Caves Martin Zahn Gewurztraminer 2006
Though the Cave Vinicole de Ribeauville is one of the oldest coopératives viticoles in
France, at its founding in 1895 these venerable vineyards weren't even in France; the
area—all of Alsace—became part of the German Reich in 1870 following the Franco-Prussian
War. Bereft of contact with the rest of France because of political events beyond their control,
a number of winegrowers came together to form a cooperative based on the ideas of German
sociologist Frédéric Raiffeisen. More than a century later, through war and economic
upheaval, the Cave Vinicole de Ribeauville encompasses a single contiguous vineyard of 650
acres, with ten Grand Crus and eight Lieu-Dits.
The cooperative operates by some simple rules designed to guarantee quality and keep the tradition going among the 40 wines families involved. All grapes are hand harvested. Members allocate their entire vineyard production to the cooperative and do not buy in grapes from elsewhere. An administrative board is elected by the member growers. The cooperative's technical people take charge of vinification and aging. Another arm of the cooperative deals with sales and marketing. The result is an array of 100% varietal wines from Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, among the whites, and Pinot Noir, the only red grape allowed in Alsace wines.
Martin Zahn is not available to answer questions about his wine; the name rather is that of a 12th century knight and monk who worked the original Ribeauville vineyards, now known as the Clos du Zahnacker (“field of Zahn”), upon his return from the Crusades.
The 2006 Caves Martin Zahn Gewurztraminer, at $17, is Appellation Alsace Contrôlée. The
wine is a clear golden straw with excellent purity of color. The nose is mid-intensity,
extremely floral, perfume-like, with initial notes of hibiscus, honeysuckle and clover followed
by fruity essences of peach, ripe banana, pineapple and just-peeled fresh lemon. Short of dry
in the mouth, this wine brings an energetic palate of ripe white pear, vanilla, pie-crust,
mango, lychee and over-ripe melon. The wine is medium-plus in body and tangibly
mouth-filling; both the alcohol and the acidity weave nicely around the aromatic elements
from first attack to final cadence. The finish is insistently long and brings a tang of dried
apricot at the very end. This is a Gewurztraminer crafted with long perspective and
consummate skill, but its effect is not as serious as all that. Ultimately Martin Zahn the monk
has inspired something of a happy wine.
Verdict: Tasty and Happy
Well-run cooperatives so often produce superior wine.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman