18 April 2014

A German Grape Takes a Tour of Europe

I've always been interested in studying transitional geographical regions--places that have changed hands over the centuries and today contain elements of the various cultures that have occupied the physical area. Granted, a lot of that involved war, religious persecution, or other horrible things, but they remind us that national borders are not firm laws set down from time immemorial, but often redrawn when one side has more power, and endure when the other side doesn't feel like fighting back for the dozenth time.

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
Alsace, France
100% Gewürztraminer
$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
Alsace, France
100% Gewürztraminer
$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
100% Gewürztraminer
$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
100% Gewürztraminer
$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.

* * *

Thanks for reading, and remember that you can still follow GrapeCollective.com and register to win two Riedel wine glasses:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

No comments: