Alsace vineyard land once believed to have been owned by French philosopher Voltaire has helped to produce one of the best wines at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards.

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Charles Sparr, 12th generation of an Alsace family wine dynasty, presented a trio of medal winning Rieslings at last week’s Decanter World Wine Awards 2016 tasting in London’s Vintners’ Hall.

They included Sparr’s Schoenenbourg grand cru Riesling 2013, which was one of only 31 wines to win a platinum best in show medal at this year’s awards.

The Sparr family have been making Alsace wine since the 17th century, and their south-facing vineyards are steeped in history.

‘An ancient land book reveals that our vineyards had at one time been owned by Voltaire,’ Sparr told Decanter.com.

Voltaire and wine

Voltaire, whose real name was François-Marie Arouet, was known to have lived in Alsace in the mid-18th Century for a brief period and had owned vineyards in the Schoenenbourg area.

It appears that the sun-drenched Alsatian slopes had a lasting appeal for the philosopher.

In Roger Pearson’s biography, Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom, he describes the way the allegory of the vineyard inspired Voltaire’s ideas of faith and liberty.

The profound sense of tranquility alloyed with the patient toil of viticulture gave rise to his concept of ‘the vine of truth’ and ‘the vineyard of the Lord’, Pearson writes.

In 1764, Voltaire urged mankind, ‘Tend your vines, and crush the infamous.’

Charles Sparr said, ‘Since the discovery I myself have been inspired to read some Voltaire, often looking out over the same vistas he had long ago.’

Schoenenbourg grand cru 2013: old vines are key, says Sparr

Sparr said old vines planted on terroir that has known viticulture for centuries helped to underpin his wines.

Of the 2013 Schoenenbourg grand cru Riesling, he said, ‘2013 was very special, it was a great year to give perfect richness and acidity – it was also the year I got married.’

He added, ‘The old vines give layers of complexity and minerality, and they are spread every part of our eight plots to gain all the diversity of the terroir.’

Editing by Chris Mercer.

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