Shelflife Special Tasting: Last of the summer white

Trimbach vineyard Alsace
Trimbach vineyard Alsace

15 September 2010

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Summer’s been a mixed bag in every respect, with runs of good weather lifting white and rosé sales but increasing pressure on the €10 cut-off price point. If I had a euro for everytime I’ve been asked recently to recommend a wine for less than €8, I’d be rich by now. Consumers don’t always understand that excise, tax and transport account for several euros in themselves, that a maker can spend up to €2 per bottle on closures, foil, bottles and labels before ever a drop of juice is processed, and that there must be a living in the business for producer, importer and retailer.

On the bright side, this summer saw several excellent white wine tastings and, given that it’s only September, there should still be some sunny days to enjoy them at their best.  Even though it was mainly confined to premium wines, a Gilbey’s hosted tasting of Trimbach Alsace rieslings was a welcome reminder of the consistent quality of this French region, not just in riesling but also that eternally underrated grape variety, pinot blanc.  Austria’s staple white, gruner veltliner, has become increasingly fashionable on its export markets. The Irish market is probably too subdued at present to allow a strong increase in sales of what will never be an entry point wine, but a number of importers have expanded their offering of Austrian wines and the run up to Christmas might be a good time to interest consumers in something which is a perfect aperitif but also has the body to accompany white meats such as turkey and pork.

Aromatic whites continue to be a big story and there’s been no fall off in global sales of sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Although consumers still don’t seem entirely convinced by the trade’s enthusiasm for riesling, there’s been a great increase in the range on offer and some of it, especially from Chile and Australia, is terrific value for money. Gewurztraminer is even more under appreciated but when it’s not too off dry it is a great food accompaniment. It always seems to keep well for ages in the fridge after opening – not a bad selling point when a consumer suspects he may be the only one in the household who will want to drink it!

Spanish sales of trendy albarino are holding steady, despite generally high prices. Some Italian makers fear the day the pinot grigio craze dies down, and hope drinkers will turn to southern Italian whites such as falanghina and fiano. Following a tasting by Italian specialist Italicatessen, I think those wines will be too complex, too expensive and in too short a supply for that, but if drinkers can be persuaded to spend between €12 and €16 for a bottle, they will find these classic wines a lot more interesting than most of that bog standard grigio.

So for those who would like to splash out on one last summer treat, here are some of the top class whites shown in recent months. We tried to seek out some of the more unusual bottles and, interestingly, quite a number of these turned out to be French. Prices approximate retail.

Trimbach Alsace Riesling Reserve 2006 (Gilbey €19). Many modern rieslings have excessively diesel-like aromas, even when young, but this has a lovely balance between green fruit, floral notes and hints of mineral. This continues to the palate so that it’s an approachable wine but one with plenty of weight and length.

Trimbach Alsace Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 2001 (Gilbey €32). This showed especially well at the vertical. With only slight diesel notes, both nose and palate were still bursting with primary green and citrus fruits and lovely floral notes. Great length – and a great gift wine. Of more recent vintages, ’07, ’08 and ’09 have all been excellent, with Jean Trimbach himself believing that 2008 will be the one to age best.

Lenz Moser Laurenz V Singing Gruner Veltliner 2009 (Gilbey €16). This Austrian has classic style; not overly aromatic but with firm apple and fresh pear fruit.

Laurenz V Charming Gruner Veltliner 2008 (Gilbey €24). Some time resting on its yeasts has given this wine a slightly toasty richness and there’s good concentration and depth to the fruit.

Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo 2009 (Italicatessen €19). A slightly old fashioned Italian from Campania, with nutty hints to its ripe citrus fruit. A good food white.

Feudi di Gregorio Fiano di Avellino 2009 (Italicatessen €19). A generous palate with lots of warm, lemony fruit. Lovely with roast white meats.

Caves de Turkheim Alsace Pinot Blanc 2007 (Nicholson €12). Classy wine for the price with slightly spicy citrus and apple flavours.

Hugel Cuvee les Amours Alsace Pinot Blanc 2007 (Findlater €14). Nicely balanced lemon fruit – perfect with pork or Alsace choucroute.

Chateau de Navailles Jurancon Sec 2008 (Searsons €12.50). From the gros manseng grape, this off beat southern French white has slightly exotic green fruit with an intriguing spicy note.

Michel Redde Petit Fume Pouilly Fume 2008 (Mackenway €14). From France’s Loire valley, this beautifully concentrated wine has tasty gooseberry flavours with a touch of minerality.

Domaine Touissant Vouvray 2008 (Mitchells €12.50). Why do we buy so little Loire chenin? This lovely zesty example has fresh stone fruit, a flinty touch and decent length. Good value and lovely with vegetarian dishes.

Pazo de Senorans Albarino 2009 (Nicholson €18). From Spain’s trendiest region, this has enough aroma to satisfy the most die hard fan, along with a palate of peaches, apricots and typical floral notes.

Paco and Lola Albarino 2009 (Celtic Whiskey Shop €12). Less intense, perhaps, but well priced stuff, with gentle flowery notes and flavours of soft green apple, pears and peach.

Loosen Villa Wolf Pinot Gris 2008 (Nicholson €12.50). This aromatic German has flavours of slightly spicy apple and pear but with good acid balance. Chilled well, it’s an excellent aperitif but is good with food, especially white meats and creamy dishes.
Caves de Turkheim Alsace Gewurztraminer 2007 (Nicholson €13). This not-over-the-top gewurz is good with egg or cheese tarts, spicy salad leaves and light stir fries.

Lawson’s Dry Hills New Zealand Gewurztraminer 2009 (Febvre €19). This month’s lone New Worlder slips in on the strength of appealing varietal character and well balanced alcohol. It went surprisingly well with pasta carbonara, while, over a week later, the opened bottle was still fresh enough to go nicely with a spicy chicken dish. Chill well.



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