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FRANCE: Alsace

No Riesling Golds might have been a surprise, but plenty of good wines across the various grape varieties – and a superb performance by one co-op

Alsace’s wines are (a) beloved by sommeliers, (b) way off the radar of your average member of the public, and (c) food friendly. Add all this together and you’d expect that the Sommelier Wine Awards would be awash with medals for wines from east of the Vosges mountains year after year.

That it hasn’t been has been down entirely to a paucity of entries, which is especially puzzling given that the region’s wines are (a)… Oh, hold on, we’ve done all that.

Anyway, 2013 saw a far better number of submissions from Alsace – and a correspondingly better haul of medals as a result. Pleasingly, all wine styles seemed to get at least a Silver (even a rare, lesser-spotted Alsace red and a great-crested Muscat), and the only surprise was that both the AC’s Golds went to Gewürz, with no Riesling getting past Cave de Turckheim’s Vieilles Vignes 2008.

The latter was very, very close to a place on the Gold List – ‘It’s beautifully balanced, and there’s a lot of wine for the price,’ praised Ransome’s Dock’s Martin Lam – but in the end, in the face of stiff competition from Germany and the New World, it topped out at Silver.

The team at Turckheim trended totally terrifically, however, with an astonishing number of medals – seven in all. It’s doubtful that any one producer has ever put in such an impressive performance in one category, with such a wide variety of wine styles, and at such great prices.

‘It’s always said, to the point of cliché, that these can be great wines with Asian food, but I’d really like to give a few of these a go with a good curry – then they’d really come into their own,’ said team leader Peter McCombie MW.

‘The Turckheim is a great mouthful of intense yet delicate flavours,’ drooled Morgan Vanderkamer of Butler’s Wharf Chop House.

Our tasters were pleased with the Pinot Gris on show as well. ‘I wouldn’t say no to any of them,’ said STK’s Michael Harrison. ‘These are very much good wines for food.’

The Rieslings, meanwhile, can perhaps count themselves unfortunate. The feedback in the early rounds was hugely positive.

‘I was looking for regional character, a sense of terroir, and this was clearly revealed in many of the wines,’ praised Coq d’Argent’s Olivier Marie. ‘There was good value [at the higher end] when you consider the quality of wine at the price. The complexity was outstanding.’


Cave de Turckheim, which picked up a Gold, three Silvers and three Bronzes in myriad wine styles and at terrific prices

‘Gewürz is purely a food wine, so we chose those for medals that had good acidity and a restrained but clear character.’
Marco Feraldi, St James’s Hotel and Club

‘If people know it, they love it. But if they don’t, they can get a bit scared by Alsace.’
Michael Harrison, STK