfying and delicious wine when enjoyed on its own, on a patio or as an aperitif, but it always shines in that classic sense when paired with a meal, even (and often especially) when that includes international foods.

I didn’t invent this style of wine - I just make a respectful and well-executed New World tribute to this classic Alsatian tradition. I am proud that A Noble Blend has become an iconic BC wine, especially as it continues to keep the wisdom of the Old World alive while staying relevant in a new era where anything goes.

---

What’s in the Blend?
 
‘Edelzwicker’ – literally translated: “Noble Blend” – is the traditional term in Alsace, France for white varietal blends. More recently, the term ‘Gentil’ was introduced to distinguish blends containing at least 50% of any of the so-called ‘Noble’ varieties (Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat or Pinot Gris). These wines must also be fermented separately, blended afterword and adhere to strict quality standards. This more accurately describes A Noble Blend, as each vineyard site and variety is handled independently and their contributions to the final blend are determined each vintage according to taste and quality. Here’s how the 2017/2018 blends break down:
 
Gewürztraminer (2017= 49% / 2018= 47%)
Notorious for its big, flamboyant aromas of rose petal and lychee fruit, Gewürztraminer is so distinctive that it’s easy to identify in a blind tasting. Canadians tend to be more familiar with the German style that is sweet, with a nose like a perfume bottle. Ours, however, is in the tradition of Alsatian Grand Cru: dry, with an unctuous mouthfeel that fully showcases the style’s zestful spiciness (after all, “gewürz” means “spice”).
What it Contributes Most: Zesty spice. 
 
Riesling (32% / 31%)
If Gewürztraminer is the Queen of Alsace, surely Riesling is its King. Naturally low in alcohol and high in refreshing fruity acidity, its innate balance means that winemakers don’t need to resort to oak aging or malolactic fermentations and can leave it to honestly reflect its terroir and full range of citrusy flavours.
What it Contributes Most: What we call ‘Juicidity
 
Pinot Auxerrois (9% / 9%)
This little known variety is actually one of the most widely planted in Alsace and plays a significant but often anonymous role in traditional Edelzwicker wines. In fact, most Auxerrois is labeled as (or blended with) Pinot Blanc; Auxerrois can lack ‘crispness’ on its own but is so full-bodied it makes a great supporting actor.  
What it Contributes Most: Roundness and a good body
 
Pinot Blanc (6% / 8%)
Too often overshadowed by its popular siblings Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is an absolute delight, producing highly agreeable wines with great acidity and well-rounded flavours. Its spiritual home is definitely Alsace, where the variety’s distinctive notes of almonds and spice are best showcased. 
What it Contributes Most: A warming, clove-like spiciness
 
Muscat (4% / 5%)
Winemakers dread hearing their wine tastes like grapes – unless it’s Muscat, then it’s a compliment. Most wine grapes just aren’t that interesting tasting – again, Muscat is an exception. Its overtly “grapey” flavour is one of its main (and arguably finest) qualities, although the uniquely, powerfully floral aroma is also why Muscat is one of the oldest and most widely cultivated grapes in the world.
What it Contributes Most: An elegantly floral bouquet 

Leave a comment


Also in Journal

Pairing Wine with Vegan and Vegetarian Dishes
Pairing Wine with Vegan and Vegetarian Dishes

September 18, 2019 3 min read

Heidi reflects as a chef, sommelier and winemaker on the rise of plant-based cuisine and how to best pair wines with vegan and vegetarian dishes. While traditional European food and wine pairings rely heavily on fat, cream, butter and other animal products, modern plant-based cuisine presents new challenges... but also opportunities!
Read More
Orange is the New Rosé
Orange is the New Rosé

August 08, 2019 3 min read

Joie was among the first BC wineries to make dry, European-style rosé. More than fifteen years later, we’re still using skin-contact to make innovating wines. And in case you haven’t yet heard: Orange is the new Rosé! Learn more about how this ancient style of winemaking is making a comeback and why orange wines can offer so much more texture and personality than their traditional white and rosé counterparts.
Read More
August Alfresco Lunches in the Vineyard
August Alfresco Lunches in the Vineyard

July 26, 2019 1 min read

Like us, Joy Road Catering believes good food and fine wine should be celebrated together, so we're pairing up three Sundays in August for three-course vineyard lunches (with wine of course) among the vines. Come taste Okanagan terroir at its finest and freshest! 
Read More