Max and I attended a seminar recently. The theme was how different soils affect the wine. Very interesting. Chablis was one of the examples, where the Kimmeridge clay of the best vineyards give wines that distinctively differs to the ones made from soils based on Portlandian soil. Both calcareous, but so different.
We compared a Petit Chablis with a Première Cru, both
from the cooperative La Chablisienne. The first was nice, but rather one
dimensional in its citrus freshness. The
latter with more body and pronounced notes of butter scotch in addition to the citrus
and yellow apples. Fresh, but with so much more complexity and a rich buttery
texture. Concentrated and very long.
Riesling is another grape that clearly reflects the type
of soil. To our great delight this was illustrated on the tasting by some
Alsatian wines. As profound fans of this lovely French region, we always enjoy
to have some of its exquisite liquid in our glasses.
As the geology of Alsace is so varied, there are quite
different soils found among the 51 Grand Cru vineyards. Marl and limestone is rather
frequent, e.g. the Furstentum, Altenberg de Bergheim and Mambourg, while granite
is found in Brand and Schlossberg.
There is in fact even one Grand Cru with shale, the Kastelberg
in Andlau. These Rieslings are said to have a bit of musk aroma, even though we
not have had the opportunity to try by ourselves. Would have been interesting
to taste and see if there is any truth behind that suggestion.
Back to the main question. What can the soil do to the
Riesling? Well, Max and I learnt that when it is grown on granite it will be fruitier.
Limestone and marl will give less fruity wines, but the calcareous ground is on
the other hand said to bring out more power.
Josmeyer's Grand Cru from Hengst is an example of the
limestone based Riesling. Rich, full bodied and with more power than the one
made of grapes from their granite Brand vineyard.
Paul Blanck gives us another interesting example. The
Furstentum, calcareuous, to be compared with the Schlossberg, granite. The latter
has however in the 2008 a rather restrained fruitiness. There is an elegant
minerality, not found in the Furstentum, which has a more floral appearance.
The conclusion; Alsace Riesling Grand Cru can differ
considerably from each other, but the renowned producers never make us disappointed.