The 2008s from Alsace are excellent, racy wines with bright acidity and fine fruit center to balance. Drinking them will be easy, getting there wasn’t. The vintage started propitiously with a cold winter followed by a moderate spring. Bud break came right on time. A dry May saw the vines progressing well, with early flowering sites speeding through the process.
In the second week of June, rain and cool temperatures delayed the late flowering sites, but warmer temperatures later in the month precluded too much damage from colure of millerandage. In the end a decent sized crop was set.
The weather during July and August fluctuated between hot and dry, and cold and wet. July was the wetter month, and managing the vineyards was tricky and labor intensive. The vines were vigorous and disease was a concern. August was better, with the exception of some heavy rains mid-month.
September saw rain and low temperatures during the first two weeks, and dry conditions later in the month. Finally, October started out sunny and dry with good diurnal temperature swings that allowed ripening to proceed without loss of acids. Good weather prevailed until the third week of the month when the rain returned and essentially ended the harvest.
As is often the case, the result of a tumultuous growing season was very good wines – focused, crisp and detailed, with lovely bright acidity and fruit to match that should age quite well.
It was Hubert Meyer, who, in 1963, added the first three letters of his father's name (J-o-s, from Joseph) to the family surname, forming the brand we know today. The Meyers have been in the wine trade for much longer than that, however; Aloyse Meyer, the grandfather of Hubert, began as a négociant in 1854.
Current proprietor, Jean Meyer, is a well-known gourmand whose wines are among the most food-friendly of Alsace: vibrant, crisp and light on their feet. The Josmeyer Rieslings are minerally, focused, on the dry side and capable of aging, especially at the upper end of the price range. Meyer has been known to pair six or seven of his Gewürztraminer bottlings with multiple courses at a single meal to show the flexibility of his wines with food.
Much of the viticulture here is now being directed by Meyer's son-in-law Cristopher Ehrhart, who drove the recent shift towards organic and biodynamic viticulture. The vineyard, which covers 28 hectares, is planted to 28% Riesling, 24% Pinot Blanc & Auxerrois, 21% Pinot Gris, 19% Gewurztraminer and 8% Sylvaner, Muscat and Pinot Noir.
Multiple styles: dry and aromatic, light and sparkling, and rich and sweet
Asparagus and artichokes
One of the more versatile white wine grapes, Muscat is grown around the world for use in use in light and dry wines, low-alcohol sparkling wines, and sweet, late-harvest wines. Its proliferation around the world (and especially around the Mediterranean) leads us to conclude that Muscat was one of the first domesticated grapes. Indeed, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have analyzed pots excavated from King Midas's burial mound to conclude that Muscat was a major component of the alcoholic beverage served at his funeral feast.
Even if Muscat is cultivated across the Mediterranean basin and in some New World locales, we find that the best dry expressions of the wine come from Alsace. When vinified dry, to eliminate all residual sugars, Muscat makes a pungently aromatic wine that can handle the two wine killers, asparagus and artichokes. Gewürztraminer may be Alsace's standard-bearer with regard to intensely aromatic wines, but Muscat is no wimp, even if it is a little tamer and more refined. Expect to find notes of ripe peach and apricot, flowers, and fresh herbs. We like wines from Domaine Barmes Buecher and Domaine Ernest Burn.
Many may remember the ubiquitous advertisements for Asti Spumante, the sweet sparkling wine from Piedmont in Italy. This wine is also made from Muscat grapes. We prefer its cousin, Moscato d'Asti, which is bottled within months of the harvest at an even lower alcohol level- sometimes below five percent. This light, sweet, bubbly wine shows exuberant flavors of peach, apricot and pear, and is an outstanding apertif. Its low alcohol is also refreshing at the end of a meal, paired with fresh fruit desserts. Look for wines from Saracco and La Spinetta.
Muscat also makes traditionally-styled, carbonation-free sweet wines in many parts of the world. Some of these are consumed almost entirely within the country of origin, while others do make it onto the international market. Australia has a long history of fortified wine production, especially in the Rutherglen region of northeast Victoria. Here, old stocks of Muscat are blended to produce a non-vintage fortified wine that is typically between 18 and 20 percent alcohol. These bottlings are marked by flavors of caramel, toffee, and exotic spices. Try wines from R. L. Buller and Sons as well as Chambers Rosewood.