Although the respected firm Dopff au Moulin is rightly regarded as standard-bearer for Crémant d'Alsace, Jean-Claude and Franck Buecher bring the bubbles to unbelievable heights. From 11 hectares they make exclusively Crémant from prime vineyards, perfect grape material, and extremely skilled craftsmanship. An absolute must if you visit Alsace!
Crémant Fleur de Lys from J-C Buecher in Wettolsheim is made from Pinot Blanc from Grand Cru Pfersigberg and cellared over three years on its lees. The aroma is elegant and developed with elements of nougat, chalk, citrus and brioche. The taste is dry, clean and tight with lovely fruit, very fresh but not aggressive acids and an astonishing length. WOW! Price: € 18
Schoenenbourg is the archetypal Grand Cruvingård; mythical, historical and origin of absolutely outstanding wines. The land is perfect for Riesling, which dominates big, but it's grown even small amounts of Muscat and Gewurztraminer. It requires a delicate touch if Gewurztraminer should not be "over the top". But here, Vincent Sipp Agape demonstrates his skill and sense of style.
2014 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Schoenenbourg from Agapé in Riquewihr has an intense aroma of honey, supplemented with red grapefruit, fresh ginger and cardamom. The flavor has a mild sweetness, ripe and clean fruit, surprisingly lively acids, perfect balance and fine length. Sooo good! Price: € 18.50.
Gustave Lorentz is a big, yet family owned negociant business with nice vineyards around Bergheim. Lorentz does not need to make this wine every year. The 2010 was, however, ideal since the levels of acidity were high enough to make a wine in the low-key, smooth and dry style that is typical for this respected firm.
2010 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim from Gustave Lorentz has a fresh aroma of apricots, almond, cardemom and some dried fruits. The taste is supple and rich with very good structure, ripe (but not over ripe) fruits and racy acids in the very long finish. Price: €25.80.
There seems to be a slight trend in Alsace to the foremost providers make cuvées particularly intended for restaurants. Examples of this are Senteurs des Vignes from Albert Mann, Gentil Hugel, Riesling Terroir d'Alsace from Zind-Humbrecht and - perhaps even more surprising - EZ Domaine Weinbach. EZ obviously stands for Edelzwicker, the infamous name of the Alsace most basic products widely sold in liter bottles. So what do these cuvées have in common? The superior quality!
2013 EZ from Domaine Weinbach in Kaysersberg has a fresh fragrance with subtle hints of roses (Gewurztraminer), pineapple, orange and quince. The flavor is rich but dry with nice fruit and ripe acids that fit all kinds of food. Price: € 23 at restaurant Brendelstub in Riquewihr.
Wintzenheim is an elongated village just west of Colmar. Through the years it has been a heavily trafficked thoroughfare towards the Munster Valley and the passes of the Vosges Mountains. But a new bypass road is the village to be more inviting. Here are only a few producers, but the legendary firm Josmeyer offers wines of the highest class, by any standards.
2014 Pinot Blanc Mise du Printemps from Josmeyer in Winzenheim has a sparkling greenish-yellow color. The aroma is quite generous and tangy with hints of melon, spices, wax and citrus. The palate is medium bodied with a bit austere structure, delightful acidity, ripe fruit, and the composition is elegant and nicely balanced. Very well done! Price: € 11th
Florian Beck-Hartweg is a very entrepeneurial and skilled vigneron. He is based on the granitic foothills of Bas-Rhin and has managed to demonstrate the grandeur af Grand Cru Frankstein, a vineyard capable of delivering very fresh and complex wines from all grapes, all with unsurpassed minerality. In just a few years, Florian has become one of the great ambassadors of Alsace, dispite a very modest production volume.2013 Gewurztraminer Cuvée Prestige from Florian Beck-Hartweg in Dambach-la-Ville is greenish yellow in colour. The aroma is open and pure and offers orange, almond, peach and discrete note of roses. The attack on the palate is full of lovely and complex, silky fruit. Although the wine is off-dry, the sweetness is perfectly balanced by a fresh acidity typical of 2013 and even som minerality in the finish. Bravo! €10.
Wineck-Schlossberg is a venyard that does not belong to the most well known in Alsace. But Wineck-Schlossberg is endowed with some very dedicated winemakers that invest passion, skill and love for their native village to express the vineyard's potential. Without ranking the champions of teh village are Fréderic Bernhard, Clemant Klur and Felix Meyer. They make their Wineck in somewhat different styles, but what unites all interpretations is the hallmark freshness and saltiness in the aftertaste.
2011 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Wineck from Meyer-Fonné in Katzenthal is bright golden yellow in color with a slight green cast. The aroma is very generous and clean with yellow apple, orange, chocolate, almonds and honey. The taste is powerful and fruity and fresh acidity, minerality and the soft sweetness forms a hamonious and balanced whole. Price: € €16.
More and more often you see labels without any hint of the grape that wine is made on, despite of that the legislation concerning Alsace wines is built around grape varieties. Producers do this to emphasize the terroir. One such producer is Marcel Deiss with his Grands Crus Schonenbourg, Altenberg de Bergheim and Mambourg. Another is Jean-Marc and Frédéric Bernhard with his vineyards Vogelgarten, Furstentum and Mambourg. The latter two are Grands Crus and then the grape is stated on back label.
The 2012 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mambourg from Jean-Marc and Frédéric Bernhard in Katzenthal is bright golden yellow in color. The nose is fresh and saturated without being intrusive with the delicate tones of pineapple, toffee, cherries and roses. The taste is good attack with distinct sweetness, but absolutely free from stickiness. The mouthfeel is smooth and silky and the fresh acidity gives the wine great balance. Well done! Price: 14 €.
More and more Chardonnay is cultivated in Alsace. The proportion is up to about 1%, and everything indicates that it will increase. The reason is the high demand for crémant. Today crémant of mainly made from Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, but we also see more and more singe-grape crémant from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The time on the lees in bottle increases. The only thing that seems constant is the price, that is ridiculously low.
Crémant Extra Brut Chardonnay from Lucas and André Rieffel Mittelbergheim is made of Chardonnay from 2007 and 2008 and then sold after at least six years of bottle aging. The color is bright golden yellow with a beautiful green cast, and the scent is fresh and elegant with bread, citrus, apples and a touch of chocolate. The taste is tight with wonderful fruit, racy acids, a fine mousse and a clean finish without bitterness. A great crémant. Price: €9.50.
The 2014 harvest was strongly affected by an outbreak of pest insect suzukii. The small fly made holes in the skins, causing leakage of grape juice which was oxidized to acetic acid. Some vineyards planted with Pinot Noir actually smelled strongly of vinegar! Many discarded their Pinot Noir, sometimes in vain. The fact is that acetic acid is largely reduced during the vinification, making the impact on the flavor and fragrance quite modest. p>
The 2014 Pinot Blanc Bouquet de Printemps from Jean-Marc and Fréderic Bernhard in Katzenthal is made from Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Pinot Noir. The taste is fresh and fruity with hints of yellow apples, nectarines and cherries from the Pinot Noir. The palate is medium-bodied, hearty and rich with delightful acidity, dense fruitiness and excellent balance in the finish. Pinot Noir was picked and pressed with the other grapes. Price: € 6.
Mittelbergheim is one of Alsace's finest and most authentic villages. Here it is enough to just stroll along the beautiful streets with houses since the 1500s. But behind the facades several innovative producers are hiding. Many show great interest in so called natural wines. They are Rietch, Rieffel, the newly established and microscopic Catherine Riss and André Rohrer. André has Pinot Noir at a third of his land. From this he makes three cuvées of red wine and a crémant Blanc de Noir. Fun!
2013 Pinot Noir Nouvelle Lune by André Rohrer in Mittelbergheim has inviting and open aromas of black cherry, strawberry, vanilla and liquorice. The taste is full-bodied and very fruity, almost like grape juice, still the fresh acids are in place along with firm tannins that give fine structure. The aftertaste is long and remarkably clean. A natural wine. Price: € 13.20.
To make a vin naturel, without any sulphur or filtration, the work starts in the vineyard. For example, the biodiversity at all trophic levels needs to be high, above ground as well as in the soil itself. This allows nutrients to be retained and released optimally, provides a natural protection to pests and gives room for a suite of natural yeasts. The vines should have the right vigour and photosynthetic capacity to bring aromatic complexity rather than excess sugar to the grapes. In the cellar you need a knowledgeable, skilled, inventive, curious and dedicated producer such as Florian Beck-Hartweg.
2013 Tout Naturellement by Florian Beck-Hartweg in Dambach-la-Ville is made from Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner. The scent is soft, expressive and inviting with apples, physallis, yellow plum, fresh herbs and a wiff of yeast that contributes to the complexity. The taste is round, rich and vibrant with pronounced fruitiness and fresh but not aggressive acids that come through quite late on the palate. A perfectly balanced wine that is really, really good and versatile! Price: €9.20.
Almost all of the best producers go over to organic farming, and often work with biodynamic methods. The reason is that the wines are getting better, but above all the growers want to take responsibility for a sustainable cultivation that allows future generations to carry on the tradition. Camille Braun has now converted almost all its vineyards to biodynamics, and the wines have have in definition and depth of flavor.
2012 Riesling Effenberg from Camille Braun in Orschwihr has a delicious golden color. The scent is intense and fruity with strawberry, white flowers, vanilla and red grapefruit. The flavor is rich with fruity sweetness balanced by fresh acidity and a slight bitterness. The aftertaste is long and clean. Price (2015): €9.
An ordinary wine from an ordinary producer. Nevertheless, this wine has not only managed to survive nine years of cellaring, but even evolved to become really good. The wines of Alsace never falls apart like house of cards when they get a few years old. They get their long lives thanks to fine terroirs, gentle winemaking and that the producers are not so greedy and arrogant as in some other districts.
2005 Pinot Blanc from Charles Zero in Mittelwihr is deeply greenish golden in color. The scent is powerful with honey, wax, vanilla and fresh apricots. The taste is medium bodied with good structure, clear and ripe fruit and a pretty intense acid that gives a good spine. Quite a long, dry aftertaste where the fruit is surprisingly youthful. Price (2014): € 5
Kanzlerberg is the smallest Grand Cru in Alsace, just over 3 acres with only two owners, Lorentz and Sylvie Spielmann. It is located next door to the sun-drenched Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim giving golden yellow, generous but elegant wines with subtle oranges and honey aromas. But Kanzlerberg is not so exposed, and the clay soil makes the wines much more tight, requiring long cellaring to show their best.
2005 Riesling Grand Cru Kanzlerberg from Lorentz in Bergheim has a dense, greenish-yellow color. The aroma is complex but restrained and provides grapefruit, limes, fresh herbs and quince. The palate is medium-bodied and quite dry, and the powerful fruit gradually develops in the mouth. The wine has excellent structure, and the lovely acids make the saliva flow. A wonderful wine for wine enthusiasts. Price (2009): € 21.
Crémant sells better and is becoming increasingly important for Alsace. The quality is increased by less use of Pinot Gris and Auxerrois for the benefit of Chardonnay and, not least, the Pinot Noir. Nowadays, you often see the vintage on the bottle as well as the dates of degorging. More serious. Even tastier. And still as ridiculously cheap.
2010 Crémant d'Alsace from Jean-Claude Buecher Wettolsheim offers hazelnuts, orange marmalade, sponge cake and strawberries on the nose. The palate is rich, full and harmonious with wonderfuly firm acids, perfect mousse and velvety fruit in the finish. The dosage is 6 grams/liter, and the grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and a splash Auxerrois. Degorged in March 2014. Price (2014): €7.90.
Clos Windsbuhl is one of the jewels of Zind-Humbrechts crown. It is located high above Hunawihr, next to the forest edge and along the bike path that connects Hunawihr with Riquewihr. The micro climate is cool, and the bedrock is is pure limestone, muschelkalk. Here the grapes ripen slowly, and regardless of whether the grape is Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris, the wines has exemplary acid, complexity and structure. But why have the wine sold in Sweden to 50% of the price for direct sales at the winery?
2012 Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl from Zind-Humbrecht in Turckheim has a fairly light, greenish-yellow color. The aroma is complex and delicious with almonds, white raisins, pineapple, honey, and a clean and pleasing tone of forest mushrooms. The 43-year-old vines provides a deep and dense palate with fresh and high acidity, fine tannins, a hint of bitterness and prefect balance despite 36.5 grams of residual sugar per liter. Price (2014): €46 (but 239 SEK in Sweden).
Mittelbergheim is one of France's most beautiful villages, situated on a south-facing slope just south of the town of Barr. In the village there are producers with completely different style; Gilg makes wines with volume and a little sweetness, Rietch is experimenting with natural wines, Rieffel does strictly classical wines, while Andre Rohrer makes wines that are dry. Very dry!
