Wines

Pascale’s Wine of the Week: Alsatian Gewürztraminer

This week’s wine choice is the 2008 Grand Cru Hengst Gewürztraminer from Josmeyer.

Founded in 1854 by Alsatian restauranteur Aloyse Meyer, this fifth-generation winery is now run by Céline and Isabelle Meyer, who act as CEO and winemaker, respectively. In the late 1990s Céline and Isabelle converted the winery into a fully organic and biodynamic enterprise, receiving their formal certification in 2004. Their philosophy is that man working in harmony with the sky, the earth, and the vines, ‘[gives] birth to deep, balanced wines with a unique personality’ — and I’d be hard put to disagree with them.

This Grand Cru Gewürztraminer is probably the best wine I’ve ever had, and it’s fair to say that it changed my perception of the varietal entirely. Clear lemon in colour, the nose has expected and pronounced rose and lychee scents. But these are combined with a warming, dried orange peel character, and a novel, cleansing hit of black tea. The palate follows the nose, but with a rounding, custardy flavour and hints of white pepper. Full-bodied and medium-sweet, with a high level of acidity, this wine is incredibly well-balanced and drinks like a true treat. By far the best quality of this wine is its black tea character, which is both unique and refreshing. This element makes the wine stand out amongst more typical, floral Gewürztraminers, and helps to keep the aromatic characteristics from feeling overly perfumed. At an average price of about £45 a bottle (approx. $63 USD), this palate-changing wine is well worth the spend.

I first tasted this Gewürztraminer at the winery, where the tasting room is tucked away off the high street lined with traditional half-timbered Alsatian houses. Painted a friendly bright blue, the tasting room stands out in its close courtyard, and offers a homey and warm setting in which to enjoy Josmeyer’s wines. The old, dark-panelled wood bar has all manner of graffiti etched into it, which one can’t help but try to decipher throughout the tasting. Couple this with the sweeping views of the misty valley of Wintzheim on the drive home, and the tasting experience was altogether transportive.

Once home, I paired this commanding but supple drink with chilled, sliced foie gras on a bed of lightly seasoned lamb’s lettuce. Similar to a traditional Sauternes-foie pairing, the aromatics and sweetness of the wine provided a pleasant contrast to the salty, iron taste of the liver. Yet the refreshing level of acidity in this Gewürztraminer helped to keep the pairing from feeling overly rich and cloying, which is often the critique levelled at the more classic combination.

For those who don’t have access to the Alsatian delicacy of foie gras (or prefer not to shell out for it), I would recommend savouring this wine on its own as an apéritif, or with a crab-based dish to recreate a similar meaty contrast. Soft, fruity cheeses would also be a good bet for vegetarians.