This week we honour a Wine Club original and a darling of the group. The Society’s Ruppertsberg was an absolute champion. Not only did it surprise and pleased everyone, but it did so an ‘too good to be true’ price point. Similar to last week’s Baccolo, the Ruppertsberg punched so far above its weight that it was basically a small toddler knocking out a Commonwealth Middleweight champion. In homage to that wonderful bottle we shall be travelling west from Pfalz to try an Alsace Edelzwicker from Joseph Cattin (meaning ‘Noble Blend’) that, like the Ruppertsberg, is dry and contains Sylvaner and Riesling, alongside Muscat, Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Blanc.
My initial plan was to tweak and reuse my original musings that were written for the Ruppertsberg but then realised this wouldn’t really work; it focussed on the Germanic element and although this Edelzwicker has some similarities, Alsace is in France rather than Germany! Back to the drawing board, I thought. Or maybe not...As much of my ramblings were essentially a pop at my own people and their misunderstandings of Germany and its wine, I think it perfectly in keeping with the theme for me to focus on Germany whilst thinking about Alsace. I mean, if you were to present a less than knowledgeable Brit with a tall, thin bottle with the words Alsace Edelzwicker written on the front and Riesling on the back, then told them it was made in Voegtlinshoffen and Steinbach, they would swear blind it was German, before saying ‘Well, it’s all the same bloody thing.’ when you pointed out Alsace is actually in French territory.
‘Germany - Efficient, industrial, humourless and full of wurst. Not exactly the sort of charming, romantic and alluring of wine nations.’ says Ian, a lifelong Grimsby Town and Nigel Farage fan. Or is it, Ian? It seems that the uninitiated British public’s historic relationship with German wine mirrors that of their unbalanced, jingoistic misunderstanding of the whole German nation in the second half of the 20th century - 'they're just a bunch of right-wingers who only make that sweet Blue Nun crap.' Cries someone's 60-year-old Sun reading, Boris loving aunt who thinks Lambrini is a village in Champagne. That same aunt who doesn’t know the meaning of the term ‘self awareness’ and forgets the innumerable past occasions when she has quaffed a few bottles of these mass produced, low end 1980s favourites before embarking upon an evening of misadvised escapades followed by a morning full of regrets.
As is the case with most things, some Brits have a warped and inaccurate view. Perhaps this is understandable as it is fair to say that Germany did put Britain through a lot in the 1900s...those losses in Mexico ‘70, Italia ‘90 and Euro 96 were brutal! Germany is a nation of real quality, elegance and charm who produce a wide range of unique and fascinating wines alongside really well engineered cars, efficient train schedules and comparatively competent political leaders. Traditionally white wine is what they do best and a solid, dry German is a fine thing. I was once blown away by a £12 bottle of Riesling, the description of which seemed as much an oxymoron as the statement 'hilarious German comedian'. However, it really did taste like petrol and it really was utterly delicious.
However, as I said, the Joseph Cattin Edelzwicker is not German, it’s French. But it’s geographically and culturally pretty close - even it’s eponymous dog is basically a German Shepherd and Alsace is a region that has a long history of being contested by France and Germany. When it comes to wine Alsace is famed for producing varieties that are more common in Germany than France – Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer most notably – and so if you like German whites then you’ll probably get along just fine with something Alsatian.
With this particular treat we will find a rounded, fruity drop that is not overly dry and still retains some acidity alongside a floral twang from the Gewurtztraminer. Expect notes of cantaloupe melon, honey, peach and nectarine. More delicate than a boisterous NZ Sauvignon Blanc, this should create a feeling of curiosity and intrigue that, when swished around the mouth and allowed to flower, will entice, amuse and satisfy. If a NZ SB is energetic, long legged and athletic - Genie Bouchard maybe, and Chardonnay is richer, more voluptuous and sultry - Kelly Brook, then this Edelzwicker is a mysterious natural beauty - Gillian Anderson, perhaps.