Monday, 3 June 2013

Swell Hugel!

As everyone in booze Britain knows, the London International Wine Fair took place a fortnight ago. This being my first year of attendance, I was thoroughly looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the wine world's finest. To be perfectly honest however, I found myself being rather underwhelmed by the majority of the event. I was expecting a plethora of new and exotic wines to tantalise my palate and fuel my oenological passion. Instead I found myself amid a wash of corporate labelling and sweaty salesmen.

Having said that, there were a few things that did delight. Brazil delivered with a carnival of flavours, but there was one region, one producer, one man who stood a charismatic head and shoulders above the rest. A man who's family have been crafting some of France's finest social lubricant for twelve generations in the north eastern corner, bordering Germany. Can you tell what it is yet? No? Well then you clearly don't read properly because the clue's in the title!

That's right, Etienne Hugel made a magnificent appearance at the ExCel this year, armed with 8 of his most fantastic creations. I've always been a fan of Alsace wines, but no-one does them quite like the Hugel & Fils House.

My first delight to tell you of is the Gentil Hugel. Made from a blend of Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Muscat (so, pretty much every white grape found in Alsace), All these elements work in perfect harmony to create a perfectly balanced, aromatic wine that's slightly off dry. And for around a tenner from The Drink Shop, it's wallet friendly!

Next up is the Riesling Jubilee 2007. I've previously had the 2011, which was gorgeous, but with a few more years of bottle age behind it? Absolutely sublime! With a beautifully perfumed nose, the tropical fruit flavours are far more complex having spent a few more years in the bottle. And the best thing? It'll keep for another 10 years! At £23 a bottle from The Wine Society, it's not exactly an every day drinker, but this is no everyday wine.

So many beautiful wines, I could go on...So I will! It's my article so nurr!

My absolute favourite of the line up, a 2005 Gewurtztraminer Vendange Tardive. Vendange Tardive means 'late harvest' in French for those who don't speak la langue, which means the grapes are left on the vines until they start to wither, concentrating the sugars making for a sweeter wine.

Normally late harvest wines will go down as dessert wines, but this Gewurtz, while sweet, is remarkably light and without that syrup-y texture that comes with so many dessert wines. Serve it with something fruity or a strong cheesy starter and you're on to a definite winner. A gorgeously perfumed and aromatic nose is followed by a controlled explosion of the finest fruit flavours. It's £33, also from The Wine Society.

In summary, I would just like to say merci  to Monsieur Etienne Hugel: A gentleman, a visionary, and a bloody good winemaker!

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