2007 Muscat from André Rohrer Mittelbergheim has a bright greenish-yellow color. The scent is fresh, complex and intense with lemon, mint candies, wet gravel and orange flowers. The flavor is barely medium-bodied and bone dry with wonderfully ripe fruit, pure fine acids, a slight astringency and the long finish is supported by an absolutely pure acidity. Who says that Muscat does not gain from cellaring? Price (2008): € 5th
Grand Cru Schlossberg is the largest of the 51 Grands Crus of Alsace. The area is about 80 hectares, divided into two parts, with the majority stretching from the village of Kaysersberg to village of Kientzheim. Schlossberg is oriented due south, and the thin, thin layer of soil is readily warmed up by the sun, at the same time as most of the rainwater is rapidly drained. In years with naturally high acidity in the wines, which in 2008, 2010 and 2012 thes naturally generosity of the terroir is combined with a freshness and texture rarely achieved during warm years like 2009 and 2011
2010 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg from Becker in Zellenberg has a deep yellow color. The nose is big and fruity with notes of orange, pineapple, acacia and mineral. The flavor is quite supple and clean with a wonderfully lively acidity that embeds the generous fruit, while there is a tantalizing saltiness in the finish. A really, really good wine from a reliable producer. Price (2014) € 16.00.
Wines from green grapes such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Sylvaner and others normally carries the grape variety on the label. But this presupposes that the wine is white. If the color deviates from the standard, it merely meets the requirements to be sold as Vin d'Alsace grape but without grape designation. Since some years, Domaine Loew makes a true rosé of Sylvaner by allowing the skins to be present during the fermentation. Then the alcohol out extracts red/blue colored anthocyanins from the skins, enough for the wine to be become discolored in the legal sense.
2013 Premieres Vendanges de Marguerite from Caroline and Etienne Loew in Westhoffen has a bright pale red color. The fragrance bursts with strawberry, raspberry and forest honey. The taste is light and tangy, with an acidity as of cranberries with a nice berry fruit, and a small roughness in the completely dry aftertaste. A wine that is not only made of organic grapes, but is a genuine Vin Biologique that has been vinified with a minimum of intervention. Fun! Price (2014): € 8.90
Jean-Claude Buecher makes only one type of wine: Crémant d'Alsace. Born into a family of wine growers in the late 1950s, he soon became an orphan. But the mother and teenage children chose to fight on as independent producers, against all odds. And when Jean-Claude in 1980 married Sylviane, also from Wettolsheim, the acreage increased to an economically sustainable level. The strategy - complete specialization - was staked out.
2005 Crémant Paradoxe from Jean-Claude Buecher in wettolsheim has a greenish yellow color. The nose is very expressive with citrus, mineral, green apples, brioche and nuts. Intense, complex and very tight palate with lovely fruit, salinity and a clean, deliciously chiseled out finished. Completely dry. Stored over eight years sur lattes . Just amazing! price (2014): €13.10.
Asia represents a huge market for wine. As the purchasing power is rising in countries like China and Vietnam, while Hong Kong (yes, I know it is a part of China ...) and Singapore will be – if possible – more open to western gastronomic influences, more wine will be consumed. In Singapore, Australian wines certainly dominates, but people like Etienne Hugel and Christian Beyer works intensively on the Asian markets. No wonder, for Alsace wines are versatile and can be combined with all kinds of Asian food. Rather neutral wines work best, for example those based on the too often neglected and overlooked Sylvaner.
2011 Sylvaner Vieille Vigne from Bruno Sorg in Eguisheim has a rich aroma of pineapple, chocolate and fresh, chopped oregano. The taste has significantly punch with generous fruit, vigorous acidity and a tiny, little hop-style bitterness in the balanced, almost dry aftertaste (vintage 2012 is bone dry). Perfect for a fish soup Laksa style. Ridiculously cheap. Price (2014): € 5.00.
Crémant d'Alsace is the most consumed sparkling in France. Most of it is pretty simple, but offers a refreshing drink. But there are also producers with higher ambitions. They are not many, but have two things in common: Chardonnay and long bottle aging during the second fermentation. It is during this time sur lattes the wine gets its complexity as they dead the yeast is slowly degraded.
Crémant d'Alsace from Mader in Hunawihr is made from 50 % Chardonnay and 50 % Pinot Blanc, at least in the currently sold vintage of 2010. The color is medium deep, greenish yellow. The aroma is rich and dense with brioche, walnuts and lemon. The palate is medium-bodied, abit ustere but elegant with lots of fruit embedded in super acids balanced by 5.5 grams dosage . The aftertaste is long and convincing, a result of an entire 30 months sur lattes . One of the best in all Alsace. Price: € 8.50.
In Alsace Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois are grown on just over 20% of the area. In the statistics they are pooled, but in nature they are different. Pinot Blanc is light and tight, while auxerrois is much fuller and softer. As more and more Pinot Blanc is used for Crémant it will be increasingly difficult to find still white wines made from 100% of real Pinot Blanc.
2010 Pinot Blanc from Albert Boxler Niedermorschwihr has a dense, yellow-green color. The aroma reminds of creamy milk chocolate, almonds, ripe yellow apple, mineral and nectarine. The taste is compact, tight and stringent with lots of lovely fruit, a sandy mouthfeel and absolutely perfect balance, despite the soaring acids. Boxler makes incredibly good wines! Price: € 10.
As in all other wine regions are Alsace wines do not reach reasonable standards There are acidic Riesling, sticky Gewurztraminer and limp Pinot Gris. But Muscat from Alsace are of a consistently high standard. Perhaps it might be because the grape variety is so fragile and delicate, and the cultivated area is so small. Or perhaps because Muscat wines are associated with summer, asparagus and good friends who meet for a fresh and seductive glass of the most lovable of all wines. True and pure joy, in other words.
2011 Muscat d'Alsace from Blanck in Kientzheim have fairly deep yellow color. The fragrance is developed but focused and offers orange, mineral, lemon balm and crushed grapes. The taste is barely medium-bodied and quite dry with deep, dense fruit, ripe and clean acids, fine texture and a lovely saltiness in the finish. The wine comes largely from Grand Cru vineyards. Class all the way through, at a ridiculously low price. Price (2014): €11.
I have drunk many, one at least two dozen bottles of this wine. Most have been good, some have been soapy, one has been corked but this bottle was - perfect! Since 1999, the storability of Alsace wines have improved. This is mainly due to the current corks are so much better, but most likely because of better understanding of how to optimize the balance between oxidative and reductive phases from fermentation until the wine is bottled just before the next harvest.
1999 Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg from Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé have a healthy yellow color with a little hint of green. The aroma is big but not excessive, offering mango, grapefruit and heather. The flavor is rich, complex and somewhat acerbic and gives the impression of being completely dry, despite the overwhelming andsmooth fruit that remains in the mouth for a long, long time. Who would have thought that this wine is 15 yewars old? Price: € 20.
Grand Cru Kastelberg is the only one of Alsace's finest vineyards are located on the slate. This rock is made up of sedimentary layers of clay particles of easily weathered minerals. Typically the rock has been transformed to become hard, brittle and flakey. Because shale releases much minerals, while it is dark and well drained, the vines on Kastelberg gives a unique character to the grapes which ripen perfectly.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Kastelberg from Gresser in Andlau has developed aromas of licorice, citrus and minerals with a hint of cardamom, acacia and smoke. The flavor is quite full with layers of ripe fruit, stringent acidity, excellent structure and absolutely first-class balance. The aftertaste is fresh and very, very long. Price: € 20.
From 2011, the number of designations of origin (Appellation d'Origin Contrôlée) in Alsace increased from three (AOC Alsace, AOC Alsace Grand Cru, AOC Crémant d'Alsace) to the a full 53. It is a consequence of new EU rules for protected designations of origin, which for Alsace has meant that each of the area's 51 Grand Cru has become its own AOC. In the future, the label should state Appellation Grand Cru Rosacker etetera. Wacky, but perhaps good.
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker from Eblin-Fuchs Zellenberg is biodynamically grown. The color is golden yellow, and the scent is gerous and sweet with passion fruit, lemon, a whiff of diesel and almonds. The taste is initially closed, but soon spreads out comfortably in your mouth and provides intense fruitiness and a powerful, ripe acidity that creates a fine balance in the dry finish. Price: € 14.
Domaine Martin Schaetzel has a distinguished set of vineyards all the way from Thann in the south (Grand Cru Rangen), via Colmar (Grand Cru Eichberg and Pfersigberg) and Ammerschwihr (Grand Cru Kaefferkopf) to the slopes just south of Colmar. From this diversity, Michel Vié produces wines that are dry or sweet, light or robust as well as fruity or filled of minerality. Everything is made with the same fabulous precision, and will never disappoint.
2010 Riesling Ammerschwihr from Martin Schaetzel Ammerschwihr is a pretty light yellow color with hints of green. The fragrance is clean, fresh and full of minerals, citrus, acacia and one hint of honey. The palate is medium-bodied, pure as crystal with lovely acid, ripe fruit, distinguished structure and stringent purity. Classic! Price: € 11.40.
All vintages of Alsace are very different. The reason for the variations are obviously the weather, but mainly that quality producers do not manipulate their wines. If you harvest early, use standardized yeast, adjust the wine with acid or base, and use lots of sulfur the wines come out alike - and equally boring - year after year. 2009 vintage yielded wines that initially lacked elegance and had some bitterness. After 5 years, they have "come home" and finally developed a fine balance, even if the style will never be classic. But good.
2009 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg from Jean-Marc et Frédéric Bernhard in Katzenthal has a golden color. The aroma is rich and saturated with coffee, arrack, orange, ripe pineapple and peach puree. The palate is medium-bodied, powerful, somewhat hot and rich with sandy roughness, good acidity and very good balance. A wine with a substantial volume that manages to maintain its' equilibrium. Price: € 13.
Altenbourg is a vineyard located just above the village Kientzheim, on a gentle slope with relatively heavy soil, rich in limestone. The terroir is exposed to sun, but still the soil is quite heavy and the winds are moderate. This combination of soil and micro climate allows Gewurztraminer to mature evenly and slowly, maintaining its' acidity. In addition noble rot often develops which concentrates the aroma and the flavor even more. This may be the greatest terroir for the signature grape variety of Alsace.
2005 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg from Domaine Weinbach in Kaysersberg is deep golden yellow. The aroma is sublime, yet powerful, offering ginger, coffée, pineapple, rose petals, lemon and dill. The taste is sweet but perfectly balanced, with superb acidity, velvety texture and an aftertaste that lasts for ages. A great wine from a truly great producer. Price: €30.
Pinot Gris can be wonderful on the table. With its rich, full-bodied flavor and complex aroma the grape manages to match and balance the most kinds of food. But this requires that the wine has good acidity, moderate sweetness and is not too high in alcohol content. A producer who always manages to create gastronomic Pinot Gris is Kientzler, which houses just outside Ribeauvillé. But on the other hand, Kientzler succeed with just about everything. Always.
2011 Pinot Gris from Kientzler in Ribeauvillé have a pretty pale yellow color. The scent is youthful and fresh with hints of fresh apricots, orange, oregano and a touch of honey. The palate is medium bodied with a bit coarse mouthfeel, high but not aggressive acids and wonderfully ripe fruit that is long in the finish. So good! Price: € 9.
Bruno Sorg introduced me to the notion of terroir in 2003, an episode that fueled my interest for Alsace. Over the years, I have shared more bottles with this wonderful, friendly and utterly skilled man than with any other vigneron in Alsace. But in mid-October 2013 Bruno Sorg left this world. He will be missed by many that have returned to his courtyard in Eguisheim for the wines that he, and since several years his son François, has offered lovers of Alsace wines.
2003 Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg from Bruno Sorg in Eguisheim is medium golden yellow with a green tint. The aroma is expressive, pure and sweet with wild flowers, peach, honey dew, pineapple, coffee beans and a whiff of petrol. The taste is fresh, vital and quite dry with a sense of chalky minerality in the perfectly balanced finish. A serious and charming wine from a very difficult vintage. Price (current vintage): €13.50
Vintage 2012 gave many good wines. The wines are not as powerful as in 2009 and 2011, not as tart as in 2010. Instead, it's a classic vintage, without too much alcohol and with good balance. "Gastronomic Wines" is a good label, to the extent you need any. But the vintage is a bit uneven, and you should be especially careful when choosing your Gewurztraminer. Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are consistently successful and 2012 Riesling from the best vineyards can be trusted.
2012 Riesling Vielles Vignes from Frédéric Engel in Riquewihr has a beautiful straw yellow color. The scent is very fresh with classic tones of yellow apples, honey and grapefruit. The palate is medium-bodied and dry, with a nice balance between the youthful fruit and clean acidity. The aftertaste has a typical and marked note of grapefruit peel. A reprsentative, well-made an cheap wine. Price € 6.90.
