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Alsace Gewurztraminer "Qvevri", Bannwarth 2011


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"The cuvee Qvevri from Domaine Bannwarth is an Alsatian orange wine from 100% gewurztraminer with a great aromatic richness and seductive tannic side." Coup de Coeur, La Revue du Vin de France Great wines often come from the most unlikely sources. The most unlikely, the more excited I get hunting them down. The Alsatian Gewurztraminer "Qvevri" from Domaine Laurent Bannwarth is one of the most unusual and awesome wines I've had this year. It was brought to my attention by FiFi and Chris Terrell of Terrell Wines. Domaine Laurent Bannwarth has been around since the 1950s but this is the first time it's wines have reached the US. I'm proud to be the first in the West Coast to offer their wines. Laurent Bannwarth and his wife, Suzanne, started the domaine in the 1950s in Obermorschwihr, just south of Colmar. Their son, Stephane, started working there in 1987, converting the vineyards to organic and, eventually, to biodynamic farming. He also became interested in the ancient winemaking tradition of Georgia. After visiting Georgia in 2007, he became serious in applying Georgia's winemaking techniques to his wines. He brought back terracotta vessels, called Kvevri (Qvevri), from Georgia and installed them in his cellar. 2011 was the first time he made wines following traditional Georgian winemaking. It was a bold move and totally nuts. I don't think this had been done in Alsace before. These 2011 wines, aged in Kvevri, were released early this year to surprising acclaim. Even the mainstream French wine publication, La Revue du Vin de France, heaped praised on the wines after tasting them. The 2011 Gewurztraminer "Qvevri" consists of 100% Gewurztraminer from biodynamically farmed vines. Following the Georgian winemaking approache, the skins were macerated with the juice to extract as much flavor from the skins. It was vinified naturally, using native yeasts and without addition of sulfites or any other additives. Then the wine was aged in terracootta Kvevri for at least year and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Along with the deeper color, the flavors offer fantastic depth and richness with lovely tannins. This is immediately new and strange and very likable.

"The vinification of this cuvee is carried out in Georgian amphoras buried for several months, a feature that gives this wine a singular character: the aromatic richness of gewurztraminer is well presented, but with a tannic side. It is a fresh and structured wine.This particular way of approach in gewurztraminer gives it tension, a seriousness and dignity which generally are lacking. This orange wine suits drinkers hungry for new discoveries. Be adventurous and enjoy this wine accompanied by roasted chestnuts, or perhaps spicy cuisine. This wine has a tannic structure that allows it to cope with dishes relatively rich in flavours." Coeup de Coeur, La Revue du Vin de France