Who’d like some lychees ? Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives

Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1999

Region: Alsace, France

Grape: 100% Gewurztraminer

Price: around 45 euros / $60

Gewurztraminer is a white grape grown mostly in Alsace, Germany and the German-speaking part of Italy. It usually produces off-dry wines and is known for its characteristic lychee aroma.

Bought by a friend at an auction this bottle comes from one of the main producers of the region, Hugel whose previous owner, Jean Hugel, actually developed and introduced two new styles for making Gewurztraminer in Alsace, “Vendanges Tardives” (the style of this wine) and “Selection de Grains Nobles”. Vendanges Tardives means late harvest in French and consists in letting grapes hang on the vine longer than normal so that they start to dehydrate. This raises the concentration of sugar in the grapes and can also have an effect on the flavor; the fancy name for this process is “passerillage”. Hugel developed this practice during and after the long hot summer of 1976 and it was finally coined and legally recognized in 1984. Today it’s a calling card of wines from the region and Jean Hugel is recognized as “the single most important person in the development of Alsace wine industry throughout the 20th century”. My friend was kind enough to open this bottle for a small party at his place, and there was much rejoicing.


Eye: deep gold

Nose: Clean, intense nose. Mango and pineapple with more subtle white fruit (peach) and lychee notes

Palate: off-dry, medium acidity, medium plus body, medium alcohol, long finish.

Tropical fruit aromas come first, mango and passion fruit mostly; the wine then mellows out towards white fruit like peach and finishes with a long, lingering lychee note. It’s complex without being obnoxious about it, the transitions are smooth and the fruits are ripe. The sweetness is not overpowering and the wine strikes a nice balance

Food pairings: Would work well with dessert, a little too sweet to use with Asian food (a classic Gewurztraminer pairing). It also works very well on its own.

Overall opinion: That’s a very, very nice wine. I am partial to Alsatian wines and I like Riesling and Gewurztraminer but this is objectively very good. There is nice complexity and finish, the wine is balanced… Definitely nice of my friend to open it that evening!

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