The warmer climate has changed the aim for the wine producers of Alsace. Until the 1980s, the harvest began in mid-October and they had great difficulty in reaching sufficient maturity. Nowadays the harvest begins in mid-September and there is a high risk that the grapes already have amassed large amounts of sugar and lost the acid prematurely, with a loss of elegance as a result. But the producers who restrict the vigour of the vines through minimal supply of compost, and maybe some biodynamic preparations, force the vines to put energy on survival rather than boosting the sugar content of the grapes.2011 Pinot Gris Réserve from Dirler-Cadé in Bergholtz has medium yellow color with reddish color tones. The nose is restrained with notes of fresh (not dried) apricots, a little pineapple and herbs. The palate is medium-bodied, fresh and elegant with a pleasant somewhat auster mouthfeel, and a harmonious an pure aftertaste. Price: € 9.20.
It is a pity that many tourists visiting frowne upon Sylvaner. Without even having tasted the wine, let alone enjoyed Sylvaner of high standards from an excellent producer. Unfortunately, the supply of such Sylvaner small because most are sold locally as "the daily bread". But when wine is created from ancient vines of a skilled, meticulous and passionate producer, then everything falls into place.
2011 Sylvaner from Laurent Barth in Bennwihr has straw yellow color. The aroma is clean, oily and mixed with lily of the valley, wax, apricot, butter and a splash vanilla. The palate is full bodied with ripe, dense fruit, lovely acidity and an elegant minerality in the delightful aftertaste. Masterfully done. Almost for free. Price € 6.50.
The firm Schoffit is located in the east of Colmar, in a residential area where there used to be greenhouses. From here, the family Schoffit runs one of Alsace domains that have the most dispersed set of vineyards. Of the company's three vineyards Grand Cru Rangen is in the far south of Alsace, Grand Cru Sommerberg is in Niedermorschwihr, while lieu-dit Harth is squeezed between roundabouts, industries and modern buildings in Colmar's outskirts.
2002 Riesling Grand Cru ranking from Schoffit in Colmar is deep golden yellow. The fragrance is explosive and expressive with exotic fruits, some rubber, smoke, mineral, roasted nuts and honey. The flavor is rich and deep, fresh and clean with beautiful youthful acid, lots of juicy fruit, a touch of tannins and an outstanding long finish. A perfectly mature wine of highest class. It is a priviligium to drink wines like these! Price: € 32.
It is always exciting to return to wines that one appreciated a few years earlier. But the questions are many: is it as good as I thought, did I misjudge the quality, has the wine survived cellaring? In Alsace, one can expect that wines from quality producers have become even better than you remember them. And Emile Herzog is undoubtedly a quality producer, although the microscopic firm run by an elderly lady who makes her wines in the basement. Fascinating, and very different from mega domains that produces world wines with no character.
2007 Riesling Langgass from Emile Herzog in Turkheim offers aromas of inripe pears, lemon, lilac and warm soil. The palate is silky but dry, medium bodied and nicely balanced with lovely acidity and a slightly spicy finish. Exciting wine from a very flat vineyard between Turkheim and Winzenheim, consisting of loess on an aluvial deposit. Price (2013): € 7.80.
Munster Valley is not only the home of the famous Munster cheese. Here the Schoenheitz family, basically the only winemaker in the valley, makes superb wines from their vineyards Holder, Linsenberg and - not least - Herrenreben. The vineyard strains from the Middle Ages and belonged to the clan Ribeaupierre who then ruled much of Alsace. During World War II the village Wihr-au-val was burned to the ground by the Wehrmacht as an action of retaliation. Since then the Schoenheitz family has spent decades to recreate the vineyards with their bare hands.
2008 Riesling Herrenreben from Schoenheitz in Wihr-au-val has a complex, classical fragrance with citrus, petrol, honey, white flowers and a slight note of herbs. The flavor is medium-bodied, lively, crisp and focused with ripe fruit, high and vibrant acids and a marked saltiness in the finish. A wine that shows that Henri Schoenheitz is a masterful winemaker. Price: € 9.70.
The villages of Saint-Hippolyte and Rodern are known for Pinot Noir. The vines grow on granite slopes above the villages where the land is unusually clayey to rest on granite. The warm earth and the exposure maks the grapes ripen perfectly. Not least in Rodern, several small producers make serious Pinot Noir ranging from rosé to powerful, oak aged reds. And every year in the month of July a Fêtes du Pinot Noir is held, a giant festival is held where wine flows, tartes flamées are eaten by the thousands and a Reine du Pinot Noir is elected.
2011 Rouge de Saint-Hippolyte from Cave de Ribeauvillé has a well pigmented cherry red color. The fragrance is young and fruity with ripe cherries, plums, cranberries and a touch of dill. The flavor is barely medium-bodied with fine acidity, good volume of ripe fruit and just the right amount of tannins. A good wine from a big producer that rarely delivers anything interesting. Price: € 9.50.
Among wine growers in Alsace, the opinion prevails that Swedish customers ask for dry wines. The focus immediately on the dry, high level Rieslings and couldn't care less about Pinot Gris and even less about Gewurztraminer. But when they leave the cellar, they have been seduced by lush opulence of off-dry wines. At Agapé, run by the dynamic and utterly skilled Vincent Sipp, the entire spectrum of wines tastes great. This style of this masterful winemaker rests on the dry side, and he manages to get the best out of his three Grands Crus: Osterberg, Rosacker and the fabulous Schoenenbourg.
2010 Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg from Agapé in Riquewihr offers a complex, but yet undeveloped, nose with forest honey, grapefruit, passion fruit, roasted walnuts and some spicy botrytis. The taste is medium bodied with grapefruit zest, rich fruit, superb acidity and a long, seductive finish. Impressive! Price: €16,50
It is against all common conception and conventions to store Muscat wines, as the hallmarks of the variety are fruitiness, freshness and elegance. Only the excellent examples from the most skilled producers and the best terroirs will gain in quality with cellaring. Jean-Louis and Fabienne Mann maintains a low profile with a simple tasting romm (a hut) in a residential area in the north of Eguisheim. Here bone dry wines with racy acidity, finesse and purity are made. A virtually unknown producer that deserves much more attention.
2005 Muscat Altengarten by Jean-Louis et Fabienne Mann in Eguisheim is light straw yellow. The aroma is spicy and complex with hints of wet earth, white pepper and candied lemon. The taste offers high but ripe acidity, silky fruit and a long finish with lovely salinity. At its' peak after 8 years! Price: € 12.
Dorfburg is lieu-dit that is located equidistant from Ingersheim, Katzenthal, Turkheim and Niedermorschwihr. The bedrock the Jurassic and contains round, quite soft particles built up of concentric layers of limestone. It is called oolitic - egg-shaped - limestone. The rock weathers to a calcareous but not heavy clay. It is perfect terroir for Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer that become fresh, firm and full.
2007 Pinot Gris Dorfburg from Meyer-Fonné in Katzenthal is bright yellow. The fragrance is developed and absolutely clean with notes of dark chocolate, figs, oranges and toasted almonds. The palate is dense yet light, but a great acidity that supports the discrete residual sweetness and creates lovely balance and harmony. You never get enough of the wines from Meyer-Fonné! Price: € 12.50.
When the different Grands Crus of Alsace where delimited, one criterion was that they should be pretty homogeneous in a geological sense. Every Grand Cru is supposed to have a defined and distinctive character. Maybe that was why Kaefferkopf was recognized as a Grand Cru as late as 2006, a full 16 years after the previous group of vineyards were elevated. Undoubtably, Kaefferkopf is complex, with three different parts and highly variable geology and microclimate.
2009 Riesling Grand Cru Kaefferkopf from Meyer Fonné in Katzenthal is deep yellow. The scent is saturated and fresh with hints of wet stones, smoked pork, orange flowers and light honey tones. The taste is medium-bodied, rich and complex with fantastic acidity and a sandy rough feel in the extremely long finish. A really good and masterful wine from one of the best producers in Alsace. Price: €15.
That the more similar wines you drink, the more different they appear. There is surely thousands of Alsace Riesling made each year that are dry and fresh with aromas of citrus and green apple on the nose. But no one is ever identical. It's like listening to classical music. The score is the same, the instrumentation identical but there is an artistic expression that creates a prtofound variation. It is not primarily a question of better or worse, but different qualities.
2010 Riesling Westweingarten from Anstotz in Balbronn in northern Alsace is pale yellow. The scent is fresh, youtful and clean with notes of wet stones, green apple and a touch of honey. The taste is light, almost elusive, and behind the acidic attack is a clean and lovely fruit, offering timeless elegance and versatility. An honest wine that exudes joie de vivre. Price: € 8.
Some of us do not appreciate high levels of alcohol in wines. Hence, we look for wines from sensible producers that have terroirs on cold, calcareous soils with great exposition. One such terroir is Grand Cru Engelberg in the north, 20 km due west of Strasbourg. Here producers such as Heckmann, Pfister, Bechtold, Schmitt and Loew produce wines with a low-key and food-friendly balance, freshness and complexity.
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Engelberg by Maurice Heckmann in Dahlenheim is deep yellow. The aroma is developed and generous with lemon, mango, toast, white raisins and the pleasant notes of petrol that one often finds in this wine. The taste is medium bodied and dry with succulent fruit and a superior, zesty and mineral adicity that adds great qualities to this honest wine. Price: €9.
There are producers who manage to make wines that can be approached on an undemanding casual way, but still has a depth and complexity that so that each time you put your nose to the glass, or lip to rim, you discover something new. Agathe Bursine is such a producer. All wines from her extremely well-run small property are fresh, clean and fruity. Prices are very moderate, in fact too low according to all objective standards.
2011 Riesling Dirstelberg from Agathe Bursin in Westhalten has aromas of passion fruit fruit, lemons, ripe green apples and wet stones. The taste is medium bodied and harmonious with fresh acidity, lots of juicy fruit, a balance on the dry side and a wonderfully tight minerality that stays long in the mouth. This is how Riesling should taste! Price: €8.60.
Sparkling wine made with the methode champenoise ferments a second time in the bottle, lying stacked "sur lattes". During the period sur lattes, carbon dioxide is formed and the complexity develops as dead yeast is degraded by means of autolysis. This sparkling wine has spent more than six years sur lattes in a magnum bottle before being degorged, which is on level with the most ambitious vintage champagnes. And it shows!
2005 Crémant from Bruno Sorg in Eguisheim has a bright yellow color with a green tint. The fragrance has everything you could want: toasted sourdough bread, slightly over-ripe apples, dark chocolate, citrus and a little brewer's yeast. The taste is fresh, clean, complex and elegant with lovely juicy fruit that stands up against the grippy acids. The finish is long, mineral and harmonious. A crémant far, far beyond the ordinary. Price: €18 for a magnum.
Hunawihr is a small village with just two streets. But there are some producers you absolutely can not miss: Mader (with its dry rich style), Sipp-Mack (on the way back after the painful split in the Sipp-Mack and Agapé), the cooperative (which never makes you disappointed) and the discrete but absolutely fabulous Mittnacht Frères. The firm is located on the main street, opposite François Schwach and David Ermel, and is run by cousins Marc and Christophe. Here are all the wines very, very high quality.
2004 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Osterberg from Mittnacht Frères in Hunawhir is golden yellow. The nose is fresh and tight with hints of ginger, peach, smoke, grapefruit and wet stone. The taste is complex with creamy fruit, firm acids and a honey-like sweetness that leads into a long, balanced finish. Yezzz! Price: 18 €.
Grand Cru Osterberg provides some of Alsace freshest wines, regardless of grape. Often you'll find firm acids of lime and lemon in the Rieslings, and even Gewurztraminer from Osterberg is tight and elegant despite much residual sugar. The character comes because Osterberg slopes slightly to the east rather than to the south, while the heavy and calcareous marl soils keep protects the acids during the ripening process.
2007 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Osterberg from Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé is green shimmering in golden yellow. The scent is fresh and it has exciting aromas of cured ham, lavender, honey and grated ginger. The taste is very mellow with a velvety mouth feel, and tight and almost harsh acid that provide energy to balance a natural sweetness. The aftertaste has a lot of salinity, a trait that will become more and more prominent with age. Price: 20 €.
2004 Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Vieilles Vignes, Roland Schmitt It's fascinating when wines, with age, attain the aroma and flavor of a completely different type of wine from a completely different place. This Riesling can easily be mistaken for a great Chablis Grand Cru. The combination of minerality, acidity and focus reminds me of the sheer power of the great vineyards Les Clos and Bougros. But maybe this is logical since is the soil of Altenberg de Bergbieten is rich, full of lime (and some gypsum) and barely warm enough.
2004 Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Vieilles Vignes from Roland Schmitt is golden yellow. The aroma is overflowing of acacia, orange flowers, wet flint and one hint of green bananas. The taste is dry, powerful, rich and complex with a dominant minerality, grippy acids and an infinite and clear aftertaste. Dazzling. Surprising! Price (as of 2012): € 14.
