Appellation Alsace Contrôlée
Hugel & Fils
68340 Riquewihr (Haut-Rhin)
Tasted October 25th, 2016.
First come the green fruits, Apple, Pear, some Melon. Then the more exotics take over, with Elderflower and Lychee. The end is Almond with a hint of wood, spiced by Cinnamon and Nutmeg. All well-balanced.
Paired with Choucroute garnie (what else ?).
Although the bulk of Alsace’s grapes end up in single-varietal cépages of sometimes phenomenal quality (yes, this is my pet region), traditionally some are used in assemblages of up to seven varieties. Called ‘Zwicker’ (I think that designation is officially outlawed now), ‘Edelzwicker’ or ‘Gentil’, these form a good part of the local daily drink.
The basic method is: simpler and cheaper varieties form the bulk of the assemblage, added with whatever extra doses of more expensive and aromatic varieties the grower deems usefull. ‘Zwicker’ contained traditionally higher doses of the former (Chasselas and Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc), ‘Edelzwicker’ and ‘Gentil’ higher doses of the latter (any choice of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurstraminer). In theory, for ‘Zwickers’ the grapes of the different varieties should be mixed before vinification, while for ‘Gentil’ the separate batches should be vinified separately and only blended afterwards, but I do not know whether this rule still applies or is enforced.
True, mixing so many varieties has one definite con: for the good characteristics of every grape type, there are four, five or six other varieties to blank these out. You will never get a Really Truly Great Wine thus. But you definitely can get a decently-priced and drinkeable everyday wine with local cachet and interesting variations per wine grower and per vintage.
And in the Alsace, the wine growers take this serious: for every vintage, they redefine the assemblage to get an optimum result. Full marks to Hugel here, who even lists (on its website and not on the label, unfortunately) the composition for every recent vintage. Hence I know that ‘my’ bottle contained 24% Pinot Gris, 19% Gewurztraminer and 15% Riesling, no cheap shortcuts taken here.
Pity that for these wines vintages are rarely available next to another. A tasting covering multiple vintages could be really interesting, considering the variety in composition.