Monday, December 2, 2013

Amazlng Alsatians - My Dinner with Gustave



I absolutely love the wines of Alsace and believe that this is the finest collection of white wines in the world; taking into mind the whites from Burgundy as well as Friuli, Alto Adige and Campania in Italy, that's a strong statement, but one in which I'm convinced. Add to that the marvelous array of wines, from Pinot Gris to Riesling to Gewurztraminer as well as a few others (including one red, Pinot Noir) and you've got a collection of wines that can pair up beautifully with a wide range of foodstuffs.

Recently, I tasted through the wines of Gustave Lorentz, an excellent producer situated in Bergheim near the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. The family has been producing wine there since 1836 and today is managed by Georges Lorentz, sixth-generation vintner. They own a total of 85 acres of vineyards of which 34 are Grand Cru, with four at Kanzlerberg and thirty at Altenberg de Bergheim. In 2012, their vineyards were certified organic by Ecocert.

I've tasted a few entry level "reserve" wines from Lorentz over the years - quite often the Pinot Blanc- and have been very happy with the overall balance as well as the typicity of the products. They represent Alsace well and they're also fine values, with the Pinot Blanc coming in around $16 a bottle (sometimes even less).


I recently tasted through six of the current Gustave Lorentz wines at two dinners: one with Thai food - I find that Alsatian wines and Thai food are a match made in heaven - and then with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. The opening wine was the Cremant d'Alsace, which is a unique sparkling wine from Alsace. This is made according to the methode champenoise system; the wine is under less pressure than a traditional Champagne, hence the name cremant, translated as "creaming." The Lorentz version is a blend of 1/3 each Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir and is a delight. My tasting notes are as follows:

"Delicate yellow, fine perlage; aromas of golden apple peel and a hint of lemon custard. Medium-full with very good concentration. Nicely balanced, very good acidity and very good persistence. Well made, this is a very flavorful cremant that is quite dry; it is also one of the nicest I've had in some time. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years."

I enjoyed this with turkey and the Thai food; it worked well with both, as the acidity and cleanliness of this wine cut through the spice of these foods. The suggested retail is $25.


Lorentz also produces a very nice rosé, made entirely from Pinot Noir. This has a beautiful strawberry color with fresh watermelon and strawberry fruit, very good acidity and impressive depth of fruit. This is quite dry and nicely balanced. It also worked well with turkey (with gravy) and an array of Thai dishes. The suggested retail is $16.



Three other wines that are of excellent quality are the 2011 Gewurztraminer "Reserve", the 2007 Pinot Gris "Schofweg" and the 2008 Riesling "Burg". Gewurztraminer is a specialty in Alsace and it's always been a favorite of mine; this 2011 from Lorentz with its exotic lychee, pineapple and lemon tea aromas and dry finish is first-rate and a wonderful partner for all of the foods I've mentioned in this post. Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years; suggested retail of $25, which is quite fair.

The 2007 Pinot Gris from a single vineyard (an extension of Altenberg) offers inviting flavors and aromas of red apple and oragne peel backed by impressive depth of fruit and a lightly spicy finish; this was especially nice with Thai curry. This has the concentration to drink well for another 5-7 years; this is a delightful wine with a suggested retail of $30.

The 2008 Riesling "Burg," also from a single vineyard, is medium-full with lovely aromas of petrol and apricot (classic for this variety); the finish is long and very dry. 2008 was an excellent vintage in Alsace with expressive aromas and very good natural acidity; though not a year that produced the "biggest" wines, 2008 in Alsace yielded wines of beautiful varietal purity and structure. This is superb at present with pork and lighter game and white meats and should drink well for another 3-5 years, though I may be a bit conservative in that estimate. Riesling is certainly a hallmark of any Alsatian producer's portfolio and this is one that the Lorentz family should be proud of; suggested retail is $30.



Finally, let's talk about the 2006 Gewurztraminer from the Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru vineyard (depicted in the above map). The Grand Cru appellation in Alsace was certified in 1975 with many of the first vineyards being designated as such in 1983; there are a total of 51 Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace. Altenberg de Bergheim, located a bit north of the town of Colmar in the Haut-Rhin ("Upper Rhine") section of Alsace is considered an exceptional site for Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

The Gustave Lorentz 2006 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim is clearly a wine of great breeding, as you would expect. Light golden yellow with sumptuous aromas of lychee, apricot, mango and white roses - just this description alone makes me want to try this wine! - there is a richness and lushness, even an oiliness on the palate. Full-bodied with outstanding persistence and excellent acidity with ideal ripeness, this is a superb wine; my dining companion at the Thai restaurant (whose name was not Gustave) called this wine a "show stopper" and I heartily agreed. This is so delicious on its own, but it would be a shame to not pair this wine with food; this is perfect with Thai pork or chicken or even duck, while it would show off turkey and lighter game beautifully and would also be ideal with foie gras. This is such a unique wine for so many reasons; it has great complexity and power, yet it is always in balance, while the varietal purity is spectacular. This should drink well for another 7-10 years and the suggested retail price of $50 is quite fair, considering where this wine is from as well as its limited production.


Tasting through a lineup of wines such as these is a great exercise in discovering what the wines of Alsace are all about. Being able to experience such first-class offerings from Gustave Lorentz merely reinforced the marvelous quality of this renowned family producer.


The wines of Gustave Lorentz are imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, CA.

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