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vendanges tardives

Schoenheitz, shown lows

Schoenheitz 1998 Riesling Herrenreben “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Not all that sweet, in what used to be the traditional style for Alsatian VTs, with a stark, arctic character. This could be a lot more generous, but it’s possible that the wine’s just closed up. The finish is pretty short, though, and so I’m not overly optimistic. (12/08)

A Sonnenglanzing blow

[vineyard]Bott-Geyl 2001 Pinot Gris Sonnenglanz “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Delicious. Very sweet pear, but full of the exotic aromatics and textures of a freshly-picked heirloom variety, rather than some rock-hard supermarket ball of blandness. Not all that spicy, but burnished in bronze and a measure of darkness and smoked obscurity (which is, in my experience, a signature of Sonnenglanz pinot gris). I’ve never been overly convinced by the ability of this grape from this site to age in a complexity-heightening way, so drinking it now might not be a bad idea. (12/08)

Cluster bomb

[grapes]Navarro 1997 Gewürztraminer “Late Harvest Cluster Select” (Anderson Valley) – 375 ml., 9.6%. Fully mature, and very impressive, with dark bronzed lychee met in equal measure by freshly-dug black truffle, old peach liqueur (minus the heat), and exotic nut oils. Very sweet, but nicely balanced, long, and laden with spice. (9/08)

VT day

[botrytis]Faller “Domaine Weinbach” 1994 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Heady spiced lychee with light skin tannin. Very intense, as befits the house style, but the structure is considering abandoning this wine; while it will certainly maintain richness for many years (perhaps decades) to come, I’d consider drinking it soon for maximum balance. (6/08)

Tardives salad

Trimbach 1997 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Closed and tight, but despite that, there’s lychee, cashew, not-insignificant acidity (though less than in the ’98), and a biting bitterness to the finish, which is fairly typical for ultra-late harvested gewürztraminer. This is in nothing approaching a good place right now, and needs much time. (2/08)

A gris to disagree

[vineyard]Hugel 1990 Pinot Gris “Vendange Tardive” (Alsace) – Thick and soupy. Spiced pear, of course, but little else of note. There’s nothing refreshing about this wine, which is rather leaden up front, then thins, then re-hefts for a big, dull finish. (4/08)


Rimu Grove 2003 Pinot Gris “Vendange Tardive” (Nelson) – Pear and burnt caramel. Soft. Balanced between sugar and acidity, but just not very interesting. For too many producers, “late harvest” only means excessive residual sugar, while the wines that actually deserve the label deliver more than elevated brix. (3/05)

Gewurz of times

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – 55 grams/liter residual sugar. Still firm and tight in its youth…Trimbach’s gewürztraminer VTs rarely have the easy, early charm of other producers’ bottlings…but it is thick with roses and lychee syrup with dark, smoky streaks and fogs. The acidity is terrific, the finish is long, and the wine is excellent; stylistically, it’s more akin to the brilliant 1998 than the powerful 1997. (5/06)

Freddy’s late

Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Only 4000 bottles were produced. This wine carries 25 grams/liter residual sugar, but like many of Trimbach’s VT rieslings, it shows less as obvious sweetness and more as a rich fullness. It’s very tight, and even slightly muddy at first opening. The minerality is ultra-concentrated, with the creamy texture one normally finds in mature riesling. There’s a hesitant expansion throughout the midpalate, but the wine really blows open on the finish, which is generous and passionate. Very, very good, but it will take time to reach its potential. (5/06)

Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Picked in three passes. Piercing minerality viewed through gauze, with rich peach and apple rendered in crystal, raw iron, and steel plates. The complexity comes in layers, each more exciting than the last. This wine is incredible. Absolutely incredible. I could drink this forever, and in fact the wine will probably last that long, getting better all the while. I express my enthusiasm to Pierre, who nods. “It’s probably my best vendange tardive.” I can only agree. (5/06)