The extraordinary 2003 vintage was full of surprises such as this delectable sweet Alsace muscat made from super-ripe grapes. Still very fresh and youthful and just starting to take on the minty quality that this grape attains with age. A rare gem for gentle sipping.
Product Code: AL12651
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Named after Marie-Thérèse Rolly and Louis Gassman, whose marriage brought about this successful winemaking partnership, this estate dates back to 1676. Although both his parents remain actively involved, the business is currently run by Pierre Gassmann, and he is in the process of converting to biodynamic viticulture.The winery is hidden away in the sleepy village of Rorschwihr, in the northern tip of the Haut-Rhin departement, and the estate’s vineyards are both here and in the neighbouring villages of Rodern and Bergheim.Rolly Gassmann has 60 hectares of vines in total – quite a large amount for this area – and as a result it can produce wines in a wide range of styles. While there may not be any grand cru vineyards in Rorschwihr, it does have several good lieux-dits, with a great variety of soil types. These include Kappelweg, which has calcareous marl soil, Moenchreben’s clay-marl with gravel, Oberer-Weingarten’s soils of clay on Jurassic limestone, and Pflaenzerreben and Silberberg, both of which have muschelkalk soils, a mixture of limestone and dolomite rock. It also has a small amount of grand cru vines in Altenberg de Bergheim. The Rolly Gassmann style is highly individual. Grapes are picked fully ripe and the development of noble rot is actively encouraged. It produces single-varietal wines, including several late-harvest examples. Most of the wines have residual sweetness with the best also having good acidity levels to match. The wines are long lived and Rolly Gassmann is one of the few houses who habitually have wines for sale with plenty of bottle age.
The region of Alsace lies in the rain shadow of the Vosge mountains in north-eastern France, divided from Germany by the mighty Rhine River. With the Vosge peaks protecting it from prevailing, rain laden westerlies it is one of the driest and sunniest parts of France outside of the far south and is a wonderful place to grow grapes.However, the wines of Alsace are sadly still often misunderstood. Their Germanic names, flute-shaped bottles, reminiscent of their Rhine and Mosel counterparts, and diversity of styles have all caused confusion and doubt in the minds of those consumers unfamiliar with them. Furthermore the pursuit of quality through lower yields and later harvests has come with higher levels of sweetness in many wines, though most are dry and eminently suitable for drinking with food.In contrast to many French regions, Alsace labels are relatively easy to read for many a modern wine drinker, showing as they do the grape variety clearly. There are some multi-grape blends too, and give or take some pinot noir production almost all the wines are white. The hierarchy of appellations is simple to understand too, with AC Vin d’Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru and AC Cremant d’Alsace for sparkling wines being all you need to know. Vendange Tardive and Sélection des Grains Nobles are two further designations within those classifications for wines made from later-harvested grapes that are higher in sugar and wines made from grapes affected by botrytis (aka noble rot) respectively. Grand cru wines must be made with grapes from a named vineyard site of that designation harvested at lower yields than those permitted for AC Vin d’Alsace wines. Though they are not all equal in terms of quality and many were granted such status to satisfy local political demands, many of these sites are producing some of the greatest wines of the region. There are about 50 such grand cru sites in Alsace and wines from these sites can only be made from four noble varieties – riesling, muscat, pinot gris and gewurztraminer – though the grand cru vineyards themselves can be planted with any permitted variety. Curiously, though, it is often the producer name and brand that is considered of higher importance than cru, and some producers do not use the name of a grand cru vineyard on the labels of wines made from those sites. Different producers are known for their house styles and it is often this, and the trusted quality of their ‘brands’, that attracts the savvy drinker. The grape varieties are varied. Gewurztraminer is a grape that divides people into those who love it and those who hate it. Highly aromatic, with scents of lychee, rose petals and spice (gewürz is the German word for spice), sometimes very dry and sometimes richly sweet, gewurztraminer from Alsace can accommodate many difficult food pairings. They include Thai and other aromatic Asian foods, ginger-infused foods, and washed rind cheeses such as Munster.Muscat, so often made to be sweet in other regions, is nearly always bone dry in Alsace. Perfumed and grapy, muscat makes an excellent aperitif and partner to asparagus. Pinot blanc is an excellent everyday wine, not so aromatic, clean and round and often blended with auxerrois with which it share a similarly clean scent and flavour profile. Pinot gris produces full, rich wines, less spicy than gewurztraminer and capable of long ageing. It can be a superb match for food, particularly roast goose, smoked fish, Oriental dishes and a varied cheeseboard. Sylvaner is now an endangered species, being superseded by other varieties. It makes lively, refreshing whites with good acidity that in the best examples can age surprisingly gracefully. It is often drunk with food in Alsace restaurants, particularly onion tart, ham, bacon and pork.Riesling is, for many cognoscenti, the region’s greatest wine. Here it produces dry, fuller-bodied styles with more rounded acidity. Like its lighter, often sweeter German counterparts, it develops great complexity with age, taking on its distinctive petrol aroma. The red pinot noir grape ripens easily in Alsace and more and more wines are being made, with more substance, colour and aroma than their historical forbears. Some from the best producers are showing the ability to age well.Please see our How to Buy Alsace Guide in the Wine World & News section of our website for a more detailed feature on the Alsace region.
The heatwave vintage all over Europe when temperature records were broken and drought conditions prevailed. This was certainly a challenging vintage. Some wines are already past their best but some are clearly not and even manage to taste surprisingly fresh. All, however, are best drunk up.
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
It is generally accepted that alcohol levels in wine have been increasing in the last 20 years. There are many reasons why, but the single most important factor is the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most are intrusive and strip flavour as well as alcohol and we don't buy wines made in this way. In actual fact, more than half of our still table wines have an abv of 13% or less. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's main components of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Members should refer to the wine's tasting note for a description of the style and fullness of the wine.
The Society is committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows them to make their own informed choices. An additional figure is beginning to be used on labels: the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content. Thus a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units of alcohol. All new labels of Society and Exhibition wines will include this information. drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork.
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Now to 2016
Ready to drink now but will keep until 2016.
2018 to 2042
We recommend keeping longer before opening. In 2018 it will be ready to drink but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years.
Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.