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Online Alsace Guide

by Tom Stevenson

Assemblage

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.

Unfortunately 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.

95/100

Alsace Le Grand Vin De Schoenenbourg 2000 Deiss Marcel (€59)
Soil: marno-sableux gypseux. Pale gold, and very sweet indeed, with rich, tangy-creamy fruit. A brilliant foie gras wine.
See all Deiss Schoenenbourg stockists on wine-searcher.com.

92/100

Alsace Altenberg De Bergheim Assemblage 2000 Deiss Marcel (€57)
Soil: marno-calcaire. Golden colour, very sweet. Another beautifully expressive foie gras wine.
See all Deiss Altenberg stockists on wine-searcher.com.

90/100

Alsace Kaefferkopf 2002 Freyburger Marcel (€7.70)
A luscious, medium-sweet, budget version of Deiss's Schoenenbourg from the soon to be grand cru of Kaefferkopf. [Note added after crib sheet revealed identity and price: what amazing value!]

79/100

Alsace Nv Einhart (€6.50)
A Muscat-dominated blend that has fresh, clean fruit, but little else to mark it out. Ideal carafe wine. [Note added after crib sheet revealed identity: 70% Muscat, 10% Gewurztraminer, 10% Auxerrois, 5% Riesling.]

70/100

Alsace 2001 Kuhlmann Frederic (€5)
Herbaceous.

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.

65/100

Alsace Cuvée Du Banni 2000 Fritsch Romain (€6.85)
Grown, unusually for Alsace, on the Lyre system, but no indication of grape varieties, although tastes unimpressively like rubbery Riesling and Pinot Gris.

45/100

Alsace 2001 Kuentz-Bas (€4.90)
Okay on palate, but could be fresher on nose.

30/100

Alsace Clos Du Val D'eléon 2000 Kreydenweiss Marc (€15)
Starting to break-up. Catches on back of throat. Unclean, almost napthalene-like … possibly UTA/ATA (see Aromas and Flavours Guide).


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