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1997 Muscat, Moenchreben de Rorschwihr, Domaine Rolly-Gassmann
Located in Alsace’s Haut-Rhin village of Rorschwihr, near Ribeauvillé, lies the family domaine of Rolly-Gassmann, whose roots date back to 1661. The 51 hectare estate (40ha in Rorschwihr, 10ha in Bergheim) is owned and run by Marie-Therese (pictured right), Louis & their son Pierre Gassmann, along with a team of 17 workers.
They work to the principles of biodynamic viticulture yet curiously also apply weed killers. They produce on average 300,000 bottles per annum and they are notable for having more than four years’ stock (1 million bottles) in stock at any one time, which would account for the regular visits by French customers; they only export 20% of their annual production.
The 250ha commune of Rorschwihr, first noted for its wine in 742AD, lies on one of Alsace’s many faultlines (ala Burgundy), giving rise to a complex tapestry of 21 different soil types, particularly limestone, sandstone, granite and silt. So complex in fact that when the authorities sought to lump together vineyards to form large plots as part of the new Grand Cru system (1970s/80s), the villagers rose up and declared that either there would be 12 Rorschwihr Grand Crus or none at all. Hence today there are no Grand Crus in Rorschwihr.
That said there are some standout Crus/lieux-dits that would surely qualify as Premier Cru sites if ever this classification was tabled. Limestone rich vineyards Silberberg, Kappelweg & Pflaenzerreben are rated for their Rieslings , Rotleibel’s darker brown clay and silt soils are meant for Pinot Gris, while the oolithic white lime stone of Oberer Weingarten & Stegreben are perfect for the Gassmann’s Gewurztraminer.
Vinification takes place in large oak barrels and stainless-steel, giving wines of great elegance, gentleness and drinkability.
Muscat refers to a family of grapes of which there are around 200 different branches. Muscat Blancs à Petits Grains is the most noble of the variety and makes the best and most distinctive wines. It is the only wine grape that produces wines that actually taste of grapes, and can produce a range of wines from pale, bone dry whites, through to golden yellow, rich, sweet wines.
In Alsace, two types of Muscat are grown - Muscat Blancs à Petits Grains and Muscat Ottonel. They are usually blended to produce wines that tend to be light and dry with a fruity, musky character and an intensely aromatic bouquet. Intensely sweet late harvest wines are also produced.
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is one of the best Vin Doux Naturels in France. This is produced by adding grape spirit to the partly fermented must - the best producers, such as Domaine de Durban, produce deliciously sweet wines with rich grapey aromas balanced by fruity acidity.
In Australia Muscat à Petit Grains is used to produce the fortified Liqueur Muscats of Victoria (esp. Rutherglen). These are extraordinary wines - dark and treacly with a sensational perfume of orange, raisins and honey.
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