Posts Tagged ‘Gewürztraminer’
One of the quirky charms of Overton’s ‘Bring a Bottle Club’ is the practice – usually followed by one of the regular members – of bring a joker bottle to be tasted blind, like all the wine. There are not many other places where you could taste a 10 year old English rosé, a Maltese red or a white Nero (that’s the clue) di Troia. However, as there is no conferring before the tasting on what people will bring, the ‘joker’ factor will spread to the usually more conventional choices of others. When this happens, blind tasting becomes a somewhat random series of increasingly desperate guesses. It is still possible to comment on the ripeness of fruit, the weight of the wine and much more, but identification becomes mission impossible. And so it proved on a pleasant summer’s evening when the chance to be inside out of the rain belied the fact that this was the July meeting of the ‘BBC’. You could say that the most recognisable alcoholic beverage of the evening was the one in the first picture below. Plus a fine picture of post-Kilimanjaro beard …
|This first wine is a major classic and should have been recognisable. Slightly oxidised, pale gold, floral, sharp apples and honey, some sweetness. But there was a long debate over Riesling v. Chenin Blanc, the majority wrongly favouring the former: Le Haut-Lieu, Vouvray Sec, Huet 2002. When you don’t spot the most distinctive wine of the evening, you know you are in trouble.|
|Having started with Riesling on the mind, here was another perhaps more obvious Riesling. But there was still something strange about it – trying to locate it in the world’s Riesling zones was not productive … Edgy acidity, some mineral notes, but then ripe apple and stone fruit … What nobody had in mind is a Riesling /Albarino blend grown at 1000m of altitude in NE Spain: Ekam, Castell d’Enclus, 2010. Much praised by Jancis Robinson and stocked by Caviste.||
|OK, this one should have been easy and most got the grape correct: fairly austere if oaky nose, some concentrated citrus fruit, medium acidity, good length. It turned to be the oaked version of a fine NZ producer’s Chardonnay. But even those who drink Kumeu River regularly thought that the oak overwhelmed the fruit in this example: Maté’s Vineyard, Chardonnay, Kumeu River 2004.|
|On an evening of unusual wines, this was – deservedly – the official, full on, joker. And yes, it does say Barossa Valley Gewurztraminer on the label. My note says ‘light, quite floral, lime [fruit]’ but nothing that might suggest its grape variety as grown in more typical locations: Goldilocks would have needed more forensic questioning to lead her to 4 Bears, Gewurztraminer, Barossa Valley, 2008.|
|Another oaky number if again in a subtle and expensive way, then good rounded fruit, all pointing to barrel fermentation, but where? As Caviste has become something of a N Spain specialist, this would be a fair surmise but trying to place this blind was impossible: made from 100% Verdejo, Naiades, Naia Viña Sila, Reuda DO, Spain, 2007.|
|This was the Rosé which I brought, partly to make the point that there are pink wines that will stand up in this company. So the cloud of unknowing briefly lifted at least for me. Fragrant strawberry fruit, excellent structure, unusually for a rosé, fermented in a barrel, good length, most thought it was Provencal. In fact it is from further south: Le Rosé, Domaine Gardiés, Côtes-du-Roussillon, 2011.|
|Oh dear, seriously off-piste again. Dense colour, minty and a touch burnt on the nose, dried fruit and black cherry, medium tannins, medium length …. no idea. It was bought as a joker. I think it is fair to say that no one had tasted (a powerful and slightly clumsy) Cretan Syrah before: Diamantopetra, Diamantakis Winery, Crete, 2009. Made from Syrah and the local grape Mandilari.|
|My wine again and one that has been taking up a space in the rack for a few years. Quite dense in colour and texture, probably at its peak with delicious, perfectly knit together red and black fruit, some leather notes and the slightest touch of green leafiness. People were really surprised at the weight and density of this quality Cabernet Franc: Coteau de Noiré, Phillipe Alliet, Chinon 2003.|
||Petit Verdot … Sicilian Petit Verdot of course! PV to its friends is a minor but spicy Bordeaux variety which the adventurous experiment with in hotter climes. Here the nose was restrained and hinting at the powerful black fruit dominated palate. Chianu Carduni, Baglio di Pianetto, IGT Sicilia, 2004 is late picked at the end of October, and is the product of heat and long hang time on the vine in the Palermo district of Sicily.|
|To complete this mission impossible, another unusual wine: bold new world fruit, hugely extracted plus lashings of fine oak; chocolate, red and black fruit, but no one obvious varietal clue. This turned out to be made by Masi from the Veneto, northern Italy, produciing wine from Amarone-style semi-dried ripe grapes but with a blend of Corvina and Malbec … in Argentina: Masi Tupungato, La Arboleda, Argentina 2008, 14.5% abv.||
We are now looking forward to BBC2 on Austria (plus Germany as necessary) when at least there will be a theme – and no doubt a joker, but hopefully not five!
