14.09.11

Savoir Faire d'Alsace

Savoir Faire d'Alsace

Renowned the world over for their distinctive aromatics, purity of fruit and food-matching prowess, Alsace wines range from mineral and citrusy Rieslings, to spicy and floral Gewurztraminers and fruity Pinot Gris.

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 and Gewurztraminers, and we have selected the following examples for you to try: one from a large, established co-operative and the second from an older, smaller, family-owned and run winery.

Cave de Turkheim Tradition Riesling 2009, Alsace AOC
RRP £8.99, Majestic

 In 1955, the Mayor Turkheim was instrumental in bringing together a group of similarly forward-thinking grape-growers to pool their resources and invest in the latest technology to produce their wines.  Thirty years ago, the quality-focused Cave de Turkheim was one of the first Alsace wineries to export to the UK and today the co-operative boasts 300 grower-members with 400 hectares of grapes in the best sites of Alsace.  Head Winemaker Michel Lihrmann cultivates close relationships with his growers so that in every vintage he is able to select the very best quality grapes to produce a range of over 50 wines - all with the Cave de Turkheim trademark modern, dry style.

Grapes for the Tradition Riesling 2009 were harvested from prime vineyards planted on siliceous soil.  Harvesting was by hand or machine depending on the site, with the grapes taken straight to a pneumatic press. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks helped to preserve the wine's elegant fruit flavours.

Dry in style, this white has a powerful citrus and floral fruit character balanced with great minerality, a crisp finish and a long length.  Probably one of the world's most ideal 'food wines', the citrus flavours make it perfect with fish and seafood.

Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer 2009, Alsace AOC
RRP £13.99, Waitrose & Waitrosewine.com

Alsace and the Blancks go back to 1610 when Hans Blanck first cultivated vines in the region, and the winery is named after Paul Blanck who was one of a group of winemakers credited in 1927 with first recognizing Schlossberg's potential as a Grand Cru site.  Today, the company is run by his sons Bernard and Marcel Blanck, and grandsons Frederic and Philippe.

The Blancks have 36 hectares of vines in eight different villages around Schlossberg and the fruit for this Gewurztraminer comes from 20 year old vines planted on clay-limestone soils around the mediaeval vintage of Kientzheim.  Each parcel of grapes was vinified separately and the must allowed to ferment at its own rate over four to ten weeks using naturally occurring yeasts.  The wine was then left to age on its fine lees to add complexity and depth.  Frederic Blanck considers the 2010 to be a classic of its kind - full, fruity and elegant with balanced acidity, and typical of the style he seeks to produce every year.

The 'Gewurz' part of the grape's name means 'spicy, and this is a typical characteristic of the Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer: powerful floral aromas on the nose lead through to lychee fruit and ginger spice of the palate.  Perfect to accompany spicy Asian foods.

Further information: Ali at ewpr / 020 8747 9592