18 April 2014
A German Grape Takes a Tour of Europe
I've written a lot about Alsace and how I feel it is its own unique European region nestled between Germany and France, hence the reason for using the flag of Alsace rather than the tricolore. In today's post, I'll extend the same courtesy to the Alto Adige region of Italy, an autonomous state that borders Austria and Switzerland. I make these decisions not for political reasons but more for cultural ones--Trentino-Alto Adige (or Südtirol) was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after WWI, and German is still spoken there. In both cases, you've got German-speaking folks living on the borders of other countries, growing their grapes for a long, long time.
Although this particular quartet of Gewürztraminer presents a fun orthographical dichotomy: Italy uses the umlaut, France doesn't. I'll respect the choices for the names of the wines, but since the grape is more commonly spelled with the umlaut, I'll use that for the varietal name... So ist das Leben.
2011 Hugel Gewurztraminer
$23, 14% abv.
This bottle showed up sweet and spicy, round with low acidity. Really a classic Gewürztraminer and one that would fall in well with both German and New World versions.
2008 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Gewurztraminer
$28, 13% abv.
I found the Schlumberger similar to the above, but more earthy and with a honey element. Obviously it has aged quite well without becoming cloying. There's a lot of depth here as well as structured acidity, which almost pushes this into dessert wine territory. A great bargain for a well-aged wine.
2013 Elena Walch Selezione Gewürztraminer
Alto Adige, Italy
$20, 14.5% abv.
It showed great apricot and floral notes, almost perfume-like, but in contrast to the Alsatian wines this was quite dry with low acidity and a round mouthfeel. Good minerality. Excellent wine made in the Austrian style.
2012 Elena Walch Kastelaz Gewürztraminer
Alto Adige, Italy
$32, 14.5% abv.
Coming to the end of the quartet, I've got to say that Alto Adige won me over, and this particular bottle was my favorite of the four. It has many of the attributes of the former Elena Walch wine but with a luscious honeysuckle aroma that captures my heart every time. However, this bottle had better acidity, firmer body, making it a more serious wine all around. Serve this with roast quail and a winter vegetable purée and you've got a magical combination during this lingering cold weather.
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Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.