Classic blends are coming back into vogue. Although pure varietal wines date back to the 15th century in Alsace, they were the exception, not the norm, until the 1920s, when
an ambitious young generation of growers came up with the idea of marketing Alsace on concept of varietal wines made from noble grapes. As in much of the rest of France,
the oldest vineyards were planted in plots of mixed varieties, which would be harvested, pressed and fermented in mixed lots. Indeed, so widespread were blended wines or
Zwicker in Alsace that the designation of Edelzwicker, or 'noble blend', was introduced to distinguish the classic blends from the more commonplace wines.
greed got the better of Alsace producers, and so-called Edelzwicker became the norm. So much so, that many producers are reluctant to use the name today. Perhaps the
best known classic blend in Alsace is Ammerschwihr's Kaefferkopf, which is usually dominated by Gewurztraminer, although it can be made from one or more of five different
varieties (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc). There are, however, other, older blended wines. For example, Riquewihr's grand cru Sporen was
originally famous for Sporen Gentil, a classic assemblage dating back to the 16th century, while in Ribeauvillé, the Clos du Schlossberg has traditionally been fermented from
a melange of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat since at least 1610. Another one of Ribeauvillé's historic blends is Clos du Zahnacker, which is situated
adjacent to Osterberg on the Côte de Ribeauvillé, and has been known for its blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling & Gewurztraminer since 1673.
Outside the traditional houses,
one of the earliest revivalists was Marc Kreydenweiss, who made Clos du Val d'Eléon, his first classic blend (70% Riesling, 30% Pinot Gris) in 1990. Since then, of course,
more famous names have jumped on the bandwagon.
Alsace 2001 Stentz-Buecher (€8)
Too aldehydic and coconutty-oaky, but has interesting fruit underneath. Hopefully future vintages will have far less (and possibly different) oak contact, and a far less oxidative style.