Most Alsatian wines today bear the name of a specific grape variety but traditionally Alsatian vineyards were planted with varietal blends, which created a bit of a marketing problem. What do you name a wine made from a mixture of grape varietals? The terms Zwicker (blend) and Edelzwicker (noble blend) was a source of controversy between growers in the south and the north of Alsace for decades. Chasselas, considered a standard variety, was mostly grown in the Haut Rhin (southern Alsace) and Sylvaner, once considered a noble variety, was mostly produced in the Bas-Rhin. To resolve the conflict, the order of October 2, 1945 stipulated that blends of wine from the standard varieties, including Chasselas, with noble varieties, could only bear the Alsace appellation if the wine was labeled Zwicker, and blends of exclusively noble varieties (including Sylvaner) could only bear the Alsace appellation if the wine was labeled Edelzwicker. The term Gentil has gained popularity in recent years with Alsatian producers for their blends; it is different than Edelzwicker because the blend only needs to be made 50% from the four noble varieties, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat, and allows the balance to be Chasselas or Pinot Blanc, as well as Sylvaner.
You have to get inside a bladder press to clean it. The blue liner inflates like a balloon, squeezing the grapes against the perforated stainless steel drum. The juice is extracted gently with pressurized air.
Navarro's Edelzwicker is fermented and aged in oak ovals. We designate Edelzwicker as “semi-dry” but we suspect that the “semi” part of the moniker discourages many wine enthusiasts who think only “dry” wines should accompany a meal. The sweetness in this blend is offset with a dazzling acidity creating a delightful yin-yang of fruity and tart that make it the perfect match for many spicy dishes.
Navarro's 2012 Edelzwicker is unquestionably noble, as the blend is 53% Pinot Gris, 36% Gewürztraminer, 9 % Riesling and 2% Muscat. If you open a bottle while you're still cooking, it will likely be half gone by the time you sit down to eat. Gold Medal winner.
Harvesting Gewürztraminer in the early morning. The concept that some grapes are more aristocratic than others seems downright un-American, but Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat, in fact, produce more generous, complex and interesting wines than a workhorse grape like Chasselas.