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DWWA 2014: Alsace insights

Hear from our Alsace Regional Chair Thierry Meyer on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

With fewer great wines produced in the 2012 and 2013 vintages, it was natural that we saw fewer entries to this year’s competition, thus keeping a high level of quality from excellent older wines. Three Trophies and three Golds is an excellent result, and we rewarded two dry Rieslings, two off-dry wines and two sweet wines. Few late-harvest and no SGN (séléction de grains nobles) wines were submitted, since few were produced in the 2011 and 2012 vintages. The mix of grape varieties, wine styles and grand cru terroirs highlighted the sheer diversity of Alsace, and the the many fine wines even in entry-level price brackets confimed the wonderful value of this much underrated region.

What should we buy from here?

This year we had some very nice surprises. Crémant d’Alsace – both white and rosé – was of good quality. Fruit and purity is back in these sparkling wines and our selection was larger and more successful than last year. Gewurztraminer also confirmed that it was the success of the 2012 vintage, especially on marllimestone grand crus like Mambourg. The first bottlings of 2013 are very promising and, based on the entries submitted, Riesling and Pinot Noir look to have produced ripe and balanced wines. Lastly, while the production of Sylvaner and Muscat is small, resulting in only a few submissions, we found a high proportion of recommended wines, especially in 2013.

What should we leave on the shelf?

The dominant vintage of wines submitted this year was 2012 but because of poor growing conditions there were few star Rieslings or Pinot Noirs. The former wines lacked freshness and many tasted like Auxerrois, and the Pinot Noirs were often lacking maturity and fruit, similar to 2011. The Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris wines were of a much lower quality level than other grape varieties, with only 50% of entries receiving Commended or above. Alsace white blends still lack the focus and quality to justify their often high prices. And if you’re going to blend, why not make dry wines rather than sweeter styles that rarely sell?

What should we keep an eye on?

We were very excited about several off-dry wines showing savoury minerality and perfect overall balance. Often neglected by consumers looking for either completely dry or completely sweet wines, the off-dry style can be exceptional wines to partner a variety of dishes. Don’t dismiss them! Another key discovery was the decent price of the best wines. Alsace isn’t all expensive and, based on our results, high price does not always mean high quality. In fact, bottles priced at £15 or less were equally as successful as those costing £30 or more. Don’t hesitate to seek them out to enjoy with a midweek dinner.

Written by Decanter

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