Though geographically divided by the Rhine River, the histories of French Alsace and German Baden-Württemberg share many traditions of cuisine, wine and a trove of cultural lore; the most novel of which might be a love of asparagus and being blessed with unique micro-climate conditions that allow them to cultivate it. Highly valued in the Middle Ages as a medicinal treatment for Gout, asparagus’s reputation as a luxury vegetable dish blossomed in the 17th century when it was enthusiastically promoted by France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, and across the border where Count Palatine, Charles Theodore, had it planted in his castle gardens among wild Grape Hyacinths, Irises and Orchids! Here in this balmy southwest corner of Germany, shielded by the Schwartzwald (Black Forest) to one side and the Vosges Mountains on the other, another regional
success on either side of the river is the cultivation of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and this week’s DéClassé featured grape and varietal wine, Pinot Gris.
In Baden, these varieties thrive in the mineral-rich soils that have settled on the lower slopes of long dormant Vulkanfelsen (volcanos). For the vintners of Königschaffhausen and their 2014 Pinot Gris, fruit is sourced from vineyards on a cluster of hills that are auspiciously titled as Kaiserstuhl (the Emperor’s Throne). 85% of Baden’s output is bottled by small winery cooperatives and is the only German region subject to the higher EU Zone B wine standards, which also apply to premier producing areas such as Alsace, Champagne, and Burgundy.
As for the current range of German wine exports, the industry is still working to counter the associations by North American consumers that they only produce various types of Riesling; particularly, sweeter versions. Gradually, with the help of Pinot Gris (locally known as Ruländer or Grauburgunder), the healthy diversity of wines being exported is tempering this outdated impression. As a compelling example, this dry, silky and elegant bottling demonstrates a level of quality and character that puts many popular whites such as Soave and Pinot Grigio to shame for their lack of distinction.
As a time limited release to LCBO’s Vintages, this week’s recommendation is on many ‘best of the month’ lists, so will require some Olympian sprinting to get to the shelves before it’s gone until next year. If you are a white wine lover, don’t hesitate to buy half a case. If you’re an intransigent red wine lover, then only buy 3, so you have something truly interesting to offer your white wine-loving friends!
KÖNIGSCHAFFHAUSEN VULKANFELSEN TROCKEN PINOT GRIS 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #450726 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in: Baden, Germany
By: Winzergenossenschaft Königschaffhausen
Release Date: April 2, 2016
Delicate aromas and flavours of citrus and stone fruit make this dry, mid-weight white a fabulous apéritif wine with pâté, soft cheeses, asparagus with a white sauce or with main courses of roasted poultry, smoked fish, and baked hams.