Today I want to talk about Alsatian grapes—not Riesling-related. Riesling is accompanied by three other grapes in the “noble grape” category, namely Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. These are the grapes that are permitted for Grand Cru wines (there are currently 51 Grand Crus in existence) and regulated wines such as Vendange tardive and Selection de grains nobles.
Would that I could have a bottle of every single wine variety. I bet I could learn a whole heap that way (not to mention have a whole heap of fun). But, alas, the money tree seems to be in its dormancy. So the title of this post is a bit mis-leading, as I won’t be physically tasting through these wines, but more putting together what I can gather from my readings about the style and structure typical to these varieties, as it pertains to German winemaking.
Afterwards, I want to take a walk through a few of the other notable wine producing regions of Germany and talk about what non-Riesling grapes thrive best there and why. Sound fun? Totally. Let’s go…
I think one of the reasons I like starting my Wine World studies with Germany is because it’s my backwards way of gearing up for one of my favorite French wine regions, Alsace. The two regions have much in common—one of them being Riesling. That’s why I thought, if I’m going to deep-dive into the stylistic difference’s of Germany’s most recognized wine grape, I’m absolutely going to compare how the expression(s) differ from it’s neighboring French region, where the variety wear’s the “noble grape” crown.
To explore those differences between the wines, we must (of course) explore what makes Alsace a unique wine region.
I don’t know why, but I found that, during my WSET Level 3 studies, starting with Germany was really helpful. Maybe because the regions are completely foreign to me; the wines not regularly available in my area. Perhaps, embarking on a whole new adventure was the way to jump in. And, now, studying for my Diploma, I find the country calling to me again.
When I first started posting about my studies, I began with an exploration of major German regions via the country’s most popular grape. The kind of “dry” tasting notes, if you will, gave me a good idea of what kind of climate and terroir each individual region has. (See German Riesling: Location Matters) But Diploma studies are so much more detailed.
Indeed, this exploration, though it follows the same path, is going to dive a bit deeper and, for fun and educational purposes, I want to actually experience a few of the wines myself to see if I can actually taste what I’m reading about. Hence, “Taste and Learn.”
This will be the last post in my WSET Exam-Type Questions series. At least as far as my D1 is concerned. By the time you read this, I’ll have already sat the D1 exam—hope I did ok. Stay tuned, though. D2, 3, 4, and 5 are still ahead of me.
For this last piece, I created two separate winemaking scenarios. To be fair, I pulled certain situations—climactic and soil conditions, wine style type, and even North or South Hemisphere—out of a hat in order to formulate these scenarios. (You know, so I wouldn’t cheat and just ask a question about Sonoma’s Los Carneros AVA and look out my window for the answer.) My goal with these scenarios is to walk through as many steps of the viticultural and winemaking process to prove (to myself) I can talk about all the applicable factors.