Actually, it is inconceivable that they have managed to build a golf course in the hills of Alsace. It lies in the valley that extends to the southwest from Ammerschwihr. At the height of the first tee, but on the opposite side of the valley lies the protected, magnificent vineyard Katzenstegel. Here the bedrock is composed of granite, covered by a thin layer of sun-baked sand.
2010 Riesling Clos des Chats from Réne Simonis in Ammershwihr is deep yellow. The scent is, despite the vintage, very generous with pineapple, passion fruit, orange and lilac. The taste is powerful and bursting, full of delightfully chewy fruit, framed by good acids, while the finish is so clean. Bottled sunshine. Price: € 10.50.
The main base for crémant is Pinot Blanc, followed by Auxerrois. This explains why a full 21% of the Alsace vineyards are cultivated with these two grapes. However, increasingly important are Chardonnay, which adds racy acids and toasty finesse, as well as Pinot Noir. Just as in Champagne, Pinot Noir based sparklings are a bit rich more fruity and a bit fuller.
Crémant Blanc de Noir from Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé is deep coloured with a redish tint. The aroma is very fruity, dominated by cherries. On the palate, this crémant is very full, yet nice and dry with lingering acidity and a trace of tannins in the aftertaste, perhaps the result of a moment of maceration? A real mouthful! Price: € 11.
Seppi Landmann is a producer with a passion for wine and wine as a carrier of culture. Not only does he have plantings of Muscat on his best terroir, for the harvest in the weekends he invites friends, auto workers from Toulouse, Swedish wine tourists and others who want to spend a pleasant but tiring day on the steep and sunny slopes of Zinnkoepflé. For lunch soup, rich stories and laughter are served.
2009 Muscat Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé from Seppi Landmann in Soulzmatt has a bright golden yellow color. The aroma is rich and composed of orange, melon, almond and white flowers. The flavor is wonderfully elegant, complex and dry with layers of fruit and lively acids in a featherweight body. A wine full of character that illustrates Seppis great skill and delicate touch. Price: € 12 (au primeur).
In 2066 we will be able to drink the 2007 vintage at the same age as we now drink the 1953. Unfortunately, there is only one single bottle left of the 1953 Riesling Jubilée Hugel. The third last was emptied in the company of Serge Dubs, the world's best sommelier. The second last of this stunning wine was drunk by the wine club Munskänkarna in Lund, Sweden in September 2012 at a tasting of old Hugel wines in the presence of Etienne Hugel. Thank you Etienne, thank you Hugel & Fils for what you do for Alsace and the regions' amazing, age-worthy wines!
2007 Riesling Jubilée Hugel from Hugel & Fils in Riquewihr is golden yellow with a youthful, greenish tint. On the nose it is dense with acacia, grapefruit, yellow apples, chocolate, bisquits and a hint bicycle tube. The taste is medium bodied, velvety and harmonious with sun-ripe, mature fruit and an acidity that is discrete at first but then evolves on the palate to frame a long and very promising aftertaste. Drink now and during the next half a century to come. Price (2012): €26.
The entire wine industry in Alsace is built around wines with up-front and easily recognizable grape character. Consequently, Alsace is the only region in France where you can put the grape on the label. However, Marcel Deiss enhances stresses the terroir, and most of their wines are sold with only vineyard designation. Pinot d'Alsace is an exception, although it is impossible to be sure which grapes the wine is made from. My tip: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir in descending order.
2010 Pinot d'Alsace from Marcel Deiss Bergheim is deep yellow. The scent is very much "pinot", if you close your eyes reminiscent of a powerful Champagne with chocolate, lemon and distinct features of the storage sur lies fines . The taste is broad and complex with harmonious fruit salad character and sounding, solid acids and premiere balance. An extremely well crafted wine, sold Sweden for SEK159! Price: € 12.
Sometimes, when visiting wineries, you say things that makes you very popular. During a visit to the Boxler family I praised the beautiful and original label on the firms' crémant. It turned out to be a child's drawing, made by their son Louis at age six. It was their own idea to divide the drawing into separate fields, and add one which is metallic copper colored in the same tone as the foil cap on top of the cork. Neat!
Crémant from Albert Boxler in Niedermorschwihr is from vintage 2008. The aroma is wonderfully fresh with apples, lime, minerals and a hint of sourdough bread. The flavor contains both soft, velvety fruit and crisp, focused acids that form a harmonious whole. The mousse is fine and lifts the wine to great heights. Good, usable and ridiculously cheap. Price: € 9.50.
A few decades ago growers were struggling to get enough sugar in the grapes. Several factors contribute to the facts that the must has higher sugar content today. The climate is warmer, yields are lower and consumers will not accept wine from unripe grapes with green character. For Gewurztraminer this is often a problem. Many Gewurztraminers are considerably sweet, almost sticky, when bottled. But with only 3-4 years of cellaring the sugar integrates and the wine exhibit elegance and purity.
2009 Gewurztraminer Nature'S from Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé has a restrained nose, with milk chocolate, orange, violet and pears. The flavor is rich and strikingly elegant, with supple fruit, a distinct but fully integrated sweetness and a minerality that gives the wine character and length. Price: € 10.
Jean-Pierre Frick was one of the first in France with that, already in the 1980s, applied biodynamic methods and to reject all forms of sugar addition (chaptalisation), even in its sparkling crémant. Today he is a pioneer in making wine without the addition of sulfur, even before bottling. But most importantly – his wines are fabulous! Rich, fresh and personal.
2007 Pinot Blanc Cuvée Précieuse from Pierre Frick in Pfaffenheim has a golden color. The aroma is massive, with hints of figs, nuts and butter that bear witness of maturity, but also an exotic element of Mediterranean spices. The taste has a large volume with a velvety soft mouthfeel, racy acids and some minerality to balance the residual sugar (6 grams per liter). A wine that can handle even the richest dishes! Price: € 8.80.
Grand Cru Froehn covers some 14 hectares, and with an average yield of 50 hectoliters per hectare, it should - given that a sizable portion of wine from a Grand Cru is not sold as Grand Cru - be made about 60 000 bottles of Grand Cru Froehn. Who makes them? There are only six Vignerons Independants that make Grand Cru Froehn, as well as two cooperativ, Beblenheim and Hunawihr. Where do they go? No, what Froehn needs are more producers that, just as Becker, emphasize and develop this terroir.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Froehn from Becker in Zellenberg has an expressive and sweet smell that includes pineapple, milk chocolate and raspberries. The taste is medium bodied and very dry with good intensity, acids leaning towards lemon and a fairly long finish. Very sympathetic! Price: € 12.80.
Léon Beyer has long nourished the image as the winehouse that makes the driest of all dry wines in Alsace. Thus, it was feared that the firm's basis Rieslingfrom a year of extremely high acid levels would be backward and sour. However, concern is not justified. This shows that 1) Beyer have skilled providers of grapes, 2) that not even Beyer allows the dryness go to extremes and that 3) Léon Beyer is a producer you can trust.
2010 Riesling from Léon Beyer in Eguisheim has a generous aroma of oyster shells, cooked apples, ripe lime and green herbs. The taste is quite light, but the charming and youthful fills the mouth well while the acids ase fresh and clean and just a hint malic. A very positive acquaintance! Price: €11.50.
There is a magician in Niedermorschwihr. His name is Jean Boxler, the grandson of Albert, who founded the firm. Jean Boxler wielding his wand - baguette in French - of Grand Cru Sommerberg which rises with a slope of 45 degrees near the village, like the Grand Cru Brand. Fire is an amphitheater that slopes down to Colmar. All wines, regardless of grape variety or quality level, is top class in its category.
2009 Riesling Grand Cru Sommerberg Jeunes Vignes from Albert Boxler is glistening golden yellow. The aroma is rich and ripe with apple pie and a hint of botrytis (?) which gives complexity (ethyl acetate). The taste is medium bodied, fresh and rich with good acidity, nice minerality and a hint of heat, so typical of the vintage. The finish is long and vibrant. A wine that is a bit more accessible than the firm's flagships "D", "E" and "K". Price: €17.
When La Revue du Vin de France was to select French Winemaker of the Year 2011 the choice fell upon in Wettolsheim. Why? Was it because of their legendary Pinot Noirs? The classic Riesling Grands Crus from Schlossberg, Furstentum and Hengst? Or because every wine of the estate, despite its' pedigree, is on the top level in a region where the competition becomes stiffer for every year.
2010 Pinot Blanc Auxerrois from Albert Mann turned out to be the right choice at the cool restaurant Le Coupil i Ribeauvillé, a perfect match for tapas and a tartine with mozzarella, tomato and ruccula. The aroma is a sofisticated bowl of strawberry, melon, pineapple, orange and almonds. The taste has great tension, is fresh and elegant and displays the versatility of the grape in a perfect manner. Not a great wine but really, really good. Price: € 10.
France has many acclaimed wines, and just too many who do not get the appreciation they deserve. This overlooked category includes many frech and mineral Muscadet, numerous Banyuls that is an excellent substitute for port wine, brilliant white Burgundies from Saint Aubin, healthy red Cabernet Franc wines from the Loire, and - not least - Sylvaner from Alsace.
2007 Sylvaner Cuvée "Z", Eric Rominger in Westhalten has grown in Grand Cru "Zinnkoeplé. The scent is developed, toasty and mixed with melon, coriander seed and smoke. The taste is big and powerful, full of energy and with a lovely balance between the sturdy acids and the dense, slightly oily aftertaste that is completely dry. Just what a Sylvaner should be. Price: € 11.
Seppi Landmann has for years welcomed pickers from all corners of the earth to participate in the harvest of grapes from Zinnkoepflé, Bollenberg and the beautiful valley Vallée Noble. His late harvested vendanges tardives and sélecton de grains nobles have been legendary in character, depth and purity. But the years have passed and Seppi has now, in the absence of natural heirs, formed an alliance with Rieflé Rouffach to secure continuity.
2007 Pinot Gris Vallée Noble from Seppi Landmann in Soultzmatt has a deep yellow color. The scent offers fresh apricots, spices, orange peel, ripe pears and flowers. The medium bodied taste has a distinct but integrated sweetness, moderate acidity and slight bitterness in the pleasing aftertaste. Price: € 9 (Primeur)
When local winebloggers recently met, I had the pleasure to drink Georgian wine fermented in a qwewri . A qwewri is a vessel of clay that is dug into the ground and filled with grapes which are then fermented into a completely natural wine, full of vitality and character. The wines become extremely powerful with a complex taste loaded with tannins. A Pinot Noir from Alsace represents a totally different style…
2007 Pinot Noir Cuvée Mathieu from Martin Schaetzel Ammerschwihr signals PN already with its color. The aroma is developed, fresh and clean with cherries, carrots, vanilla and some rubber. In the mouth the wine offers a silky texture, complex and slightly caramel-like fruit and ripe tannins that offers a good structure. Not great, not spectacular, but a really well crafted and useful wine that developed further during a full six hours in a glass. Price (current vintage is 2009): € 11.50.
One likes when the flavor of a wine matches the aromas. As in a good Chablis, where the smoky aroma of flint and herbs, seamlessly are captured by a taste that is clean, hard, uncompromising and ... absolutely gorgeous. But Alsace offers a lot more surprises, where aromas and flavors may seem to come from different worlds.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Brand from Stirn in Sigolsheim has huge but focused aromas of chocolate, honey, lilac, clementines and arrack. The taste, however, is tight, perfectly balanced with rich and silky fruit that expand into a firm and elegant minerality. A perfect illustration of how the vines on Brans receive sun and heat through the canopy, while the roots seek nourishment and survival deep in a fragile granite. Price: € 12.
When will Alsace Pinot Noir stand up against red Burgundy? Never, is a good answer because a good Echezeaux, Chambertin and Bonnes Mares is in a class by itself. Regardless of reference. But also since reds from Pfalz and Ahr quite often puts Alsace in place. Fortunately, there are exceptions, and several of them are to be found in the sector Rouffach, Westhalten and Soultzmatt. A little warmer, a little more iron, a little harsher but mostly - abundance of determination, passion and skill.
2008 Pinot Noir from Agathe Bursin in Westhalten has carmine red color. The nose is well defined with currants, black cherries, cooked carrots and wonderfully integrated vanilla. The taste is initially acidic, but opens up in the glass and presents its' silky fruit, supple acidity and a tight finish with no trace of stalkiness. Price: € 14.
A wine consists of equal part chemistry and emotions. Some wines make our eyes water, by admiration and by the privilege of getting to drink them. A great wine that approaches its' 20 anniversary attains many similarities with a great piece of art or a classic piece of music: the convey an impression of both a lot of energy and of eternal life.