Outside of the New World with its focus on the characteristic qualities of single grape varieties, Alsace has got to be the easiest wine to taste blind. Aromatic Gewurz, steely Riesling, more neutral but classy Pinot Gris and the odd glass of Pinot Noir (which has the decency to be red), this is going to be a doddle isn’t it? Let’s see how we got on at the late February Bring a Bottle Club.
January’s Fine Wine Supper featured the wines of top Alsace producer, Josmeyer. It is always worthwhile to taste the wines of the most well-known domaines, to see if they continue to live up to their reputations. Here they emphatically did. All six wines were very good, some – in fact the cheapest as well as some of the Grand Cru – were excellent. But the real star of the evening for me was the Pinot Gris.
Now that is a sentence you do not often read. The reputation of Pinot Gris/Grigio has suffered badly due to the glut of cheap examples which are neutral at best and sometimes just seriously bland – inexpensive wines, inexplicably popular in bars and the supermarket. Their secret is that they don’t taste of anything … which is a profoundly depressing thought. And even on this evening of quality wines, the Riesling and the Gewurztraminer were more assertive, more flamboyant, more showy. But for quality, balance and a subtle complexity, the Pinot Gris outshone their flashier neighbours.
The evening was based on half a dozen wines put together by the Wine Society to showcase Josmeyer. Rather neatly, there were two examples each of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Each pair showed a good contrast – in quality level, age or between single vineyards.
After a pleasant glass of sparkling wine, Crémant d’Alsace from Dopff, we began with the Riesling. If there was a prize for the best wine of the night for quality against price, it would easily be won by The Society’s Exhibition Riesling 2009, made for the Wine Society by Josmeyer at a creditable £11.50. Beautiful green apple and honey notes, floral, moderate acidity (perhaps lower than expected due to the warm year), effortless balance, superb. There was, however, a marked step up in quality and complexity to the Riesling Les Pierrets 2004, and so there should be at more than double the price. The youthful, bright apple notes have transmuted into something profound, a full palate of fruit (apple, quince) and mineral complexity. The standard ‘petrol, but in a good way’ note won’t quite do: mineral, mildly mushroom and herbal. Magnificent and long lasting.
Then on to the Pinot Gris. It was a risk tasting these between the two aromatic varieties but it paid off. Pinot Gris Fromenteau 2008 is not a cru, being made from a number of high quality sites, but a quality white pinot which sports the old Alsace name for the grape variety. It is seriously difficult to describe – obviously more neutral on the nose but then a wonderful richness on the palate, some stone fruit, obvious ripeness off-set by perfectly balanced sharpness. Pinot Gris Grand Cru Brand 2008 was the revelation of the evening. The Grand Cru system in Alsace is controversial with some growers not accepting those vineyards that were selected. But what ever you call it, this showed it credentials – richer and riper fruit (melon and ripe red apples), lovely spiciness, rich and concentrated (Oz Clark calls it ‘the richness of brazil nut flesh’), outstanding length and overall quality. Subtle and powerful simultaneously. Forget every cheap glass of PG you have drunk and taste this instead.
The final pair of wines were suitably luxurious – two grand cru wines made from Gewurztraminer, with a decade or so of bottle age. Brand (being the vineyard name) 2001 had a superbly fragrant bouquet with the classic rose water and lychee/exotic fruit combination, great viscosity and mouth feel, and very good length. Its partner, Hengst 2002 for me had brighter fruit, the same rich concentration but offset with better acidity. The group had a long debate about this pair of wines, some struggling with the exotic fragrance (‘air freshener’), while others debated the merits of the two vintages and vineyards. Great wines are wines that promote conversation and opinion.
That the best producers in Alsace make great wines is hardly a revelation. But as consumers, we can benefit here in that wines of similar quality in, say, the more fashionable Burgundy, would command astronomic prices. There is great quality and value to be had here. And the wines, even the simpler ones, age well. Our final bottle, a bonus, from Josmeyer was its Auxerrois (a local grape variety with the same parentage as Chardonnay) 2001 which had nice creamy ageing notes, if modest fruit. All in all, these wines showed the very distinctive character of the three grape varieties, their food friendliness and their capacity to improve with age. And the star of the show in all these ways was – for me – the Pinot Gris.
