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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Smitten by Alsatians - France's Alsace region

A recent wine trip to France took me to one of my favourite wine producing regions, Alsace.

The political history of the Alsace wine region has been a literal tug-o-war between Europe’s major powers for centuries. Since 1870 France owned it. Then Germany. Then France. Then, return service - back to Germany. And finally … back to France.  Could have saved themselves all the bother, really.  This cool northern European region produces white wines with intense fruit flavours and aromas – often referred to here as ‘aromatics’.  The main grapes grown in Alsace are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Muscat and Pinot Noir. 

The region is very picturesque, with ancient villages dotted around the lush green landscape, and neat rows of vineyards climbing the south facing hillsides.  We hired a car from our base in Colmar and navigated with a combination of Google Maps, asking directions and sheer good luck.  (They had no GPS available at Avis.)

Anyway, I was lucky enough to sample some wines at two local producers, Gisselbrecht and Louis Sipp.
Claude Gisselbrecht is third generation winemaker in the winery located about 40 minutes from Colmar on the ‘Route du Vin’ which stretches all the way north to Strasbourg.  Claude is passionate about his family’s wines and showed us through the winery – where huge old wooden casks sit alongside state of the art stainless steel equipment.
My picks:
Cremant d’Asace NV – a traditional bottle fermented sparkling wine made from Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir.  Pear/apple flavours with a crisp clean finish.
Muscat 2010 – dry and fruity with raisiny flavours and a lengthy finish.

Then back nearer Colmar to the quaint village of Ribeauvillé, to visit Lois Sipp winery, hosted by 4th generation Etienne Sipp.  Etienne was kind enough to show us through the wine cellar and then take us in his 4WD to see the steep organic vineyards with their stony soils containing marl and granite.
My picks:
Rotenberg Gewürztraminer 2010 – intense and mouth filling wine with spice and ginger flavours and a dry finish.
Osterberg Gewürztraminer Late Harvest 2006 – lush and sweet, with honey flavours and lengthy finish.

(Special thanks to Liz Wheadon of Glengarry Wines for arranging the winery visits).
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

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