1995 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst from Josmeyer i Wintzenhem is golden and crystal clear. The aroma is expressive but not vulgar and offers roses, ginger, nuts, chocolate and a hint of volatiles as signs of maturity. The wines coats the mouth, and the pure and complex taste is harmonious with fresh acidity, layers of elegant fruit, fully integrated sweetness and a stunning minerality that lingers on forever in the dryish aftertaste. Magic! Price: €23 (year 2006).
Léon Beyer makes super-dry wines that are almost undrinkable in its first 4-5 years. But the domaine has the good taste to wait to release the wines until the young wine has filled out and gained substance and character. The ugly duckling, sort of.
2000 Gewurztraminer Comte d'Eguisheim from Léon Beyer has grown on Grand Cru Eichberg and has a golden yellow color. The aroma is saturated with ginger, cloves, figs, quince marmalade, expensive vanilla and candied oranges. The taste is almost completely dry, but layers of fruit unfold as a peacock tail in the mouth, offering one sensation after the other. The finish is long, fresh and subtle with a nice minerality that lingers on forever. A magical wine, a privilege to drink it. Price: € 30.
Sylvaner is a grape that unfortunately lacks clear markers. And today it is not enough to have qualities to sell. To do so consumers must recognize the grape variety 99 times out of 100. Therefore, Alsace Sylvaner shows a lot of self-confidence simply by being itself. Blunt, strong and good.
2005 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes from Paul Blanck in Kientzheim has a slightly spicy aroma of bay leaves and coriander and a fruity character of apricot and peach. The taste is firm yet light and elegant, with generous acidity and good length. Ideal for food, no matter what kind. Price: € 10.
Although there are exceptions, there are two basic conditions to make really good Crémant d'Alsace: Chardonnay and long storage sur lattes . Chardonnay makes the wine crisp and elegant. Sur lattes is the period when the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, when the mousse is formed and dead yeast is broken down so that the wine gets its' complexity. In Alsace, the wine should pas at least nine months sur lattes which is way too short.
Crémant from Charles Baur in Eguisheim spends 36 months sur lattes and has an aroma of toasted bread, citrus, ripe apple and cola beans. The taste is balanced with a fine structure, and the eight grams of residual sugar is easily supported by the fresh acidity. Price: € 9.
Odile is an important name in Alsace since Sainte Odile is the patron saint of Alsace. She was born blind in 662 A.D., as the daughter of her cruel father Etichon, Duke of Alsace. During her time on earth she managed to bring back her brother from the dead, regain her own sight through prayers and make her father build a monastery in Hohwald close to Andlau, southwest of Strasbourg. Odile was canonized 1807.
2007 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2007 by Odile Weber in Eguisheim offers a fresh nose with lilac, minerals, ripe stone fruits and honey. The taste is medium bodied and elegant with savoury fruit, supported by high acidity and a minerality typical of the terroir. Really good! Price: € 12.
Clos Windsbuhl is located relatively high, at 300-350 m and has a cool microclimate. The bloom is usually two weeks later than, say, Grand Cru Brand in Colmar. This year, however, spring came early and the grapes were allowed sit a long as 120 days on the viens. Perhaps it is the explanation for wine's amazing complexity.
2007 Riesling Clos Windsbuhl from Zind-Humbrecht in Turckheim has golden yellow, dense color. The nose is tight and clean with flint, coriander, dates and chocolate. The taste is very dry, crisp with a steel-like, clean acidity and plenty of minerality and grapefruit peel in the long finish. 13.1% alcohol, a mere 1.4 grams of residual sugar per liter. Price: € 60.
Take a skilful producer, one of the most reliable years in memory, the worlds' greatest variety, a good vineyard and you can't go wrong. Although Saering does not have the punch of its' neighbors Kessler and Spiegel, the accessible style makes this wine a real charmer.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Saering from Schlumberger in Geubwiller is medium yellow. It has a typical and attractive grape aroma of rubber, lemon peel and fried apple pie. The taste is medium-bodied with a slightly agressive acidity, smooth and attractive fruit and apples in the aftertaste. Price: €18.
In a sense it is a tragedy that most Alsace wines from 2008 will be comsumed way to early.This vintage gave wines with high levels of noble acidity - tartric acid - as well as excellent aromatic complexity and moderate sugar levels. There is only one advice to give - stock up!
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Spiegel from Dirler-Cadé is medium golden yellow. The aroma is huge with mano, honey, pineapple, apple sauce and a whiff of rubber. The taste is like an iron fist, loaded with layers of focused fruit and sandy structure of acidity. No perception of sugar whatsoever. Those who have patience will be richly rewarded. Price: €18.
It is easy to make the false assumption that a terroir in Alsace needs to have an ancient history to produce good wines. However, only few lieux-dits formed after the last glaciation have a strong reputation. These are Herrenweg (notable farmed by Zind-Humbrecht), Clos des Capucins (the vineyard surrounding domaine Weinbach) and Steinacker (of Ribeauvillé). The wines from these soils offer may not be the most complex, but are full of pure pleasure.
2008 Riesling Steinacker from Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé is medium golden yellow. It has a already a surprisingly developed, rich aroma with petrol, honey, oranges and yellow apples. The taste is medium-bodied with plenty of fruit, a fresh and clean acidity and a certain astringency of grapefruit peel in the finish. A charmer with many qualities. Price: €10.
Year after year, François Sorg, son of Bruno, puts out a range of pure, complex, lovely wines that are great illustrations of their terroir. The top-range Rieslings are made from Grand Cru Florimont in Ingersheim and Grand Cru Pfersigberg in Eguisheim. While the former defines purity and elegance, the latter defines complexity and minerality. However, they share the two most important features of any wine of quality - personality and balance.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg from Bruno Sorg in Eguisheim offers complex, superb and deep aromas of grapefruit, rubber, coffee, ripe exotic fruits and - more importantly - the soils of Eguisheim just after rain. The taste has a trace of bitterness, loads of mature fruit and mouthwatering acidity, but most of all the structure and minerality are first class. A Riesling just like I want it. Price: €11.
Along with Val d'Agly in Roussillon, Alsace has the most complex geology in the whole of France and thus in the world. The youngest soils are formed by sand, gravel and stone were deposited from running meltwater that formed deep river beds by the end of the last glaciation 10 000 years ago. Apart from the sheer granite, the oldest soils consist of shale that is approximately 450 million years old! And no other soil type gives such an amazing combination of ripeness, texture, freshness, elegance and finesse that shale!2008 Pinot Blanc Saint-André from Rémy Gresser in Andlau has an amazingly complex nose, with orange, bay leaves, anise, smoke and ripe butter-pear. The taste is medium bodied, silky and elegant with soothing fruit that is in perfect harmony with a racy, good acidity that is not the least aggressive. Price: € 7
Furstentum is a heterogeneous Grand Cru located high above the village Kientzheim due west of Colmar. Although the vineyard is located in due south, Furstentum has an ideal microclimate. Here, the two families who constitute the firm Albert Mann, Maurice and Jacky Barthelme with wives, make biodynamic Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer of remarkable class and quality. Furthermore, all products, from the popular "Edelzwicker" Senteurs des Vignes to the Grand Cru wines from Pfersigberg, Hengst, Schlossberg, Steingrubler and Furstentum are crafted with incredible skill and typical of their terroir.
2009 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Furstentum from Albert Mann in Wettolsheim has a golden, brilliant color. The aroma is wonderfully fresh with apricot, smoke and toffee. The taste is rich and complex with a velvety elegance and very good structure, whereas the fresh acid easily carries the sweetness and adds to the eternal aftertaste. Price: € 20
There are many wine lovers who turn away from "modern" alcohol-fueled, overly extracted wines that go directly from the youthful austerity to over-the-hill. There is a new ideal emerging of elegance and complexity where the terroir is allowed to shine through. It is on this segment that Pinot Noir from Alsace has a, increasingly promising, future.
2008 Pinot Noir from Clément Lissner in Wolxheim has a bright cherry red color. The aroma is smooth with vanilla, tar, black cherry, chocolate and licorice. The taste is medium bodied, silky and elegant with ripe fruit that has wonderful fresh acidity, a distinctive minerality and a light, elegant finish, with subtle and mature tannins and good length. A harmonious wine that probably developed during 10 years. I wish I had more bottles. € 9.
Organic wines is on march across France, especially in Alsace. Those who work organically, without using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, can be certified in accordance with AB, Agriculture Biologique, by Ecocert. Those who also works biodynamically may be certified as Demeter or Biodyvin. Dirler-Cadé makes superb wines from the Grands Crus Spiegel, Saering, Kessler and Kitterlé and is certified in accordance with AB and Biodyvin.
2005 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Spiegel from Dirler-Cadé in Bergholtz has a complex aroma of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, white raisins, red apples and ripe stone fruits. The taste is just over medium bodied with a caressing sweetness that is perfectly balanced by the ample acidity, and a superb length with complex fruit intermingled with a refreshing minerality. Price: €20.
The family business Hugel making enormous efforts for the benefit of Alsace. The importance simply can not be over-rated. Etienne Hugel, who personalizes the Hugel spirit world-wide, markets Alsace wines worldwide, especially in Asia. The quality of all of Hugels' wines is high and increasingly better. The product line "Tradition" is made from grapes from their vineyards and are always fine wines with character and depth. The price is also very reasonable in relation to the high quality.
2008 Pinot Gris Tradition from Hugel in Riquewihr offers a fresh, smokey aroma with ripe apricot, almonds and melons. Relatively dry, supple taste with a very fine mid-palate and absolutely clean finish. A superb effort with a perfect definition. The 2008 vintage, 1/3 of the wine went through malo-lactic. Price: €12.60
When you visit a producer you can normally sample the wines from good glasses under competent guidance. Sometimes, however, the glasses are miserable, and the wines may even be poured uninspiredly by an intern that knows little about wines (do not misunderstand me, there are very skilled and dedicated young trainees). At the, in all other respects, excellent Emil Beyer, one of four brilliant producers in Eguisheim, the conditions are unfortunately such that you must strive to the utmost to be objective and make the brilliant wines justice.
2010 Riesling Tradition from Emile Beyer in Eguisheim has young but wonderfully fresh aromas of pear and lime. The taste is powerful, tight and relatively rich with a lovely clean and long finish with plenty of grapefruit. An excellent Riesling that reveal the greatness of the vintage and winemaker Christian Beyers' great skill. Price: € 6.70.
Alsace wines of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer need 5-7 years of storage before they enter the maturation phase, which lasts at least 20 years, and often up to 50 years. When white wines from New World, and sadly, even many expensive Burgundy from the 1990s and later, fall into pieces even "simple" Alsace wines just keep getting better with age.2005 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Spiegel from Dirler-Cadé in Bergholtz is reddish yellow, with a complex aroma of orange, vanilla, ginger and maturation tones of leather. The taste is homogeneous, fresh and spicy with a refreshing acidity and a sweetness that begins to mellow and never takes over. The wine has almost no bitterness and is therefore perfect for a not-too-mature Munster Gerome. Price: € 15.
Some years ago, I had the impression that some of of the wines of Felix Meyer had an over-ambitious character, with a somewhat cooked aroma. We will never find out if this was wrong or not, but now the wines of the domain are small gems of concentration, purity and liveliness. With access to great vineyards in Katzenthal and neighboring communes, this firm is certainly one of the best, overall, in all of Alsace.
2008 Pinot Gris Hinterburg from Meyer-Fonné in Katzenthal is deep yellow, and has an expressive aroma of acacia, honey, dried fruits and orange marmalade. In the mouth, t is viscous and full with a stunning acidity that balances a fair amount of sugar. With a hint of bitterness, the long finish retains a splendid freshness. Price: €12.
Almost all the Grands Crus of Alsace are oriented to the south-east or due south. Warmest of all is the Grand Cru Mambourg, which rises like a ski slope over Sigolsheim. Here the snow melts first, and the wines are most often rich, almost thick with a slightly burned and smoky character. Only the most skilled producers are able to master the power of Mambourg and bring out the finess and the minerality that the terroir offers.
2007 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mambourg by Jean-Marc and Frédéric Bernhard in Katzenthal is deep yellow. The aroma is extremely complex with plum, elderberry, dried fruits, flint, smoke, and a distinct toasty element as in a mature champagne. The taste is sumptuous and fruity with a hedonistic sweetness which is supported by wonderful acidity and a sandy minerality, supplemented by a slight bitterness in the finish. A bargain! Price: € 13.
Alsace Muscat is one of the wine world's most refreshing drink. The wines are clean and light with a frank and seductive charm. Like Rieslings, they express the terroir in full, and reach their maximum heights at the Grand Crus, in this case Grand Cru Schlossberg.
