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Alsace druvor

Riesling of Alsace

The worls´s best grape variety

Riesling is the great pride of Alsace. It is the most widely grown variety, and certainly the grape responsible for the world class reputation of Alsace wines.

Riesling has spread to wine growing regions all over the globe. It is believed to have its origin on the banks of the Rhine river where vine plants still can be found as a part of the local flora. Hence, it is called Rhine Riesling in many countries, and Johannisberger Riesling in California. It should not be confused with Welsh Riesling, an inferior grape common in eastern Europe.

German Riesling seldom attains the power, body and maturity of the acidity as in Alsace. Possibly, the up-and-coming Austrian Rieslings, as well as examples such as Tim Adams of New Zeeland will come closer to the Alsatian style.

Riesling is hardy, it flowers late and matures patiently in the autumn. The ability to mature slowly is one of the reasons why Riesling can become so remarkably complex, just as Scandinavian apples are unrivalled.

In short, Riesling is the worls´s best grape for white wines.

Transparent character

One idiosyncrasy of Riesling is that responds to the terroir very well. That goes for the geology as well as the microclimate. Hence, the prime responsibility of the winegrower and producer express the inherent qualities of the terroir and the grape, not to manipulate them. No oak is needed.

The geological variability of Alsace is one reason why Alsace Riesling appears in so many styles.

Certainly any terroir, for example a given Grand Cru, will turn out differently in the hands of different growers. However, for a given grower Rieslings from a set of Grand Crus will always be related to each other in a certain pattern. For example a Sommerberg from a certain cellar will always be more restrained and less floral than a Brand, and Gloeckelberg will always be more opulent than the same growers Altenberg.

Lesser vineyards may give better Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer than those from a reputed Grand Cru. But the Grand Cru Rieslings of a certain grower will always stand out has his/her best cuvée.

Many styles

Sample some 100 Rieslings and all will be different! Everyone will be unique in terms of aromatic composition, sweetness, style of acidity and length of taste.

The most common aromas in Alsace Riesling are apple, citrus, honey, fennel and petroleum. In terms of citrus, I would argue that lemon and lime are typical for limestone soils while grapefruit is a marker for marl. Candied lemon is common in wines from granite where the maturity process is faster (e.g. Grand Cru Schlossberg). Exotic aromas may show up on hot terroirs, such as Grand Cru Eichberg. In northern Alsace, it is common to find a cassis aromas. The apple aromas disappear with cellaring, while the petroleum appears after 4-5 years in the bottle.