Monday, May 31, 2010


For last week’s wine club, I wanted to do another comparison between France and Italy. While we are still plagued by torrential rains and I have yet to see the beach this year, in the spirit of positive thinking white wines were on the menu once again. Alsace is a region that has always fascinated me, and the natural choice for the Italian counterpoint was the Alto Adige. Both regions are well known for the German and French grapes Riesling, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sylvaner, and Gewurztraminer, among others. Though native to Germany, the Gewurztraminer grape is most famously grown in Alsace today. Literally spicy grape in German, it is known for its very strong aromas, most notably lychees and roses. It i one of the most full-bodied white wines, and Alsatian versions are known for being the biggest and with the strongest aromas.  In Alto Adige you will also see Traminer on labels, and this is indeed the original version of the grape, native to the village of Tramin or Termeno.  With good Alto Adige examples you can get the classic Gewurztraminer qualities, but they are generally much more restrained. Our tasting tonight largely bore that out. We tasted two wines from Alto Adige followed by two wines from Alsace. The revelation for the night was the incredible quality and value in our first wine, from Coltereznio. At less than ten euros, it was subtle on the nose but had an amazing texture and balance. It was definitely the best value of the evening.  The powerhouse of the evening was our last wine, from famed Alsatian producer Zind Humbrecht. Their 2005 was most recognizably Gewurztraminer, with strong aromas of lychees, rose petals, and grapefruit, very full-bodied but balances by a good level of acidity with a long, lovely finish. Our third wine of the evening was our Grand Cru, and was perhaps the poorest showing, with a level of sweetness that was unbalanced. It was three years younger than our other Alsatian wine, so perhaps with time it will improve. Our other Italian offering was from the high-quality co-op San Michele Appiano and was pleasant, but considering it was 10-15 euros more than the Colterenzio, didn’t seem to justify the higher price with its subtle flavors and short finish.
The lineup:
1. Gewurztraminer 2009 Colterenzio
2. Sanct Valentin 2009 Gewurztraminer Alto Adige San Michele Appiano
3. Wineck-Schlossberg Gewurztraminer 2008  Meyer-Fonné
4. Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim 2005 Domaine Zind Humbrecht

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