2008 Muscat from Laurent Barth in Bennwihr is medium yellow. The aroma is ripe and complex with elderberry, chocolate, toast, marmalade and spearmint. The taste is light, tight, complex and harmonious with very crisp acids, minerality, an almost sandy mouthfeel with loads of ripe strawberries in the finixh. A great wine revisited. Price: € 9.
Grand Cru Frankstein is of eight Grands Crus which lie on granite, the rock that the Vosges mountain range is made up of. Granite is hard and resistant to weathering, typically with thin, sandy soils that provide fast heating during the day, rapid cooling at night and that are well drained. Here, a skilled grower can choose to either create voluptuous, easy-going wines with character of fruit salad, or firm and crystalline wines in a more restrained style, without hints of botrytis. Florian Beck-Hartweg has, with great skill and dedication, chosen the latter course.
2007 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Frankstein by Florian Beck Hartweg in Dambach-la-Ville is medium yellow. The scent is fresh and includes ripe stone-fruit, smoke and cardamom. The taste is medium bodied with great structure and backbone as well as an integrated sweetness (17 grams/litre) that is balanced by ripe and racy acids. A wine made according to Agriculture biologique with a long life ahead of it. Price: € 10.60
Eguisheim is one of the, quite rightly, most visited wine villages of Alsace. With over 1/3 of its viticultural area on Grand Cru territory, and virtually all of the rest area on the slopes - Les Coteaux - Eguisheim offers an abundance of charming wine, full of substance and with great minerality. Among the very top domaines we have Paul Ginglinger which since 2000 has been run by one of the region's most respected young winemakers, Michel Ginglinger.
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Eichberg by Paul Ginglinger in Eguisheim is deep golden in color. After having been given som air, it exhibits explosive aromas of clementines, pineapple, sweet apricot, acacia honey and wet stones. The flavor is full bodied and intense with excellent structure and spine, while the long finish has a wonderful minerality and is perfectly balanced. I love it! Price: € 15.
Once, long ago, I thought Wineck-Schlossberg was a second-tier vinyard which at best gave crisp, fresh, but one-dimensional wines from its hard granite. Fish wines, in short. But Frédérick Bernhard has used his his wand to prove how wrong that assumption was. For each vintage his wines gain more and more of the substance, complexity and real terroir character.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg by Jean-Marc Bernhard in Katzenthal is yellow with a green stick. The nose is initially closed, but after an hour, wonderful aromas of apple, melon, pineapple and chalk burst out of the glass. The taste is medium bodied with excellent focus, high, vibrant acids and a complex and dense palate with grapefrukt in the long finish. Darn good. Price: € 12.
Herrenweg is a classic lieu-dit, situated on the pebbly mataerial deposited when melting water filled the valley of Munster at the end of the last glaciation. The soil heats up quickly in the morning and the grapes ripen early. This Gewurztraminer has an alcohol content of a stunning 15.4% and residual sugar of a mere 5.5 grams/liter. Nevertheless, Olivier Humbrecht has managed to create a wine in perfect harmony, a remarkable feat that illustrates that Olivier is one of the world's foremost winemakers.
The color is like amber. The scent is extremely strong, perhaps because the bottle has been open for two weeks, with roses, a little burnt sugar cake, botrytis and dates. It is dry and hard on palate with a rather large body and a finish with high acidity, no bitterness, but a nice salinity such as that in a Palo Cortado. Price: € 24.
Marc Kreydenweiss, one of the pioneers of organic farming, is a name that is mentioned with great respect. He has land on Andlaus three, brilliant Grands Crus, but may be best known for a less prestigious wine-growing vineyard: Clos Rebberg. After a few years where the wines lost zest due to malo-lactic fermentation, he is now back on top!
2009 Riesling Andlau by Marc Kreydenweiss comes from land adjacent to Grand Cru Wiebelsberg. It has a dark, dense yellow color and an open, fresh scent of anise, herbs, grapefruit and a bit of toast. The taste is medium bodied, fruity and broad-shouldered with apples and grapefruit, nice acidity and a clean, long and grapy taste with a fine structure and balance. A lovely bottle for the table. Price: € 10.
Alsace build his greatness on the pure, natural wines that highlight the grape variety and terroir. Wine complexity is normally based on low yields, a long growing season and careful vinification with élevage sur lie. But gradually, the use of oak increases. It is primarily Pinot Gris and Auxerrois which can carry the structure and the flavours that the oak carries with it. Andre Ostertag is famous for bringing up all kinds of wine in oak, but especially for the extremely high quality that characterises all his wines.
2008 Riesling Vignoble d'E from André Ostertag in Epfig is medium yellow with clear green tints. The aroma is forward, more nutty than fruity but young and fresh, with clear hints of toast, gooseberry, lemon meringue, hazelnut and toffee. The taste is medium bodied, very dry, with ripe acids and considerable length. Price: € 15.
Kuentz-Bas is a renowned firm that until a decade ago was managed by two cousins. With great terroirs on the Grands Crus Eichberg and Pfersigberg they created well balanced and cellar-worthy wines in a dry and versatile style. Kuentz-Bas was a name which brought respect! But then came an anxious time. The owner duo split in disagreement over almost everything, the quality plunged. In 2004 the firm was taken over by J. B. Adam in Ammerschwihr which has introduced Trois Châteaux as organic product line.
2007 Pinot Gris Trois Châteaux from Kuentz-Bas in Husseren-les-Châteaux are beautifully golden. The scent is powerful, with clear hints of fresh mushrooms, honey, smoke and apple pie. The taste is fruity with a rich mid-palate, fresh acidity and superb length. Kuentz-Bas is back in business! Price: €15.
The central, original part of the Grand Cru Brand where Zind-Humbrecht owns land lies in an amphitheater that is oriented due south. The unusually easily weathered granite nourishes the vines and creates an even temperature throughout the day. Therefore, the acids in a Brand are always soft and elegant, never aggressive, while the nose offers ripe fruits and flowers. A Brand can be drunk young but ages splendidly.
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Brand from Zind-Humbrecht in Turckheim is brilliant golden yellow. The scent is bright and extrovert and clean as a mountain lake with well-defined notes of honey, candied lemon, lilac, almond and a barely perceptible hint of petroleum. The taste has amazing volume of caressing and fresh fruit, as well as a wonderfully pure acidity which leads to a long finish with fine grip. A miracle of precision!
It is, of course, a generalization to say that Alsace wines are the worlds' most age-worthy wines. Indeed, there are German Rieslings, Sauternes, Champagnes and Chenin Blanc from the Loire that easily improve for 50 years or more. But the uniqueness of Alsace is that quite "simple" - and affordable - wines can have an almost eternal life, provided that the yields are kept low and the acidity is in place.
1971 Riesling Réserve Exceptionelle by Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé origins from lieu-dit Steinacker. The color is brilliant and golden. On the nose, it is compact, with wet wool, lots of citrus, chocolate, nuts and lots of other komponenenter. The taste is absolutely vital, focused and completely dry with stunning acids that highlights layers of fresh fruit and a long, long finish. Incredibly good! Price: € 11.
Sometimes the term "Wine of the Week" feels very inadequate. The wine of the year? The wine of a life-time? In any event, it is a precious gift to have the opportunity to drink one of the world's best wines. A wine for which the intellect is not enough, a wine full of emotions.
1998 Riesling Clos Ste Hune from Trimbach in Ribeauvillé is brilliant golden. Elegant aromas of almonds, petroleum and botrytis. Delicate taste with perfect balance, a velvety texture, and hints arrack. Quite astonishing acids that are unique to Clos Ste Hune. Unusually bold and potent vintage. Superb! € 180.
In very simple terms, the character of a wine of a certain grape variety is determined by a) the vintage b) the producer, and c) the terroir. With age, a influence of the terroir increases gradually. The vintage character decreases as acids become softer and sugar become integrated with age. If the producer is skilful - as is Beyer - and has kept the yields low and fermented slowly, time will allow the terroir to be come on display.
2002 Riesling Réserve from Léon Beyer in Eguisheim is medium golden. The bouquet is complex with hazelnuts, warm peaches and the typical, earthy hallmark aromas of Eguisheim. The flavour has gained surprising body and fruit, impeachable balance and a fresh and crisp aftertaste. Wonderful! Pris: € 15.
Monastic culture has not only shaped France, it has also been a prerequisite for the country to be able to develop and refine the wine culture in a unique way. But monastic life is not on top of the French youth's priority list, obviously they find a lot of other attractions. As a consequence of the weak recruitment to the orders, for example, Couvent de la Divine Providence in Ribeauvillé has been forced to cease their wine operation, and from 2006, Trimbach has fully responsible for the superb monastic vineyards.
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Geisberg from Couvent de la Divine Providence has developed aromas of dried figs, orange marmalade, honey and geranium. On the plate it is medium-bodied, rich, fruity and elegant with nice acidity and a wonderful sense of grapefruit peel in the aftertaste. Price: € 9.60.
Behind some modest vineyard names (lieux-dits) we find, almost invariably, great wines. One of these is Kronenbourg, which is the offshoot east of Grand Cru Schoenenbourg in Riquewihr and Zellenberg. Kronenbourg offers extremely persistent, dry wines from Riesling and Muscat of a more classic cut than the famous neighbor to the west.
2007 Riesling Kronenbourg from Bott-Geyl in Beblenheim has medium yellow color. The aroma is restrained and young with white pears, ripe apples and a low-key spiciness. The taste is very young with layers of dense fruit, high but ripe acids and monolithic salinitity in the aftertaste. A youthful wine with lots of potential, that is biodynamically grown and certified according to the Agriculture Biologique. Price: € 10.85.
Alsace Grand Cru wines may (almost) only be produced from the four "noble" grapes. However, many growers have love to have some Pinot Noir, Auxerrois and Sylvaner on their prime land. To make the terroir visable for the customers, many chose to name their wines with a clear reference to the Grand Cru in question. That is why we see Pinot Noir "P" (for Pfersigberg), Auxerrois "H" (for Hengst) or Sylvaner "Z" (for Zinnkoepflé).
2007 Pinot Noir "F" from Beck-Hartweg in Dambach-la-Ville has grown on Grand Cru Frankstein. The color is brilliant and show some sign of maturity. On the nose, the wine offers cinnamon, cassis, raspberries and vanilla. The taste is light, fresh and elegant with very good Pinot fruit and a mature tannic structure. Price: € 10
In Katzenthal there are two lieux-dits that are easily confused: Hinterberg which is wedged inside Katzenthal, and Hinterburg which lies along the road from Katzenthal to Turckhiem. Both teroirs are very steep, and also relatively clayey even though they are on the granite (mica), and both are perfectly suited for Pinot Gris. Thanks to the good but not extreme exposure and medium-warm soil the grapes ripen without losing acidity.
2008 Pinot Gris Terrasses Hinterburg from J-M Bernhard in Katzenthal smells of apricots, smoke and fresh mushrooms. The taste is just over medium bodied with embedded sweetness that is more than balanced by the lively, ripe acidity and a great backbone. Definitely deserves its 15/20 from La Revue du Vin de France. Price: € 8.
J.J. Ziegler-Mauler is found in Mittelwihr, housed in very modest premises near the square. With only 4.5 hectares and a marketing budget close to zero Ziegler-Mauler belongs to a category of producers that have not yet been discovered by tourists, unlike the French vinmagasinen La Revue du Vin de France and Gault et Millau, who lavishes praise on the company.
2007 Riesling Bouxreben from Ziegler-Mauler in Mittelwihr comes from a lieu-dit near the municipal boundary to Riquewihr. The aroma is intense, between youth and maturity, with hints of roasted nuts, dried fruit and ripe yellow apple. The taste is dry with massive fruit, supported by a good, ripe acidity and a good minerality. A very personal wine. Price: €8.
When you are about to taste, or even judge a wine in order to publish your thoughts you undertake a great responsibility. Personally I never convey my first impressions of a wine, I have always tasted the wine at least twice until I write about it. And since no taster get it right every time, I never give negative criticism to any wine or any producer.
2008 Auxerrois from Etienne Simonis in Ammerschwihr has brilliant. medium-deep colour with a tint of grey. The aroma is extremely fruity with pear. pineapple and toffee. The taste is elegant, and surprises with an almost sandy structure from refined tartric acids balancing the perfectly. A wine justly noted as "Coup de cœur" by La Revue du Vin de France. Price € 5.
There are a few producers in Alsace - and perhaps in all of France - which only makes great wines. Frome these few you will encounter nothing obscure, no ups-and-dows and just a natural vintage variation. However, you will find the personality and character in abundance. One of these magicians are Kientzler, who cultivates 10 ha in Ribeauvillé and Bergheim, with the Grands Crus Geisberg and Osterberg as top names. You can find the discrete domaine along the road to Bergheim, surrounded by vines.
2009 Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg from Kientzler in Ribeauvillé has medium yellow, blazing colour. The nose is a little stiff and restrained at the moment, but rich in minerals. Perfectly crafted flavour with great structure, nice acidity and rich fruit hidden under layers of youthful fruit. This will become a great wine! Price: € 23.
