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Domaines Schlumberger Cuvee Christine Gewurztraminer 1997
The planting and judicious choice of grape varieties, pruning the vines, constantly surveying the grapes as they ripen, and the precious care that they are given enable a strict selection to be made during harvesting. Each plot, or even each bunch of grapes, will only be picked if it is completely ripe.
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 on France’s northeastern border has spent much of its existence as German territory, and this is easy to see both in Alsace’s architecture and wine styles. A long, narrow strip running north to south, Alsace is nestled in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, making it perhaps the driest region of France. The growing season is long and cool, and autumn humidity facilitates the development of noble rot for the production of late-picked sweet wines Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles. Alsace is divided into two halves—the Haut-Rhin and the Bas-Rhin—the former, at higher elevations, is associated with higher quality and makes up the lower portion of the region.
The best wines of Alsace can be described as aromatic and honeyed, even when completely dry. The region’s “noble” varieties are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris. Other varieties grown here include Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chasselas, Sylvaner, and Pinot Noir—the only red grape permitted here, responsible for about 10% of production and often used for sparkling rosé known as Crémant d’Alsace. Riesling is Alsace’s main specialty, and historically has always been bone dry to differentiate it from its German counterparts. In its youth, Alsatian Riesling is fresh and floral, developing complex mineral and gunflint 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 is vinified dry, and tastes of ripe green grapes and fresh rose petal. There are 51 Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace, and only these four noble varieties are permitted within. While most Alsatian wines are bottled varietally, blends of several (often lesser) varieties are commonly labeled as ‘Edelzwicker.’
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.