Wine Review: 2009 Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer (Alsace)

25 08 2011

Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer -- most Teutonic non-German producer/grape combo ever?

Two points of order before I start.  First, PnP cleared 6,000 hits sometime this afternoon — thanks again for your continued support of this site!  Second, this is post #95 for Pop & Pour, which means you have five more posts to cast your vote for the wine I should review for the PnP 100th Post Celebration Gala (n0te:  no actual Gala will be organized).  Click here to go to the poll and vote for your favourite; if you’ve already voted, vote again!  Currently it’s a dead heat between the 2008 Caymus Napa Cab and the 2006 Gaja Brunello, so help me break the tie…there has to be a defined winner before the 100th post review can take place.

Now, to tonight, and Gewurztraminer.  To me Gewurz is the ultimate love/hate grape:  most people either adore its bold, assertive, unique flavours and rich texture or they despise its lushness, its spiciness, its high alcohol and almost suffocating intensity.  There aren’t too many in between (although, strangely, I’m one of them, which might cast some doubt on my theory); a grape this individual almost forces you to take sides.  It’s not a casual patio sipper or a light crisp refresher that pairs with a ton of foods, and it doesn’t really resemble any of the more well-known varietals like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, so there’s no real way to ease into it.  What it is is a high-octane, enormously-perfumed flavour powerhouse that can be both entrancing and overwhelming.

Cork Rating: 2/10 (Another "Mis En Bouteille" cork? Seriously? Dear France: stop.)

This particular Gewurz is from the grape’s home base in Alsace, France (one of the few European wine regions that actually lists the name of the grape on the label, as you can see above) and is an entry-level offering from an excellent producer.  I got this bottle from Ferocious Grape for around $18, and I picked it because I’ve had good experiences with Pfaffenheim (most German-sounding French producer ever?) in the past — their Grand Cru single vineyard Steinart Pinot Gris is less than $30 and is unbelievable.  Right off the bat, though, I started to wonder about their Gewurz, because when I popped and poured it was a thin, medium-lemon colour, way lighter and less dense than most Gewurztraminers I’d seen before.  It was from a very recent vintage (2009), which would contribute to the lighter colour, but it was still a surprise.  The nose was textbook Gewurz, with the varietal’s trademark lychee notes mixed with flowers/potpourri and honeysuckle and a tutti-frutti sort of sweetness on the back end; however, the aromas were almost understated instead of aggressive.  They were big strong flavours, but they weren’t projected intensely, if that makes sense.  This quietness went away quickly on the palate, where my first impression was freshly baked banana bread:  bananas, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a slight nuttiness.  These bake-sale notes were balanced off with tropical fruit flavours, mainly honeydew melon and pineapple, all swirled into a full, slightly viscous body with just enough acidity to hold it together and keep it from tasting loose.  On the finish, there was a small but noticeable surge of heat from the alcohol (13.5%), which was otherwise kept well in check.

All in all, this is a solid entry-level Gewurz — it’s a lot more fun than a bunch of other whites you would buy for $18, but it pales in comparison to the higher-end Alsatian examples of this grape made from better vineyards and more stringent winemaking processes (for example, the Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Gewurz which totally floored me in this prior review).  For less than $20 I’m far from upset, but if you’re looking for a more fulfilling Gewurz experience, it may be worth spending the extra $10-15 to jump quality levels.

85 points

$15 to $20 CDN 

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3 responses

26 08 2011
S.

Your post brought to mind this: http://www.quailsgate.com/our-wines/quails-gate-wines/gewurztraminer.php … it’s not the easiest to find but I’m curious to hear your opinion on that one if you ever come across it.

27 08 2011
petervetsch

Oops, I tried to reply to you but ended up posting a brand new comment instead…see below!

27 08 2011
petervetsch

I’ll keep an eye out for it in the Okanagan when I head there next week. I’ll be stopping by Dirty Laundry, which is also known for its Gewurz (though I haven’t had it either). My friend Corey endlessly goes on about the Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc too…

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