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Predominantly from Hugel's grand cru Sporen vineyard, this is a more delicate wine in 2016, after the sunny, concentrated 2015, with pretty yellow fruit, a hint of honey, and gentle silky texture. The Hugel estate is one of the best-known houses in the Alsace region of France, with a reputation for excellence going back to the 17th century. They are masters of the spicy gewurztraminer grape.
Product Code: AL15661
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Hugel is one of the longest-established Alsace houses as well as being the most famous. The family firm has made wine in Riquewihr since 1639! As having extensive vineyard holdings of some 127 hectares (including grands crus Sporen and Schoenenbourg), Hugel also acts as a négociant buying grapes from other respected growers.The late Johnny Hugel was one of the most influential winemakers in Alsace, not only championing Alsace at home and abroad, but also helping to formulate important protection laws. It was he who obtained official seal of approval for late-harvest vendange tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles designations. Under the thoughtful management of Johnny’s nephews, Marc and the sadly missed Etienne, who died suddenly and much too young in April 2016, the business remained in safe hands, and now a younger generation is involved in this great family tradition. Marc is the current winemaker, and in fine tradition the firm continues to make some of the very best examples of late-harvest wines from riesling, gewurztraminer and muscat available in Alsace today. The Jubilee range of wines was started in 1989 when Hugel celebrated its 350th anniversary. These were made only in very good or great vintages and are synonymous with high-quality wines. All but the pinot noir came from grand cru sites. The Jubilee range has now been replaced by the Grossi Laüe ('great growths' in Alsacien), taking a further step up in quality. Members visiting the pretty town of Riquewihr, where Hugel is based, might also enjoy a visit to an interesting wine-themed museum there established by Johnny’s brother, André Hugel, and to their fine wine shop.
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.
As in much of Europe, a complicated growing season, with early heavy rains and mildew pressure. Flowering was cool, damp and protracted followed at last by hot dry, even drought conditions for some, in August. Thankfully a little rain in the second half of September revived the vineyards just in time for the harvest. Careful picking was required and the very dry conditions did have a major impact in some vineyards with up to 20% of production lost. A healthy crop, but one with little noble rot. 2016 is a good year for the later ripening varieties: pinot gris, gewurztraminer and riesling, and overall better than 2014. Volumes also look pretty good, which is much needed after three short harvests.
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