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globetrot

Hunting for wines from lesser-known regions that marvel the palate is one of the directions the world of wine is headed. We unravel the sheer thrill of discovering different styles and varietals. Text: Zainab Majerikov

In AlsAce, the mAjorIty of the productIon, whIch Is 90%, concentrAtes on whIte wIne.
rance is known to have introduced some of the greatest wines to the world. And yet, there are many regions in the country that stand apart. The likes of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire and the Rhne valley are amongst the most promising ones. However, when I stumbled upon Alsace and its acute similarity to wines from Germany, I couldnt help but add it to my list of French stars. In Alsace, the majority of the production, which is 90%, concentrates on white wine. Wine production in Alsace, like other French regions, is governed by strict Appellation dorigine contrle (AOC) rules that monitor plantations, harvest and varietal specifications amongst various other technicalities.
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A star is
born
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image courtesy: robert blanck winery

MARCH-APRIL 2012

MARCH-APRIL 2012

image: Zainab majerikov

the rIeslIngs from AlsAce Are usuAlly on the drIer sIde. In fAct, most rIeslIngs Are never oAked. mAturAtIon only tAkes plAce In steel tAnks.
pleasantly refreshing. On the other hand, if one were to look at the Rieslings from Alsace, they are usually on the drier side. In fact, most Rieslings are never oaked. Maturation only takes place in steel tanks. However, the Blanck winery is amongst those that ferment the wines in old oak barrels. It is to be noted here that in order to give a rounded mouthfeel and add that layer of complexity, the wines are aged in old Alsatian oak instead of new oak. The wines still exude freshness with controlled acidity. Riesling Sptlese (late harvest) from Baden-Baden has a pale straw gold colour and honey, apricot and peach aromas. The fullbodied wine with about 8.5 grams of residual sugar is a powerhouse of flavour. Gewrztraminer This light pink-skinned grape is aromatic and produces pungent, full-bodied wines. It is drama personified in the glass and is deeply coloured, opulently aromatic, and fuller bodied than any other white wine. It can come across as being too powerful, but this also makes it one of the most complex wines around. A good Gewrztraminer will showcase an exotic bouquet of lychees and heavily scented roses. It is also believed that if one can pick bacon fat on the nose, the
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mAny french regIons Are AImIng to Ape AlsAtIAn wInes, but the quAlIty And typIcIty wIll be unlIke AlsAtIAn wInes.
For instance, the norms allow us to plant only one red variety that is Pinot Noir and six white varieties. Amongst the dry-styled wines, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc and Riesling are produced whereas fruity and not-so-dry grapes include Muscatelle, Gewrztraminer, and Pinot Gris, explains Robert Blanck, owner and winemaker, Robert Blanck winery, which was set up in 1732 in Obernai, Alsace. Germans have around 15-17 different varieties, which set the wines from
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image courtesy: robert blanck winery

both the regions distinctly apart. Many French regions are aiming to ape Alsatian wines, but the quality and the typicity will be unlike Alsatian wines. Robert says, Our geography, climate and terroir are very different. Also, the

vinification processes followed are very different. The proximity to the Black Forest region of Germany influences the soil, which lends unique characteristics to the wines. German wines tend to be sweeter due to the high level of residual
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image: Zainab majerikov

sugar, which ranges from 20 to 25 grams/litre. On the other hand, a classic Alsatian Riesling tends to have about 2 grams/litre of sugar. Also, German wines usually produce about 30% excess yield, as it is not governed by a body similar to the French AOC. Comparison between styles and varieties Riesling One of the most famous grape varieties that has also been Germanys ticket to fame. It gained popularity during the mid-1990s and most Rieslings in the country are not aged in oak barrels. The cutting acidity and at times, the distinguishing sweetness comes bursting forth. As I sat surrounded by the gently sloping vineyards of Baden-Baden and sipped on a 100% Riesling, its peach and summer fruit aromas were

image courtesy: robert blanck winery

In germAny, the rIeslIng Is tAkIng on A dIfferent AvAtAr. the wInes Are leAnIng towArds the dry style.
wine has seen good ageing and can be categorised as complex. Alsatian wines, on the other hand, exude more freshness, layered with the aromas of lychee and mango. Pair a sweet, fruity Gewrztraminer with the celebrity of Alsacefoie gras. Crmant dAlsace AC This appellation and classification is attributed to the sparkling wine produced over the whole region and made following the mthode champenoise, where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. The grapes used for this are the Pinot Blanc or Riesling.
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image: Zainab majerikov

image courtesy: robert blanck winery

Crmant is very important to the wine sales in Alsace and its image around the world. The Robert Blanck winerys production, for instance, constitutes 25% of Crmant. Pinot Noir The Alsatians are allowed to make only one red wine varietal, that is, Pinot Noir. The wine is pale and floral, whereas Germany is known to make Sptburgunders (Pinot Noir), which show impressive Burgundian depth. Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Sylvaner The first three varieties are often seen in some parts of France, in Burgundy, for example. The Muscat has a light, dry grapy perfume rather than the heavy-duty renditions from the South of France wines. The Sylvaner is not found anywhere else in France and is also seeing a rapid decline in Alsace. The Sylvaner was very popular at one time, but a lot of winemakers have

completely stopped the production of the same. I believe in keeping the tradition alive and, therefore, you will find that 14% of my production constitutes the Sylvaner. The wines may not be as fruity as the others, but on some occasions, you will want something different, Robert explains. The wines from the two regions are like a split personality. Alsaces French grape varieties exhibit German aromas but the flavour profiles stand apart. But the trend is also shifting in Germany, where the Riesling is taking on a different avatar. The wines are leaning towards the dry style, but they come across as taut and lean with a delicate aroma. If I do have you hooked by now and intrigued by this genre, then you know where the next calling lies. So, I leave you to chew over the delicious mouthfeel of these gorgeous wines.
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