Burn Goldert Clos St Imer La Chapelle Gewurztraminer 1998
This week, Alsace, and a wine and vigneron neither of which I am particularly familiar with. The domaine, although now run by François Burn, was established by Ernest Burn in 1934, when he purchased some famed yet dilapidated vineyards with the intention of returning them to the standard for which they were once known. His acquisitions included six hectares of the Goldert vineyard, which would subsequently be classified as a Grand Cru. The Goldert vines seem to be the jewel in the Burn crown, with a slight predominance of Gewurztraminer which account for just over one third, the remainder including Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The highlight of the vineyard is the Clos St Imer, a walled section named after the patron saint of Gueberschwihr, whose likeness can be found on the label. At the top of the clos is a small chapel also owned by the Burn family, and the greatest wines from this vineyard are those that carry the La Chapelle designation. The vineyards of Germany and to a lesser extent Burgundy wear their religious history like a badge, as evinced by names such as Bischofsgarten, Abtsberg, La Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus and so on, but this is not so common (although certainly not unknown) in Alsace. I find it pleasing to have this little historical footnote to this wine, which serves to tie the association between the wine and the land just that little bit tighter. As for the wines produced by Ernest Burn today, overall it seems that they are fashioned into a rich, ripe style that befits the vineyard’s exalted status.
This week’s wine, the Ernest Burn Goldert Clos St Imer La Chapelle Gewurztraminer 1998, is thus perhaps a prime example of the house style. It immediately impresses – and gives some clue as to the style – with its fabulous golden colour, which is plainly visible through the clear glass of the bottle. It suggests that this wine is going to have more than a degree of sweetness, reflecting the practice of François Burn to delay the harvest until the fruit is very ripe. This does turn out to be correct, but such thoughts are put to one side when meeting the nose of this wine, which is just divine. It has denseness and richness, but with a deep, characterful bouquet rather than the lighter rose-petal and perfume of most Gewurztraminers. It is really quite difficult to describe, but is redolent of caramel (although this is very subtle), honey and minerals. The palate is open and accessible, and presents layer after layer of character, with a grippy structure underpinning it, which more than compensates for the borderline acidity – something that is inherent with this variety. There is orange rind, with a distinctive and attractive bitter note, quinine, more minerals, and a little note of flower petals. It has an admirable, broad shouldered, well defined presence on the palate which is the mark of a very high quality Gewurztraminer. This would continue to do well in the cellar I think, but I cannot really think of any reason to not drink it now. Superb. 18+/20 (5/2/07)