Reach for a white
Make light of the changing season
As summer approaches and temperatures climb, many wine lovers put aside the heavy reds in preference for lighter styles like Pinot Noir or even make a complete colour change to the vin blanc styles that can be chilled within an inch of their lives. And if you’re anything like me, with the change of season comes a desire to find something new; something fresh, lively and captivating for the taste buds to savour. But I don’t want a heavy Chardonnay or one of those sugary fruit salads in a bottle that seem to arrive from Marlborough by the shipload. And it’s not quite hot enough to appreciate the steely acidity of a juvenile Clare Valley Riesling or Hunter Semillon. Hmmmm. So where do I look for a wine with a balance of fruit and structure that can be enjoyed chilled as an aperitif?
Minds will differ but, for a well-balanced wine, you could do a lot worse than reaching for a white from the Alsace region on the French/German border. The region may be part of France, but the influence of its German heritage is obvious. It’s not just the local dialect that is strikingly German, but so too the architecture and the winemaking styles employed in the locality. The Alsace region is on the west bank of the river Rhine and between the Rhine and the Vosges mountains. It also shares a border with Switzerland to the south.
And for white wine lovers, Alsace is a vinicultural paradise where the vines have thrived for over 2000 years. The region enjoyed prominence and prosperity during the middle ages and during the time of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, was the largest wine growing region in Europe. As much of its success was due to its proximity to the Rhine River which allowed for ease of exporting of its produce, as it was the quality of the wines. Though the region declined as a winemaking power through the 18th and 19th centuries, it has seen a resurgence since the early 1900’s.
Gentil “Hugel” 2015
Among the well-established local wineries is Famille Hugel who have produced wines in the region since the 15th century, but have been a catalyst for the Alsatian resurgence since Frédéric Emile Hugel took charge of the family operations in the 1920’s. Now, the family makes a range of wines in large volumes, that are exported to over 100 countries, including Australia. And it’s their Gentil “Hugel” 2015 that is my go-to white for Sunday afternoon tipples this Spring. It’s a blend of all of the varietals that Alsace is famous for; Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner. It shows delightful honeysuckle and bottlebrush scents on the nose, but ample tropical fruit and lychee flavours through the palate. The fruit is youthful, vivacious and voluptuous, but has ample acids to facilitate a crisp, dry conclusion. It’s not a big or alcoholic wine, and is perfectly suited to be enjoyed on its own, or even with a coronation prawn filo pastry! You can find it in bottleshops like the Wine Emporium at Newstead at around $25 a bottle and is a great way to enjoy French and German wines; all in the same glass!