Alsace wines steal the show at London Wine Fair

From: French Technology Press Bureau (FTPB)
Published: Fri Apr 22 2005

The wines of Alsace, in eastern France, are known the world over for their quality, personality and distinctive slim bottles. Seven varieties of grapes (cépages) are grown – Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d’Alsace, Tokay Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. Unlike most French wines, Alsace wines tend to be varietals, taking their name from the grape variety from which they are made, rather than being blends named for their terroir (i.e. the physical and environmental characteristics of the vineyard, especially the soil of the area concerned). Winemakers in Alsace still take great care to marry grape varieties with local soil types to produce the ideal match.

There are three Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées in the region (AOCs – certification that the product is made in a certain region and meets certain production criteria) – AOC Alsace, AOC Alsace Grand Cru and AOC Crémant d’Alsace (a sparkling wine). All the wines of Alsace are ideal when enjoyed with food, as they complement perfectly a wide variety of dishes.

Sometimes unfairly overlooked in the UK in favour of more heavily marketed New World wines, the wines of Alsace range from light and dry to opulent and rich – the Wine Show will give visitors the perfect opportunity to discover more about the region and its vineyards. All eight of the producers at the Wine Show are independent family-run businesses, which place a premium on respect of the environment, avoiding the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers in favour of traditional, natural techniques.

The renowned Alsace Wine Route runs for more than 170 kilometres along the Vosges mountain range, taking in areas of great beauty along the way. It is easy to follow and visitors can explore the many vineyards that line the way as well as the traditional ‘winstubs’ and tasting cellars. For those who are unable to visit Alsace itself, going to the Wine Show will give them the opportunity to discover a unique region through its distinctive and authentic wines.

Domaine René Fleith-Eschard is unsurpassed in noble rot

Based in Ingersheim for 11 generations, this family-run 9.2-hectare vineyard produces roughly 60,000 bottles of wine a year. The vineyard is particularly celebrated for its Gewurztraminer and Riesling, not to mention its Grand Cru Furstentum Tokay Pinot Gris. The family also produces rich Sélection de Grains Nobles wines, concentrated by the development of the so-called ‘noble rot’. The family places great emphasis on quality as well as the expression of the different terroirs. This means that yields are deliberately reduced, and neither chemical fertilisers nor chemical pesticides are used.

Domaine Jean-Claude Gueth is a successful family affair

The Gueth vineyard is in the village of Gueberschwihr, where Jean-Claude and Bernadette Gueth, along with their daughter Muriel, manage a site of 7.5 hectares. The vineyard produces wines from all seven of Alsace’s grape varieties, and its reputation is based on its Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. The women of the family play an important part in the business, not only running the office but also the vineyards and the wine cellar.

Domaine Jean-Marie Haag – in search of quality and expression of terroir

Thirteen miles to the south of the city of Colmar lies the village of Soultzmatt and the Haag family vineyard. Husband and wife team Jean-Marie and Myriam Haag have worked together on the 5.7-hectare vineyard since 1982, producing a rich and diverse collection of 20 different vintages, each a unique expression of its terroir. Almost a third of the grapes grown at the site are Gewurztraminer, which go towards making the Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle, along with Pinot Gris and Riesling. Jean-Marie Haag is always keen to learn more about wine-growing techniques, and is currently experimenting with biodynamics.

Domaine Paul Kubler – producing wine since 1620

The Kubler family has been producing wine since 1620. In 1947, Camille Kubler began to develop the Soultzmatt site and his grandson Philippe is now in charge, having trained at Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and obtained a Diploma in Oenology from Bordeaux University. The average age of the vines is 30, and vine density ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 vines per hectare. The family uses traditional techniques, such as the use of oak casks to ferment the grapes over a period of eight to ten months. Domaine Paul Kubler specialises in dry white wines, especially the Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle, made from Riesling or Gewurztraminer .

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Domaine Gérard Neumeyer’s 15 hectares include 3 of Grand Cru Bruderthal

The vineyard, in the Molsheim area, covers 15 hectares, and includes part of one of Alsace’s most renowned Grand Crus – the Grand Cru Bruderthal, made from either Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Tokay Pinot Gris. The wines produced by Gérard and his wife Gabrielle are served in many Michelin-starred restaurants and have also won numerous awards. All the grapes are harvested by hand and the Neumeyer family uses traditional vinification techniques. They take particular care to match the grape varieties to the soil type and place special emphasis on respect for the environment throughout the cultivation process.

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Domaine Philippe Schaeffer: in the footsteps of Anton, more than 250 years ago

This 12-hectare vineyard in Epfig grows all seven of the major grape varieties found in Alsace and produces 100,000 bottles a year. The first Schaeffer to produce wine was Anton, back in 1750. Now it is the turn of Philippe to run the vineyard. He is also President of the Winegrowers’ Association of Epfig. The Schaeffer family also produces a range of fruit eau-de-vie, which are distilled in the traditional way in oak casks, as well as liqueurs and wine made from the rare Klevener de Heiligenstein grape, which is grown only in a defined area in Heiligenstein and nearby parishes.

Domaine Joseph Scharsch excels in Riesling

Based on a 10-hectare site in the village of Wolxheim, 20km south-west of Strasbourg, this independent, family-run winegrower produces 70,000 bottles of wine a year. The terroir of Wolxheim is perfectly suited to the Riesling grape, and the family have been producing wine at the site for six generations. A lot of attention is paid to environmental concerns, and the family do not use toxic insecticides or chemical fertilisers; instead, they improve the quality of the soil by sowing grass and rye. Their exceptional Grand Cru wines, such as Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg (awarded 86/100 in the Gault-Millau 2005 guide), have been chosen by Michelin-starred restaurants.

Domaine Henri Schoenheitz – reborn in the 70s

This 13-hectare family estate is located in Wihr-au-Val, on the steep slopes of the Munster Valley. Known since the Middle Ages, the vineyard was very damaged by wars and was nearly destroyed. Dominique and Henri have continued the reconstruction begun by Henri Schoenheitz Senior in the 1970s. Their hard work and passion have re-established the reputation of the Wihr-au-Val vineyard, earning them the ‘Best Vintner’ title in 1995. With full respect for the environment, they create high-quality wines from granite soils, showing elegance and character, especially in the Riesling and the Gewurztraminer.

London International Wine and Spirits Fair 17–19 May 2005

This year is the 25th anniversary of the London International Wine and Spirits Fair. The LIWSF has become the most important annual exhibition in the world´s wine and spirits calendar. Visitors use the Fair to source new, exciting wines, to increase their knowledge of wine and to discuss their business needs with producers and suppliers. For the 3,500 international visitors coming to the event, the LIWSF is a powerful business forum. Importers from every corner of the globe travel to London to look for new suppliers among the 1,250 exhibitors.

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About the Chamber of Commerce of Strasbourg

The Chamber of Commerce of Strasbourg represents and promotes the interests of companies based in the Alsace region, in eastern France.

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Company: French Technology Press Bureau (FTPB)
Contact Name: Kate AMBLER – Press Officer
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