Cellar notes #37: Great white hopes

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Indy Lifestyle Online

In a sweet white, the structure needed for ageing is formed by the acidity, alcohol and natural fruit sugars.

In a sweet white, the structure needed for ageing is formed by the acidity, alcohol and natural fruit sugars. In a dry white, where does the required backbone come from? The secret lies in the balance of fruit concentration, alcohol and, above all, natural acidity. Typical dry whites with cellaring potential are white burgundies, vouvrays and Germany rieslings, but they are by no means the only candidates.

A recent 1996 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst from Josmeyer in Alsace retained the glorious rosewater scents of the grape variety, linked to a pure, lychee-like fruitiness typical of the variety. What was once an off-dry sweetness in its youth had given way to a richness of texture and such elegance on the aftertaste that it came into its own as a dry aromatic white.

Austria's grüner veltliner and riesling also have great cellaring potential. A golden 1997 Freie Weingärtner Wachau Terrassen Thal Riesling was fresh and invitingly aromatic with a hint of lime zest. Its delicately opulent touch of honey was supported by a refreshing spritz and richly textured but zesty, dry fruit. The mature "keroseney" flavours of fine riesling were just evolving.

Longevity is not confined to European whites, as a 1993 Peter Lehmann Reserve Riesling revealed at a dinner last month. This gloriously fresh, rich and youthful dry white with its flavours of dry lime marmalade, had turned out to be Lehmann's best ever riesling. Perhaps the natural acidity due to the cool 1993 vintage gave it the structure it needed for the long haul.

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