Alsace - a dynamic place for so many reasons - it is always a pleasure to return and spend a few days enjoying the melting pot of both Germanic and French culture, cuisine and wine styles. As with many names of wine regions from around the world - when I hear the name Alsace - my taste buds recall bright white wines - but one comes to the fore slightly faster than the rest - and that can only be the luscious Pinot Gris grape. Alsatian Pinot Gris is an entirely different style to the New Zealand versions of the pink-skinned grape that have captured so much attention here in the past few years.
Many wineries try to show the delights on offer from Alsace, the home of many ‘aromatic’ grapes, but I am still to find someone like Willy Gisselbrecht who knows how to deliver the complexity and astounding richness that the grape can attain. Though one could say that they have a bit of an advantage; as their family have made wine in Alsace since the 1600s.
Cousins Christine and Philippe Gisselbrecht (winemaker) were my hosts for the 2 days. Day one was a tour of the winery then an in-depth vertical tasting through their family of dynamic wines. Some if the wines included vertical vintages of: Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Schiefferberg, Grand cru Frankstein and to end some Vendanges Tardives. Each had their own unique personality, plus showing their great Alsatian aromatics, be they Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewurztraminer, all the wines Gisselbrecht produce tend to be richly textured expressions of their respective grape varieties, a thrilling meeting of floral notes, bright fruits, honeyed richness and flinty minerality, a result of the unique terroir and the attention to detail in each vineyard that only centuries of tradition can deliver, plus the ‘natural-sustainable’ care of their vineyards.
Day two started with another look at several reserve / vintage wines - then time was spent in the vineyards, getting close to the vines and seeing first hand all the hard work that is required throughout the growing season to fully ripen these particular grape varieties in these trying conditions. The Gisselbrecht Family deserve all of their success and it was easy to understand why they are seen by those in the know - as the bench mark for aromatic varieties that are grown here in New Zealand.