03.07.13

Alsace Has Riesling at its Heart

Alsace Has Riesling At Its Heart

Ranging from mineral and citrusy Rieslings, to spicy and floral Gewurztraminer and smoky Pinot Gris, Alsace wines are renowned the world over for their distinctive aromatics, purity of fruit and food-matching prowess.

The 15,000 hectares of vineyards that make up the Alsace region are planted on the foothills of the majestic Vosges mountains.  The area is host to a huge range of soils (volcanic, limestone, gneiss, sandstone, marl and granite to name but a few) and grape varieties.  In the New World, the science of soil-variety matching may be a relatively new phenomenon, but in Alsace the winemakers have for centuries used their 'savoir faire' to produce the famous vins d'Alsace.

Alsace is perhaps best known for its distinctive Rieslings.  This wine comes from the village of Beblenheim, in the very heart of the region and just a few miles from Riquewihr and Zellenberg.

Cave de Beblenheim Alsace Riesling 2010 'Grafenreben' - RRP £9.99, Waitrose

The Beblenheim winery was created in 1952 when a number of forward-thinking grape-growers decided to pool their expertise in order to work more efficiently.  Their first Gold Medal followed just two years later, and today there are 150 members (relatively 'boutique' in terms of co-operative producers) cultivating 250ha of vines across five rural districts.

Forward-thinking Beblenheim was one of the first wineries in Alsace to employ a female oenologist nine years ago (Alexandra Boudrot) and also the first co-operative to cultivate old vine stocks (35 years plus) on a large-scale.  The yield from these is low as there is less fruit, but the winery sees old vines as a way of coming close to Grand Cru quality in their wines at an attractive price.

The 100% Riesling grapes for this wine were harvested from 25 year old vines grown at 240 to 265 metres altitude in the small 'lieu-dit' (meaning 'single named vineyard') of Grafenreben (a mediaeval name meaning 'Count's vines').  The soils here are predominantly clay and stone - a combination which has long been recognised for enhancing the elegant fruitiness and crisp acidity of the Riesling grape.  After a gentle pressing, the wine underwent fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 24oC and maturation took place in bottle.

Dry, with light, floral aromatics and plenty of citrus fruit flavours on the palate, this white has all the hallmarks of the classic Alsace style: elegant, but with a certain weight and richness balanced by a light finish.  A fabulous wine to partner pork based dishes, smoked meats, poultry and shellfish - especially scallops.

Further information: t 020 8747 9592 / Ali