The Problem With Alsace Wines Is…


 

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I have had experiences of similar nature. I actually ordered a whole case of Oregon Riesling for myself once to find it off-dry which by my sensitive palate is sweet without mistake. Taste is very subjective and whatever effort made to guide to its nature, surprises will not end.

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There is one major problem with the wines from Alsace. It is not the old issue with bottle shape – the singular reason many retailers spout for the poor sales of Alsatian wine (they aint gonna abandon those Germanic flutes without a fight mate) – and it isn’t the top-heavy Grand Cru vineyard grading either. (There are 51 Grand Cru vineyards but no other rungs on the quality ladder, Premier Cru for example).
Step forward Miss Sweetness; the issue that I have with Alsatian wine (ignoring those washed out Pinot Noirs obviously).

A lunch in Mittelbergheim, Alsace recently is a case in point. Our charming, stylish and gracefully French host (although technically from Scandinavia) was enthusing over the delights of Slyvaner – in particular the one Grand Cru hillside where it is grown – and ordered a bottle to accompany a fish course (Rieffel Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg, 2007).

With no disrespect or embarrassment meant to our host the match was a disaster. The wine was far, far too sweet to accompany the food.

In addition to highlighting the sweetness problem it also reflected badly on the high-aiming restaurant too, for not indicating such a potential conflict from one of their wines.
Yet from the label there is no indication of how dry or otherwise the wine is.

Simple – let the producer add a designation of sweetness on the label. It would be ‘relatively’ simple to set a residual sugar level equalling a specific sweetness. But “a wine with 16g of residual sugar” is not terribly consumer friendly and frankly such vino-tech talk is off-putting even to many wine aficionados.

There is a further complication – relative sweetness. That Riesling may have 16g of residual but its high acidity and steely, mineral backbone gives the impression that it is much, much drier.

Some producers, Deiss I believe and, since 2003, Zind-Humbrecht have taken the initiative to implement their own sweetness grades and put them on their bottle labels.
http://www.spittoon.biz/the_problem_with_alsace_wines.html

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