By Mark Cuff of The Living Vine, a Certified Good Food Fighter
Most people don’t have a lot of experience with the wines made from this grape, there probably isn’t a Sylvaner section on any restaurants wine list. Extremely versatile probably because it’s flavor profile isn’t as distinct as say Riesling or Gewurtraminer – it could easily substitute it for a cold glass of Pinot Grigio on a sweltering Toronto patio or pair it with lighter fish, sour and spicy dishes. It generally smells and tastes like lemon and flowers and has bright acidity – most winemakers craft simple aperitif styled wines and most restaurants should probably treat it as such.
It is found in most eastern european wine growing regions like Romania (Transylvania, presumed to be the homeland of Silvaner),Germany and Austria, Sylvaner or Silvaner is produced mostly in France’s Alsace Region. DNA testing has shown that is is a cross between Traminer and Osterreichisch-Weib (a old Austrian Variety that is rarely produced). 40 years ago it represented almost 30% of the total vineyard area in Alsace and Germany mostly a blending grape added to Riesling and Pinot Gris or made into popular semi sweet white wine.
Capable of high yields it can produce wine that is bland if not kept under control, this is not the case with Domaine Ostertag’s 2009 Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes. A Biodynamically grown Sylvaner made from very old vines from one of Alsace’s top producers, their Sylvaner sells out almost immediately on release every year.
The Wine Advocate rated the 2007 (89pts) and 2008 (90pts) – we don’t have a tasting note on the 2009 yet but we like David Schildknecht’s tasting note from the 2007: “Ostertag’s Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is delightfully and (for this variety) surprisingly floral and citric in aromas, with fresh lime, honeydew melon, wafting perfume, and familiar suggestions of chalk and cherry pit informing a texturally caressing yet refreshing palate”.
Sound good? Get to know this grape through the just released Domaine Ostertag’s 2009 Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes – $21.95 a bottle (Consignment – 12 bottle cases only) – please email Mark@thelivingvine.ca for more information.