Alsacian wines: variety or not on the label?

by Eve Resnick on July 16, 2009

in General

A few days ago I was pondering about the problem faced by Alsatian vintners following the new EU regulations on the origin of wine. The question became a controversy in Alsace where labeling relies a lot on the grape since most wines are mono-varietal. The same wine maker can produce gewürtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Rieasling from the same plot or terroir. The only differentiating information on the label will be the variety indication. Mark Wessels of MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC told Decanter journalist Panos Kakaviatos, “How would customers know the difference between Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Zind Humbrecht and Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl Zind Humbrecht?”

Jean-Michel Deiss, head of the famous Marcel Deiss Domain, does not mention the variety on the front label. The mention figures only on the back label. On the front label customers read the “Grand cru” mention, the vintage and the “terroir”, Mambourg. One could assume that only a very erudite consumer would know that on the Mambourg terroir grow mostly Riesling and Pinot blanc.

Not mentioning the variety would indeed be confusing for the consumer – especially in that day an age when a lot of wine consumers from the New World buy mostly by the variety.

It would be counter productive for the producers to add to the complexity (or the mystery) of French labels. Let’s try to help the consumers understand, buy and appreciate our wines.

{ 2 comments }

1 Panos Kakaviatos July 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for posting this. I have been following this issue at least since 2001, when I first met Jean Michel Deiss and other winemakers. You may also want to read the article, linked below, which contains a bit more detail and other quotes. Personally, I agree with you: Alsace is about both the grape(s) and the place(s).

http://www.wine-business-international.com/News_Alsace_vintners_attack_reforms.html

2 Evelyne Resnick July 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Hi Panos,

Thanks for the link. It is indeed an interesting and highly debated question. I met with Jean Claude Rieflé a few weeks ago and he suggested a middle way: promoting the terroir to go around the impact of the lower end Riesling or other Alsatian types of grapes coming from any part of the country. Here is the link to Rieflé's interview:
http://www.winebrandsblog.com/2009/06/vinexpo-day-5-innovative-strategy-in.html

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