Lying comfortably between the maritime zone to the west and the protective
shadow of the Vosges Mountains eastward, Alsace is the driest wine region in
France. This translates into vineyards where the grapes enjoy a long growing
period toward maturation – resulting in more complex, layered flavors. Since the
Middle Ages, within this zone, the terroirs of Riquewihr have been renowned
as producing some of the most distinctive and interesting white wine varieties
in the entire country including Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and this
week’s DéClassé selected, varietal bottling of a 100% Sylvaner.
Surprisingly, these noteworthy wine-producing tracts were almost wiped out
early in the 20th century by a combination of the earlier Franco-Prussian wars
and then the scourge of various pests and horticultural disease! Nonetheless,
the Sylvaner variety, considered a noble grape, has battled its way in and out of
favour for most the ensuing period. Recently it has again declined from 27% in
the early 1980’s to only 11% of the vineyards currently planted. Gradually, this
grape has waned due to increased consumer demand for Riesling. But Sylvaner
appears to be the come-back kid of Alsace. From the 2005 vintage onward, it
qualifies for the distinction as ‘Alsace Grand Cru’, which should help the variety
to regain part of its former, elevated status.
Also, though grown all over the Europe, it has not caught on significantly in the
New World wine regions. So Alsatian versions, derived from very mature vines,
should continue to revive the deserved re-appreciation and interest in dry, crisp
whites that display none of the overly “grassy” or “herbaceous” notes that seem
to be the current norm for these wine styles from warmer climates.
This bottling is ripe and ready to be enjoyed now, but this strong 2012 vintage
will hold well in the cellar for at least a couple more years – so buy several!
HUGEL SYLVANER ALSACE
LCBO – Product #361543 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.25
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in: Alsace, France
By: Hugel & Fils S.A.
This has an attractive fruit-driven and refreshing, springtime character that’s
typically a much drier wine style than its Riesling cousins. Savour with mildly
spiced roast pork, sweet-and-sour chicken, baked hams and cabbage recipes.