From: Alsace, France
The Gewurztraminer Furstentum Vieilles Vignes
The Albert Mann estate owns 2.5 hectares in Furstentum (in other words, roughly 9% of this 28-hectare Grand Cru), distributed over eight different parcels. The vieilles vignes of Gewurztraminer are true old vines that are, on average, more than fifty years old. Some were planted as far back as the 1930s. Two of the original five parcels of old vines needed to be uprooted due to old age and low productivity and aren’t yet back in production as the new vines are currently only four years old. The south-facing Furstentum plots are located between 300 and 350 meters above sea level (the Grand Cru, as a whole, runs from 300 to 400 meters’ altitude), but the local climate is not as hot or sun-drenched as the southern exposure of the vines might lead one to believe. A heavily forested area just above the vineyard helps create a relatively cool environment. Although noble rot (Botrytis cinerea) does not does not develop as extensively in the Furstenstum as it does in Altenbourg, a Premier Cru-quality site situated just below, characterized by richer soil and much higher humidity, there is enough botrytis to produce Séléctions de Grains Nobles wines as well.
The Furstentum Gewurztraminer vieilles vignes are planted to massale selections on 161-49 rootstock, which is not especially vigorous and is both ideally suited Gewurztraminer and the hard limestone soils of the Furstentum’s steep slopes. According to Maurice Barthelmé, the Furstentum is one of the four or five greatest sites in Alsace for Gewurztraminer, a list that includes, in his view, such hallowed names as Zinnkoepflé, Goldert and Kirchberg de Barr. Barthelmé believes that the Hengst and the Mambourg Grand Crus also produce great Gewurztraminers, but he feels that the examples from these two very famous sites are longer on power and shorter on refinement than those made from Furstentum grapes. To be sure, Mambourg Gewurztraminers, which are perhaps the most opulent and powerful examples of the variety made anywhere in the world, can be low on acidity in the hottest vintages. I also think that the Grand Crus of Eichberg (in Eguisheim) and Sporen (in Riquewihr) deserve to be counted among the top sites for Gewurztraminer.
Unlike some ultra-famous but rather hot Grand Crus such as Mambourg or Rangen, Furstentum’s strong limestone soil component virtually always guarantees sufficient acidity in the wines, considering that Gewurztraminer grapes are not known for their high total acidity or low pHs. An archetypal Furstentum Gewurztraminer is about elegance and perfume rather than sheer opulence and power. Typical aromas and flavors include blood orange, white and yellow flowers, tropical fruits that are normally not ultra-ripe, and sweet spices. Readers should keep in mind that Albert Mann’s Furstentum Gewurztraminer is more off-dry than bone-dry. Also, it is worth knowing that the Barthelmé brothers like to include at least some berries hit by noble rot because the presence of this beneficent fungus greatly increases complexity and texture while concentrating acidity in the finished wines. The Barthelmés never put this wine through malolactic fermentation and bottle it with only a light filtration.
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