I went to The Age of Alsace at this year's Aspen Food & Wine Classic, where there were six great wines on the table, two of them fabulous suprises, but the whole group made it worth the trip.
The Alsace Wine Board facilitated the seminar and Andrea Robinson--dynamic as ever--led the audience through six wines: Crémant d'Alsace, Sylvaner, Riesling, two Gewürztraminers, and a Pinot Gris. I was glad to hear Mrs. Robinson's perspectives on the wines, as it is always good to hear fresh ideas. We started with the Lucien Albrecht NV Crémant d'Alsace (which was one of my wedding wines!), and it was a delicious as ever, and a perfect eye-opener. All of the other wines were Grands Crus (or the producer's equivalent), which I didn't expect, but even so, these were five of the world's finest wines of their type. The two surprises were the Grand Cru Sylvaner from Albert Seltz (the same wine and vintage I tasted several years ago, and for which I vouched here), and the 1999 Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru Spiegel. Add to these a few of my more easily obtainable favorites: Trimbach's 2005 Frédéric Émile and 2004 Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre and Hugel's Gewürz Jubilee, and it was how any wine lover would be thrilled to start the day, but for an Alsace nut...well, it was perfect.
Here are some specifics on the wines:
Lucien Albrecht NV Crémant d'Alsace
Still one of my favorite values in sparkling wine. I could drink this all morning, but past a certain point it will no longer be an eye-opener. Lime scented shortbread on the nose, lip-smacking on the palate, as usual.
Albert Seltz 2005 Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg
Concentrated apricot scent--preserves and dried apricots (without the oxidative elements inherent to dried fruit), with a lance of five-spice. All of this comes together to be incredibly suggestive of a Jayne Mansfield-type of physicality...i.e., really curvy. The flavors are congruent with the aromas, and it is full-bodied, but the honeyed elements of a mature wine are more prominent than they were aromatically. The retro-olfactory experience magnifies this honey on the nose, as found in the first sniff after the first sip. What a beautiful wine--quite different from the last time I had it in 2008.
Trimbach 2005 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Émile
Spectacular wine--aromas of salty lime, bay, and white tea. Hard to stop sniffing this one. Vivid flavors that draw on the aromas, deeper and longer though, with a medium body and long-term, fun sense of Riesling essence.
Trimbach 2004 Gewürztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre
Truly one of the greatest Gewürztraminers in the world. Redolent of rose petals, honeyed green olives (in the background) and a bit of rosemary. Bold, big wine that is NOT READY to drink. Its alcohol shows a bit on the edges of the tongue--I have long associated this with this wine when it is still young. Fabulously light color, especially for Gewürz--will be great in a couple of years.
Hugel 2007 Gewürztraminer Jubilee
Feisty, rich, floral wine with a randy sense of its fruit and less delicacy than the Trimbach. Fennel colors the lychee/rose elements such that as it sits in the glass it becomes a new thing altogether...more like tarragon. This one is ready, and if you've got some, drink it down with great relish.
Schlumberger 1999 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Spiegel
Savory scents of mushrooms and corn silks with a wonderfully honeyed background. Excellent wine--residual sugar has been absorbed into the whole of the wine, and it is quite long-toned--mushrooms keep it going with a salty (almost brothy) backside and a great saucisson finish. Dynamite, extraordinary wine.
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