Vendange Tardive or late harvest wines are the sweet jewels of the Alsace region and in particular, the Hugel family. It was Jean “Johnny” Hugel that first used the term following the 1976 vintage and who personally drafted the guidelines to producing vendange tardive (late harvest) that would become law in 1984. The law is strict and details several variables that must be considered including sugar and alcohol levels, vintage declaration, and vinification techniques.
The Hugel Gewürztraminer Vendange Tardive is sourced from the family owned parcel
of the Grand Cru Sporen vineyard on the slopes just outside of Riquewihr. Soils here are primarily clay and chalk.
Prior to harvest the intention of a vendange tardive is declared to the INAO. The grapes are allowed to sit on the vine until maximum sugar and alcohol levels are achieved. They are then hand harvested and brought to the winery for sorting and vinification. There are no pumps used at any point in the vinification process. The must is cold fermented and
then transferred to neutral vessels to undergo aging.
Hugel Vendange Tardive is only made in the very best of vintages. Produced from 40 year-old vines in exceptional vintages, this rare wine has been a specialty of the Hugel family for generations. Hugel’s “VT” wines are produced from grapes over-ripened on the vine and picked much later than normal. “Noble rot,” or botrytis, gives these wines
tremendous ageing potential and they’re frequently placed among the finest white wines in France.
Harsh winter of 2011 with 26 days below zero. Early budding on April 7, May warm and dry and flowering 15 days ahead of time. Summer cool, damp and gloomy. Return to idyllic weather two weeks before harvest started on September 12, without any precipitation from beginning to end.
Excellent maturity in a fair size crop with soft acidity. Wines already charming, easy to approach and early to drink soon after bottling.
The aromas and flavors are very refined, with a very long finish. On the nose, the wine is an explosion, blending multiple floral aromas: rose, acacia, jasmine, ripe and candied fruit, passion fruit, mango, lychee, spices, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, together with honey, currants, and a hint of over-ripeness. The whole is harmonious, refined and elegant. On the palate, it is velvety, suave, perfectly mellow, soft and silky. The wine can be enjoyed immediately or after 10 years of bottle age. It can be enjoyed with cakes, tarts, apple, pear, apricot, with foie gras, terrine or sautéed, and especially on its own.
Score: 96 PointsJamesSuckling.com Author: James Suckling
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