The grapes of Alsace

Andover Wine Friends’ March monthly tasting was ably introduced by member, Lefty Wright, with knowledge and a light touch.  The tasting was arranged around the characteristic grape varieties of this northerly region, and Lefty’s commentary interspersed with local detail and reminiscence.  Here’s the line up, nearly all sourced from the Wine Society.

IMG_7335 Pinot Blanc, Cave de Turkheim, 2008. Starting with the work horse grape of Alsace, a good value everyday white.  Mildly flowery and fruit nose, clean, then a full and luscious palate with good crisp finish.  A high quality start from the large Turkheim co-operative.
Sylvaner Reserve, Weinbach 2007. Rich concentrated palate, heading towards quite tropical fruit, the concentration due to low yields and good winemaking, very good length.  Several cuts above most Sylvaner. IMG_7338
IMG_7335 Klevener de Heiligenstein, Ruff, 2009.  Something of a rarity, Klevener is only grown in 13 hectares in Alsace and is the same grape as Savagnin or Traminer, a less exotic relative of Gewurz.  Slightly honeyed or butterscotch nose, pleasant, perhaps  it is not surprising there is only 13 ha of this.
Muscat Reserve, Trimbach 2009.  light and floral, characteristic grapey aromas, a mixture of the two Muscat grapes grown in the region, rather thin and short.  It may be a noble grape in Alsace but this was a bit disappointing. Alsace on show
IMG_7341 Riesling Tradition Hugel 2008, Tradition is one step up from Hugel’s basic range. As a young wine quite neutral on the nose but zesty palate, with a sleek texture, and a shot of still youthful acidity.  Probably better in a year’s time.
Pinot Gris, Leon Beyer, 2005 The only corked casualty of the night, but just enough to go around from one bottle.  Attractive bright colour (the corked bottle was not as limpid), rich and spicy – candied fruit, mango, caramel.  Difficult to imagine that this is the same grape as cheap Pinot Grigio. But here, mainly from a Grand Cru vineyard, it makes a great wine that can be aged. IMG_7346
IMG_7349 Gewurztraminer Les Folastries, Josmeyer, 2005. Golden hue from some bottle age, Folastries is not a vineyard (which would be a reasonable guess, see Heimbourg below), but one of Josmeyer’s lines.  Classic lychees and roses on the nose, fat and unctuous, moderate acidity, a slightly clumsy finish.
Riesling Heimbourg, Zind-Humbrecht, 2001, now around £25, and a great bargain.  Some oatmeal and marmalade notes on the nose from Botrytis, not noticeably petrolly like much old Riesling, but the roundedness of mature fruit, a good balance and rich.  A very good wine from an outstanding grower. IMG_7353
IMG_7356 Tokay Pinot Gris, Vendange Tardive, Hugel, 1989.  A remarkable bonus bottle shared by Tim Pearce of Grape Expectations. Tim in turn had been given it many years ago when visiting Hugel, the founder of modern Alsace wines.  Late harvest Pinot Gris (in those days also known as Tokay), this was now rich and perfectly balanced, having lost what was its overwhelming sweetness.  The perfect way to end the tasting. Thank you Tim and Lefty.
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