Domaine Weinbach Altenbourg Gewurztraminer 2016
On the nose, golden raisins come to mind. It is very sweet and very candied with clove and intense brioche notes. A very classy Gewurztraminer with tons of butter and honey on the finish. Wonderful on its own, as an aperitif, with rich and spicy dishes, with preparations containing sweet or fruit elements (blood orange duck), or with foie gras. It is also great with ripe, soft cheeses such as Munster, Comté, Epoisses, Roquefort, or any other blue cheese.
At the foot of the majestic Schlossberg hill in Alsace stands one of the finest estates in all of France. Weinbach produces richly concentrated, fragrant dry Rieslings, for which the Grand Cru Schlossberg vineyard is particularly well-situated. Ranging from the delicate Reserve Personelle, to the intense, dry Cuvée Théo, the elegant, very dry, very fine Schlossberg, the rich and fruity Cuvée Ste. Catherine, to the majestic and full-bodied Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Ste. Catherine, each Riesling is distinctive. The rich, rose-scented, spicy Gewurztraminers from Domaine Weinbach are among the finest in the world. Ranging in style from the slightly sweet, rich and powerful Altenbourg Cuvée Laurence, to the stunning, full-bodied, off-dry Grand Cru Furstentum Cuvée Laurence, these are rich yet elegant wines with great aromatic complexity.
With its fairytale aesthetic, Germanic influence and strong emphasis on white wines, Alsace is one of France’s most unique viticultural regions. This hotly contested stretch of land running north to south on France’s northeastern border has spent much of its existence as German territory. Nestled in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, it is one of the driest regions of France but enjoys a long and cool growing season. Autumn humidity facilitates the development of “noble rot” for the production of late-picked sweet wines, Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
The best wines of Alsace can be described as aromatic and honeyed, even when completely dry. The region’s “noble” varieties, the only ones permitted within Alsace’s 51 Grands Crus vineyards, are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris.
Riesling is Alsace’s main specialty. In its youth, Alsatian Riesling is dry, fresh and floral, but develops complex mineral and flint character with age. Gewurztraminer is known for its signature spice and lychee aromatics, and is often utilized for late harvest wines. Pinot Gris is prized for its combination of crisp acidity and savory spice as well as ripe stone fruit flavors. Muscat, vinified dry, tastes of ripe green grapes and fresh rose petal.
Other varieties grown here include Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chasselas, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir—the only red grape permitted in Alsace and mainly used for sparkling rosé known as Crémant d’Alsace. Most Alsatian wines are single-varietal bottlings and unlike other French regions, are also labeled with the variety name.
Gewürztraminer is an expressive and aromatically distinctive white grape variety. It is considered a noble variety in the Alsace region of France, and can produce beautiful wines in the mountainous Alto Adige region of north-eastern Italy. With the notable exception of the Anderson Valley, most regions of California are too warm for Gewürztraminer’s low potential acidity, but it has done particularly well in more northerly, cooler regions of North America such as British Columbia, Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, and New York's Finger Lakes.
In the Glass
Gewürztraminer is bold and highly aromatic, with intense flavors of lychee, rose petal, ginger, musk, exotic spice, smoke, pineapple, apricot kernel and peach. Wines range from bone dry to quite sweet and its naturally low acidity is offset by high levels of skin-derived phenolics, which in addition to aromatics, provide weight and a good structural grip.
Gewürztraminer’s natural spiciness makes it a great ally for flavorful cuisine, such as Indian, Middle Eastern, or Moroccan fare. It is also excellent with dense, oily fish like salmon, swordfish and mahi-mahi, and works well with a wide range of meats and charcuterie. Gewürztraminer truly shines with classic Alsatian dishes like choucroute, Quiche Lorraine and anything egg-based.
Because of its floral perfume and tendency towards slight sweetness, Gewürztraminer makes for an excellent gateway wine. For those who have been introduced to wine through Moscato or other sweet wines, Gewürztraminer can serve as the perfect bridge towards an appreciation for dry whites.