Michelangelo claimed it was his job to free the sculpture that is trapped in a piece of marble. The same idea I get whenever I drink a young, fruit-packed wine that still hides the minerality, complexity and finesse that within seven years will make it a true vin de terroir. It is easy to talk about the virtues of cellaring (and waiting), but at the same time these wines give a sensuous, undemanding and disarming delight.
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg from Raymond Renck in Beblenheim has a deep greenish-yellow colour. The wine smells of luke warm apple pie, lemon and a little chocolate. The taste is fruit-driven with a complete mid-palate and a fine structure with Schoenenbourgs obvious minerality and grapefruit-like structure. Yummy! Price: € 10. wine to share with someone you really love. Price: € 14.60 (ones upon a time), now € 22.
Few things in the wine world is so impressive as to develop and maintain a house style. It's a bit like ''Mom's apple pie'', there is really no single secret that makes them so special, but it is the whole .... Top wines from Gustave Lorentz always express a unique style: fragrant, soft and caressing but still form with vibrant acidity and an abundance of ripe fruit. Lorentz wines never wines that smell like gas stations, which proves that the wines are picked perfectly ripe.
2002 Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim is straw coloured. The scent is seductive with a thousand kinds of flowers, acacia honey and blood orange. The flavour is full, balanced and smooth as velvet, while the acidity wraps the sweet fruit in the finest silk. A wine to share with someone you really love. Price: € 14.60 (ones upon a time), now € 22.
With respect to the Grands Crus of Alsace, there is certainly a premier, second and third division. In this hierarchy, no one is making a more rapid climb than Wineck-Schlossberg. This unrivalled development is due to the skill and dedication of (relatively) young producers such as Meyer-Fonné, Bernhard and Klur, all in Katzenthal. To addition to this group, others such as the likes of Paul Blanck and J.B. Adam make a very important contribution to the reputation of W-S.
2008 Riesling Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg from Meyer-Fonné in Katzenthal has superbly clean aromas of almonds, mango, smoke and minerals. The taste is medium-bodied, generous, and succulent with loads of mature fruit in addition to wonderful acidity and structure that leads to an extraordinary finish. My gosh! Price: € 13,50.
Over the last few years I have advocated the key principle that if a producer has a bit too slender Riesling, one will love his Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. And vice versa . Etienne Simonis is one exception to this rule, because all his wines have a good structure and body without turning falling into the trap of heaviness, clumsiness or too much residual sweetness.
2008 Pinot Gris from René Etienne et Simonis in Ammerschwihr has developed and rich aromas of chocolate and pistachio. It is powerful and fruity, and offers a dry taste with an almost sandy structure and a good bite of acidity. Fabulous on the table for no money at all. Price: € 5.60.
In 1985, the cousins Philippe and Frédéric Blanck took over after brothers Marcel Blanck and Bernhard Blanck, sons of Paul Blanck. Thereby, they became part of a tradition starting in 1610 when Austrian Hans Blanck made his first wines in Alsace. Thus, this wine is part of the unrivalled Alsatian tradition of family viticulture, more than ever the basis of the commercial success and the increasingly environmentally oriented commitment that prevails all the way from Thann in the south to Marlenheim in the north.
1990 Riesling Patergarten from Paul Blanck in Kientzheim offers fresh, candied lemons, white flowers, honey and tar (!) on the nose. The taste is silky and supple with superb structure (tartaric acid) and freshness combined with lovely fruit that still, after more than 20 years of cellaring, coats the mouth. This is life! Price (of current vintage): €12.
Currently, a new wine legislation is implemented in France. In Alsace, this means that for every Grand Cru, it will specifically be determined which grapes will be allowed. With respect to Grand Cru Sporen, it will be easy to decide on Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, more to discuss regarding Riesling while Muscat will not stand a chance. For Schoenenbourg in the same village, Riesling is the ultimate grape but personally, I'm also hoping for Muscat. What a mess it can be! And unfortunately, we dare not believe that terroirs such as Grands Crus Vorbourg, Gloeckelberg, Frankstein and Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé will get right to the Grand Cru Pinot Noir. Or?
2008 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sporen from Frédéric Engel in Riquewihr has a discrete, wonderful scent of roses, cardamom and luke-warm pineapple. The taste is moderately fruity, medium-bodied and supple with some sweetness, a hint of bitterness. It is wonderfully clean and has firm acids that provide both freshness and structure. The definition of an elegant wine! Price: € 10.
Riesling is a grape that can present a wide palette of aromas, from green apple and citrus aromas to honey, pineapple and floral aromas. The fragrances originate from a group of chemicals called terpenes, and there are six such substances which together dominate the scent palette of young Riesling. What we actually experience is the cumulative effect of these substances, not the compounds individually. In the must, terpenes are highly bound to glycosides but are partially released by fermentation. The higher the pH in the fermentation is, the more terpenes are released, adding to the olfactory structure of the wine. Therefore, the berries' must need to be ripe for the aroma to become rich and complex.
2007 Riesling Ostenberg by Etienne Loew in Westhoffen has a developed and complex aroma of orange blossom, ginger and honey. The flavour is rich, mild and supple with a mature and pleasant acidity that slowly evolves on the palate. A wine from oolitic limestone from the Jurassic period which is very similar both in terms of geological origin and aromatic character to a Altenberg de Bergheim. Price: € 10.
Zellenberg is a strangely located village, and it looks like it has landed from above on a hill, surrounded by vineyards. The village itself is very quiet, but some six producers have their premises in Zelleberg, all but two next to the Route du Vin. Geologically, the village sits on a slobof Bundsandstein about 240 million years old, which 40 million years ago was tilted over end on top of younger geological strata. Zellenberg have their own high-class terroirs, such as Grand Cru Frohn, a piece of Grand Cru Schoenenbourg and several Lieux-dits, but all producers also have land in Hunawihr, Riquewihr or both.
2008 Pinot Gris Cuvée des Seigneurs from Eblin-Fuchs has golden yellow color with a slight red tone. The scent is fresh and completely without disturbing fungal elements and offers apricot, chocolate and smoke. The taste is just over medium bodied with firm acidity and an excellent backbone that makes the impression dry and dense. An unusually personal, refreshing and useful Pinot Gris! Price: € 7.25.
Auxerrois is not a grape you search out because of a characteristic aroma but primarily for a) its taste, and b) its usefulness. But although 7% of the Alsace vineyards are planted with this relative to Chardonnay, it may not be sold under its own name in Alsace and it is normally blended with, and sold as, Pinot Blanc. The structure of the taste is similar to a Chardonnay from Macon: relatively fat, moderate acidity and all in all a wine that matches all kinds of food, white meat as well as fish dishes. And many producers will testify that this as what they put on their own table, day after day.
2007 Pinot Blanc Auxerrois from Henry Fuchs in Ribeauvillé has a very floral, fresh and complex aroma of lilacs, peaches, walnuts, flint and Bassets Allsort. The taste has a very good attack, is dry and crisp, yet offers both substance and weight and a very pleasant salinity. A very good wine from a revived domaine! Price: €5.20
One of the virtues of Riesling is that it does need to be boosted by oak in any form. Intstead, the wines made from the worlds' best variety are by nature complex, pure and fruity. Auxerrois, however, is a bit anonymous and had low acidity and picks up som volume from the oak. in addition to Martin Schaetzel producers such as Stirn, Kubler, Lissner and Beck-Hartweg manage to carefully integrate the structure and the vanilla of the oak into their Auxerrois.
2008 Pinot Blanc Auxerrois from Martin Schaetzel has a golden and dense appearance. The generous nose offers warm apple crumb, crème brulée with a generous dose of vanilla and tropical fruits. The taste is perfectly balanced and well structured with mango notes, a slight bitterness resembling yellow grapefruit (pamplemousse) and surprising minerality. A great example of how ageing on oak (élevage en barrique) add qualities to the Auxerrois. Price: € 7.60
Have you heard of Guy Wach and Domaine des Marronniers? If not, you're in good company, because of all the top producers in Alsace, Guy Wach is the most discrete. Maybe it's because his firm is small and situated in Andlau, the village with three celebrated Grands Crus, including the absolute pinnacle - Grand Cru Kastelberg. Kastelberg consists of shale that is rich in easily dissolved salts. The soil heats up easily, while clay minerals which are interspersed in the shale layers hold a lot of water that prevents the maturation from being blocked in periods of drought, propertis that make the grapes ripen perfectly every year.
2005 Riesling Grand Cru Kastelberg Vielles Vignes is golden yellow and viscous. The aroma is complex and developed with a little botrytis, anise, smoke, honey, ginger, roasted almonds and Christmas spices. The flavour is full bodied with some sweetness, crisp and supple acidity and a very long finish. A wine with rare complexity! Price: € 15.
Say "Edelzwicker" and many will frown. But although most Edelzwicker are wines that are offered on 1-liter bottles almost for free, it is wrong to generalise. Because one can make Edelzwicker in many ways and with varying level of ambitions. At worst, it is hard-pressed must from high yield sites on the Plaine d'Alsace. But better is, if it is done from surplus, high quality must for which the vat intended lacked space, or - as in this case - if it is deliberately made from co-planted grapes, grown in a well-tended vineyard with a reasonable yield.
2007 Edelzwicker Sélection du Gourmet from Emile Herzog Turckhiem is made from Chasselas, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. The scent is fresh and peppery spicy but also contains green apple, apricot and hazelnut. The taste is clean and fresh with moderate body, youthful fruit and a hint of bitterness (from Gewurztraminer) in the finish. Lovely on the table! Price: € 5.60.
Not only is it a privilige to enjoy a tasting in the minimalistic living room of Agathe Bursin, to try a barrel sample of her extraordinary Pinot Noir is heaven. It is logical that the last couple of years, La Revue du Vin de France has selected her reds as being among the best of Alsace. It grows on Strangenberg, the hill which connects Grand Cru Vorbourg with Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle, where a calcareous bedrock and a protected exposure provide perfect conditions for Pinot Noir. 2009 Pinot Noir Strangenberg from Agathe Bursin in Westhalten bursts of varietal aromas: black cherries, burned rubber, blackberries, vegetables and Seville oranges. The taste has great volume and is saturated with fresh and vibrant fruit. A simply stunning barrel sample that will be released in June 2011 after 18 months on oak. Price: € 14.00.
Sadly enough, the vineyards between St Hippolyte in the south and Mittelbergheim in the north do not catch the attention that they deserve. Maybe it is because ikonic wineproducers are missing. Nevertheless, many very good wines are produced here on granitic foothills that give relatively lightweight but well structured wines with a lot of finess, purity and character. 2007 Muscat Reserve from Frey-Sohler in Scherwiller is a 50/50 blend of Muscat Otonell and Muscat d'Alsace. The aroma is developed with pears, fresh grapes, white peppar and peaches. The taste is medium weight (to be a Muscat, that is) but sec, and well balanced with a nice backbone of tartric acid. A solid effort. Price: € 7.00.
Old Gewurztraminers do not die, they are just reborn. The young wine is often over the top with roses, red apples, banana and spices and a jammy sweetness on teh palate. But over time, the sweetness decreases in response to a polymerization reaction. At Grand Cru Kanzlerberg in Bergheim, Sylvie Spielmann shows off her great skill and creates long-lived, superb wines with superior backbone. 2001 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kanzlerberg has a golden yellow color with green tints despite eight bottled. The aroma is lush and complex with honey, pepper, mint, apricots and millions of other scents. The taste is supple but elegant with a velvety structure and a mild sweetness balanced by fine acidity and a touch of bitterness. Price: € 16.00.
Located in the geological fracture zone, Ribeauvillé has a great variety of subsoil geologies. These range from the granite of St Ulrich, over sandstone, limestone and marl to the alluvial soils deposited a mere 15 000 years ago. This is were we find Steinacker, a stoney (quite logically), warm vineyard which yields ripe, open and early maturing Rieslings. 2007 Riesling Steinacker from Xavier Wymann has a an aroma of oranges, almonds, banana, licorice and anise. The taste is almost medium full, round, pleasant and honest with a fresh acidity on the finish. A good, no-nonsense drink. Price: € 6.80
A good wine offers pleasure during their entire course of development. While it is true that storage makes the vast majority of wines better, all the basic qualities must be in place from the very beginning. Jean Sipp makes wines that are supple and inviting even as a young, without razor-sharp acidity or austere elements. Nevertheless, the wines of this hospitable domain develop great complexity and dignity with time , very typical and true to the terroirs of Ribeauvillé. 2005 Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg has a generous aroma of bitter orange, mango, star anise, artists' turpentine, pepper, caramel and wet gravel. The taste is smooth, fruity and elegant with lingering acidity acid, notes of refreshing grapefruit and a long, clean aftertaste. Bottled joy! Price: € 18
The renowned Grand Cru Schlossberg, the largest Grand Cru of Alsace, is a sought-after terroir for excellent Riesling and for Gewurztraminer. Above Schlossberg, we have Bois de Kientzheim, a dense forest which forms a terrific habitat for game such as deer and wild boar (fr. sanglier), some of which end up in the kitchen of St Alexis, a charming hunting lodge restaurant above Kayserberg that offers rustic and generous food. 2006 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg from Domaine Stirn in Sigolsheim offers the honeyed, buttery concentration of the vintage in addition to figs, almonds, lemons and yellow apples on the nose. The taste is round and supple with a superb freshness, sufficient backbone, great purity and the minerality of the terroir on the finish. More exotic than the 2006 Grand Cru Brand. Price: €10.90.