After the anticipation, the tasting. Ten members of Andover Wine Friends gathered to try two of Alsace’s great white grape varieties followed by a simple supper. We settled quickly to the task after a taste of Aureus, Cremant de Loire, a bottle-aged single vintage Chardonnay, 2002. Toasty, decent acidity if slightly milder than much Champagne, must be the best under £10 sparkler with bottle age?
Hugh Johnson speaks of the secretive sect of Riesling lovers, a great grape whose public perception is tarnished by memories of poor quality mainly German examples of the 70s and 80s. In fact, both Gewürztraminer and Riesling are little understood in a wine world full of Chardonnay in various guises, neutral Pinot Grigio and big, muscular reds. By contrast, Gewürz’s style takes some getting used to, with its combination of low acidity, modern high alcohol level (despite Alsace’s northerly latitude, it is one of the sunniest place in Europe) and off-dry taste which tastes sweet to those who only drink bone dry wines. Full details of the wines are given below – we tasted three Gewürztraminers. An obvious difference was between the pale yellow of the 2007 with the tell-tale streaks of youthful green still visible and, by contrast, the yellow to gold of the 2000. What was apparent to all was the outstanding aromatic qualities of Gewürz, some floral and mineral notes, kiwi and especially lychees, then honey and weight in the mouth in the better bottles. The surprise was that Ostertag’s 2006 tasted an older wine than the Hugel 2000. How can this be? Our most knowledgeable taster suggested low intervention wine making and minimalist use of sulphur dioxide could lead to the fast ageing of the 2006.
The colour contrast in the three Rieslings was even more marked, the first two pale to the point of colourless on the rim of the glass, the third, older, wine, much darker and pale gold. Rather less immediate sensation on the nose, floral and petrol in even the younger wines, honey, toasty, ‘floor polish’ (but only the best) on the older wine. But then an explosion of flavour in the mouth, borne along by great acidity, refreshing to some, demanding to others. For most of us, quality did reflect price. Hugel’s wonderful Jubilee 2005 is very pale in the glass but a wine of good fruit and superb balance, while Zind Hubrecht’s single vineyard Heimbourg 2001 was bold and complex, bottle ageing producing the toasty notes otherwise associated with oak ageing, a wonderful balance between still good zinginess (many years to go if you hadn’t drunk it!) and great persistence, the sensations lingering in the mouth for what seemed like minutes.
Over the supper that followed we had a further treat, Zind Humbrecht’s Pinot Noir from the same Heimbourg vineyard. This is a brilliant example of Pinot, fragrant, a clarity of fruit and balanced acidity presumably reflecting its northern latitude. Not cheap but a fine accompaniment to pork and prunes. Multiple conversations buzzed. The evening concluded with a bottle from nowhere near Alsace – Pietratorcia’s one-off dessert wine from Ischia, one of the islands off Naples. This 2002 was bought at the family winery after a particularly good lunch with the wine maker. A product of the passito method, by semi drying the grapes before vinification, this was a mildly eccentric bit of Italian creativity, the grapes here being Viognier and Malvasia Aromatica. The former presumably contributes some silkiness and apricot tones, all now knitted together in a pleasant if not outstanding pale orangey-brown sticky. It’s not just Alsace that can do the particular.
The Society’s Exhibition Gewürztraminer, made by Hugel, 2007, (Wine Society £14)
Domaine Ostertag, 2006 (Berry’s £17)
Tradition, Hugel, 2000 (WS, originally £10.50)
Collection, Kuentz-Bas, 2005 (WS £11)
Jubilee, Hugel, 2005, (WS £19)
Heimbourg, Domaine Zind Humbrecht, 2001 (Caviste £25)
Heimbourg, Domaine Zind Hubrecht, 2005 (Caviste £22.50)
Half the fun of putting a tasting together is in the search. We will all have our favourite places to start – in your own cellar (under the stairs), your local supermarket, on the web or in a local shop. I had already put together a tasting of Gewurztraminer and Riesling from Alsace and could draw on some bottles already. These included some 2003s, more 2005s for Riesling, some 2007s recently acquired and the odd bottle of 2000 waiting for an occasion such as this. But I didn’t want to use up all my older bottles in one go, so I went to see what Caviste in Overton (www.caviste.co.uk) might have tucked away.
The day was made by finding two quite grand bottles from Zind Humbrecht, one white and one red, the latter to go with the accompanying supper. First, the perfect find in the shop was its last bottle of the single vineyard Riesling, Heimbourg, from 2001, which should have developed in the bottle over the last eight years. Second, to complete the day, a quality Pinot Noir. A nice touch is that both bottles come from grapes from the same 4 hectare vineyard. The tasting awaits on Tuesday, but the satisfaction of the successful search already.