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2008 Gewürztraminer, Haguenau de Bergheim, VT, Dom. 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.
Gewürztraminer is a high quality white grape which produces classic varietal wines in the Alsace region of France.
It is the second most widely planted grape in Alsace and the most widely planted in the Haut-Rhin where it is particularly well suited to the clay-rich soils found in the Vosges foothills. It is normally fermented dry and produces golden, medium to full-bodied wine with heady aromas of lychees, rose petals and white peaches.
It attains naturally high sugar levels far in excess of Riesling and this makes it ideal for sweet, late harvest wines. These can be unctuously sweet and luscious and the best can last for decades. Rieffel, Hugel and Zind Humbrecht consistently produce the finest Gewürztraminer wines in Alsace.
It is also planted in Germany (specifically in the Rheinpfalz and Baden regions), Austria, the Alto Adige in Italy and to a lesser extent in Australia, New Zealand and California. Gerwürz means spice in German, although this pink-skinned grape tends to produce exotically perfumed rather than spice laden wines.
Vendange Tardive (VT) is a particular classification for Alsace wines signifying a late-harvest wine with a greater-than-usual concentration of natural sugars which is the result of the grapes having achieved minimum required ripeness levels (the top producers consistently exceed these). Vendange Tardive translates as ‘late harvest’. Its wines can vary from almost dry to very sweet.
The official criteria for a wine to qualify as a VT are:
- A minimum grape must weight equivalent to 15.3 percent potential alcohol for Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, and 14 percent potential alcohol for Riesling and Muscat.
- No chaptalisation or acidification.
Gewürztraminer is ideally suited for vendange tardive wines, as it can easily reach high sugar levels. Vendage Tardive Riesling and Pinot Gris less frequent, but with greater acidity to balance the sweetness, such wines can be long-lived. Muscat Vendange Tardive wines are rare.
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