By Lisa Rowlands

A vigorous, productive vine, Sylvaner produces medium sized fruits that ripen early reducing the risk of frost damage. The grapes are often thought to possess an indistinct flavour making the variety less popular than some of its competitors, however, this perceived neutrality enables a wonderful expression of terroir, and thus from a vineyard with excellent growing conditions and creative, resourceful wine-makers, Sylvaner can produce elegant, sophisticated wines which reflect the nuances of their plots.

This is certainly true of the Zotzenberg vineyard in the Alsace region of France, where Grand Crus are permitted from any combination of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sylvaner, and hence any of these grapes can be vinified as mono-varietal. The rich limestone / marl soils and sunny aspect of the vineyard provide optimum conditions for this somewhat unfashionable, but nevertheless valuable variety.

Today, Sylvaner is grown across Germany with particular success in the Franconia region (Franken) where the chalky terroir brings out its best qualities leading to it outperforming Riesling and producing wines that can compete with the very best in its class. The variety is also planted across the border in France, The Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Switzerland - where it is sometimes called Johannisberg, and in minuscule parcels in the Isarco Valley of Italy’s Alto Adige region.