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An elegant, classically styled chardonnay grown above the charming medieval town of Riquewihr in Alsace. Its part barrel-fermentation and oak ageing imparts a little spice and creaminess to the breadth and texture on the palate.
Product Code: AL15251
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The history of making sparkling wine in Alsace is relatively short. It was Julien Dopff who became intrigued by the possibilities of making sparkling wines after seeing a demonstration of the Champenois method of production at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900, and he pioneered the first Crémant d’Alsace a couple of years later. It was a great idea and one that took root. It has since become an important part of the Alsace wine industry, and largely thanks to the Dopff family. The Dopffs have been in Riquewihr since the 17th century, first as coopers and then as winemakers from the middle of the 19th century when Jean Dopff took up that profession. Since that time the family have built up their domaine in and around the impossibly attractive Alsace village of Riquewihr.It is now Etienne-Arnaud Dopff who, with his wife Marlene, is working hard at the domaine to enhance the reputation earned by their forbears. They own 70 hectares of vines, mostly around Riquewihr itself, on south facing slopes on the Schoenenbourg where riesling is king. They also hold land in Hunawihr, Mittelwihr, the Hardt of Colmar and Brand at Turckheim. As well as making wine from their own vines they are one of the largest négociant businesses in Alsace, buying grapes from over 600 growers.Pinot blanc is the mainstay of sparkling wine production here, supported by pinot auxerrois, pinot noir and chardonnay, and whole, hand-picked bunches are gently pressed. Only the free run juice is used, and the initial fermentation is in stainless steel before the wine is fermented a second time in bottle, the so called méthode traditionnelle. The bottles are stored for a further 14 to 24 months before disgorgement, after which they have another period in the cellars before they are ready to leave. The Cuvée Julien, familiar to members of The Society, is generally a blend of 50% pinot blanc and 50% auxerrois.
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.
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