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Marc Tempe Zellenberg Riesling 2000

Riesling from Alsace, France
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    Winemaker Notes

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    Marc Tempe

    Domaine Marc Tempe

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    Domaine Marc Tempe, Alsace, France
    A native to Alsace, Marc Tempe spent 11 years with the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, overseeing viticultural and enological aspects of Alsace harvests. His responsibilities included recommending lieux-dits (place names; i.e. single vineyards) for inclusion into the ranks of grand cru, and he became initially acquainted with many of what are now grand cru vineyards. Befriended by Leonard Humbrecht, Tempe quickly understood Domaine Zind-Humbrecht methods: small yields, attention to the vines, harvesting in small bins, gentle pressing of whole berries, long fermentation with wild yeasts, working with the lees, and all with an ecologist’s point of view. He especially learned to distrust residual sugar in wines as a component that masks faults. Except for his late harvest wines, his wines are typically dry.

    With his wife, Anne Marie, Tempe put his extensive knowledge if what constituted great vineyards to another use: in the early 1990s, they began buying small parcels. They weaned these parcels off chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and synthetic fungicides, converting them to biodynamic vineyards.

    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.

    Riesling

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    A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

    In the Glass

    Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings more redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.

    Perfect Pairings

    Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.

    Sommelier Secret

    It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.

    CVI805991_2000 Item# 59508