Almost all dry Muscat from Alsace is consumed very young. In its' childhood, the character of crushed grapes in the aroma is more than obvious, while the taste is light as a feather. Paradoxically, some cellaring makes the fruity aroma somewhat harder, reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, while the taste becomes broader and filler. It is a wonderfully refreshing drink a warm spring evening, with or without the asparagus. 2008 Muscat from the low-key but skillful Maurice Schoech in Ammerschwihr brings red grapefruit, gooseberry and ripe pears on the nose. The flavor is rich with distinguished fruitiness in the middle and long, pronounced but ripe acids in a rather light, bone dry and firm body. Very well done! Price: € 7.00.
In 2009, I was exploring the producers of Turckheim. Among them, they are quite few, I stumbled across Mme Hertzog, widow of the late Emile Hertzog who worked for INAO for several decades. Today, Mme Hertzog farms a mere 1.4 ha of prime vineyards, some of which are located in the garden of her suburban villa! Literally, this is a "garage vinery" and the 5000-7000 are bottled and labeled by hand. The vineyards are worked with horses and Mme Hertzog has state-of-the-art knowledge about every phase of the winemaking process. 2007 Riesling Langgass has ginger, apples and orange blossoms on the nose. The taste is so clean, so fresh and so homogeneous. A marvelous wine made by a remarkable woman! Price: € 7.60.
Fabien Stirn has all it takes to become one of the big names in Alsace: determination, knowledge, skills and a portfolio of grand terroirs. Working land in a handful of villages from Turckheim to Ribeauvillé and the Grands Crus Brand, Schlossberg, Mambourg (not in production yet) and Marckrain, he turns out focused wines with true terroir character. In 2006, he used the advantage of working permeable grantite soils to wait until the skies cleared mid-october to produce wonderful Rieslings with the remarkable richness and no trace of grey rot. 2006 Riesling Grand Cru Brand Vielles Vignes offers oranges, honey, coffee and roasted almonds on the nose. The taste is medium bodied, clearly off-dry with superb acidity, some lemon peels and a square, hard and rare minerality. Bravo! Price: € 10.90.
Olivier Humbrecht is without doubt one of the world's most skilful winemakers, and for me, his ability to combine the natural, fruity character of aromatically perfect grape material with a high complexity is unique. To some extent, this is about balancing the reductive and oxidative processes from "débourbage" until the wine is poured into the wine glass, an art Olivier masters to perfection. 2007 Pinot Gris Herrenweg has a yellow straw color, a great scent with a lot of honey, clementines, toffee, raisins, nectarines, nuts and a touch of mushroom. The taste is powerful, almost hard, with a distinct sweetness (20 g/liter) that is overwhelmed by splendid acids and a sensation of minerality in the finish. Price: € 28.
The vintage 2007 was characterized by a very long autumn in which the grapes were able to develop a broad and complete aromatic palette without running the risk of being affected by harmful mold. There is no green tones, and the complexities can sometimes give an atypical - but wonderful - experience. 2007 Riesling from Muhlforst in Hunawihr has an amazingly deep yellow in color. The scent carries apple peel, saffron, chocolate, raisins and a sweet fragrance - Fruit & Almonds! The flavor is concentrated without being heavy, the structure is beautifully sandy without being bitter and the mature acids are long and firm. A surprisingly big wine to come from classically oriented Mader. Price: € 8.0.
Gewurztraminer may - if the vineyard is optimal - mature with great dignity. Then the perfumed scent fades, and the high natural sugars melt down to become volume and body. Bollenberg in Orschwihr has a perfect micro-climate which allows the grapes to reach aromatic maturity before the sugar content becomes to high and the acidity too low. 2004 Gewurztraminer Bollenberg has an amazingly youthful, greenish color. The scent is a purebred, typical palette of ripe yellow apples, a little banana, hyacinth and ginger. The spicy taste is perceived to be dry with some salty licorice and silky but firm acids. A superbly balanced wine with only 7 grams of residual sugar and 4.5 g total acidity. Price: € 6.
If you are looking for a village tucked away from the tourists, with good restaurants and wines of unmatched diversity and outstanding quality, the Andlau is the place to go. Located in a small valley, tucked in between the three Grands Crus Moenchberg, Wiebelsberg and the great Kastelberg it is a one-stop place for all the temptations that the vineyards of Alsace can offer. The "musketeers" Kreydenweiss, Gresser and Wach are all top-notch producers in a dry, yet generous style. 2006 Pinot Gris is offers figs, apricots and hazelnuts on the nose. The taste is medium-bodied and only slightly sweet, with a square, focused acidity that is impressive for this difficult vintage. Price: € 8.
A hefty rib with chili-infused ratatouille demands a wine with power and substance. Then we are looking for an odd, personal terroir in a hot amphitheater in the heart of Alsace. Sporen is a sun-drenched terroir with a marly soil poor in limestone which gives tremendous volume and moderate acidity, a distinctive vineyard that yields a wine with pronounced schizophrenic character - is it Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer? Riesling Grand Cru Sporen 2004, has developed a deep, exotic scent with dried apricots and roses. The taste is contradictory with minerality, great body and integrated sugar. A splendid wine revisited. Price: € 8.
There are days when you do not want to think too much about finding the right wine for dinner. Those days you should bring out a bottle of Pinot Blanc, preferably with a sizeable dose of Auxerrois, which gives roundness and body. If this Pinot Blanc is from Eguisheim, you can be sure that the wine is tight, rich and well-made. In addition, if the name on the label is Hebinger, you should expect a wine of quality! 2007 Pinot Blanc has a nice aroma of lemon, yellow apple and a touch of cabbage. The taste is medium bodied, complex and completely dry with minerality and wonderfully refreshing acidity, which is firm without being green. A bit like a really good Grüner Veltliner, if the comparison is allowed. Price: € 5.50.
Jean-Marie Bechtold is a strong personality with a strong and genuine commitment to the environment. In and around Dahlheim in northern Alsace he makes biodynamic wines in a very personal style. His hallmark is a special softness that brings out the subtle aspects of his grape material from the half dozen vineyards he carefully manages. 2005 Riesling Silberberg has a full and developed aroma with a spicy character of a genuine Indian curry, a hint of smoky rubber and ripe red apples. The taste is supple and caressing with nicely integrated sweetness within a well-balanced, almost medium-bodied taste. Price: € 8.50.
It takes a lot of skill and dedication to make firm Pinot Blanc based on 80% Auxerrois. However, year after year, François Sorg puts his act together, spoiling his loyal clients with this charming wine that is perfect for the table. On the nose, 2008 Pinot Blanc is fresh and fruity with white peach, licorice, oranges and sun-ripe tomatoes from the garden. The taste is medium bodied and dry with a great mid-palate, zesty acidity and a very pure aftertaste with just a hint of bitterness which adds structure. This is by far the best edition of a wine with the highest ratio quality/price around. 2008 is a magic vintage! Price: €5.
Although many producers are proud of their Grands Crus, their hears often belong to their beloved lieux-dits. This seems true for Hagel (Louis avens, Ribeauvillé), Muhlforst (Mader, Hunawhir), Gebreit (Rieffel, Mittelbergheim), Ostenberg (Loew, Westhoffen) and Rothstein (Lissner, Wolxheim). It is among these wines, you'll find the real gems in Alsace, unique wines with great personality. 2007 Riesling Rothstein has a developed and generous aroma of yellow apples, white raisins and figs paired with a smoky and flinty note. The taste is dry but full-bodied, with supple fruit paired with firm acidity and a wonderful minerality. Top! Price: €6.
No blue grape is so much favored by cellaring as Pinot Noir. It requires several years, but then the angular acids will give way and release the spiciness, generosity, and the smooth richness. 2003 Pinot Noir Barrique has a clear, ruby red pinot colour with a slightly orange edge. In the developed scent there are spicies, lingonberry jam (a creation more Swedish than meatballs) , buttered carrots and a hint of vanilla. The taste is medium-bodied with sweet fruit, quite dry with refreshing acidity and velvety tannins. A wine that makes one happy! € 9.35.
Kaefferkopf is one of the most heterogeneous Alsace Grands Crus. Here there are clay soils on top of granite, and gravel from the granite on calcareous marl. Yet Kaefferkopf always a special freshness, a lemon-like and powerful personality as well as vibrant overtones. The tradition used to be that Kaefferkopf was sold in the form of Gewurztraminer with a small amount of Riesling, but since the terroir became Grand Cru in 2006 the pure Riesling wine has become more common. 2008 Riesling Grand Cru Kaefferkopf has a young, tight, but rich aroma of pineapple, lemon and white flowers. The taste is strong, fruity, with clean and firm acids that promise a long life. Powerful! € 12.
It is said that the wines from a particular producer is a reflection of his physiognomy. This is completely wrong. In contrast, the wines may reveal certain personality traits, such as a desire to experiment, perfectionism, traditionalism, and even anarchistic traits. The family firm Leon Beyer in Eguisheim makes classic wines that reflect the attitude of the family. They are extremely professional, orthodox and purposeful, while the wines are welcoming and generous in flavor, aroma and quality, but completely in the absence of populism. 2001 Gewurztraminer Réserve has a mature and complex fragrance of roses with Indian spices and preserved fruits. The taste is perfectly balanced with a hint of sweetness that complements superbly refreshing acidity. Price: € 14.
In recent years, Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg in the small village Katzenthal has earned better and better reputation thanks to ambitious producers such as Clément Klur, Meyer-Fonné, Jean-Marc Bernard and Paul Blanck. On Wineck Riesling dominates overall, and because the terroir does not favour botrytis, the wines are crystalline, fresh and classic. 2004 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg-Wineck has an elegant, relatively open nose, with hints of herbs (oregano), candied lemons and green apples. The taste is smooth even though it is tight and balanced, with high acidity and a long fine aftertaste. Excellent with oysters! Price: €12.
It is becoming increasingly common to use oak barrels for élevage of Pinot Blanc. This wine from Pfister in Dahlenheim is a clear suspect; the aroma is developed and nutty with great complexity. To get the oak treatment confirmed I checked with Mélanie Pfister who replied: "Pinot Blanc 2006 has been produced in stainless steel tanks, as all the other wines on the domain. The wine has spent time on its yeast deposit, which contributes to the rich palate. Pinot Blanc is flowery as young, but with time they develop nuttiness (which may bring to mind oak barrels) as well as an element of minerality." A very good wine that could have been mistaken for a Meursault, had it not been for the minerality in the aftertaste. Price: €8.
The only comfort that December brings is the ending of November, the opportunity to light candles and to uncork a bottle of summer. Camille Braun, located in Orschwihr, has received much and well-deserved attention from La Revue du Vin de France. This charming domaine offers a lot of class at very reasonable prices, regardless if you are a big importer or a private, visiting customer. 2005 Riesling Grand Cru Pfingstberg offers camphor, ripe yellow apples and kirsch on the nose. The taste is rich and full, yet the aftertaste has very good structure, great acidity and a sandy minerality. A winner! Price: € 10.
A single day on Ipanema Beach is enough to make one crave for Alsace Muscat. Not even Swedish November with chilly winds, gloomy darkness and unsurpassed humidity, can drive away the desire for this lovable and sun-drenched wine. 2008 Muscat is actually from the Grand Cru Schlossberg above Kientzheim despite its simple denomination and is - like all other wines from this Bennwihr-born personality - a miracle of purity and character. The aroma brings a cocktail of orange, apple and banana. The taste is amazingly rich and powerful, with tough acids, focused fruit and a long minty aftertaste. Just as a Caipirinha - only better. Price: € 9.
Tradition is great in Alsace, much stronger than the commercialism, opportunism and short-sightedness. Therefore, many producers cultivate "lesser" grapes in the best locations. Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé is ideal for the Sylvaner, and is highly valued in the twin villages Westhalten and Soultzmatt, which together with Mittelbergheim and some villages in northern Alsace (Westhoffen and Bergbieten) give great Sylvaner, by any standards. 2007 Sylvaner Cuvée "Z" has a dense but quite restrained aroma of peach, pineapple and wet wool. The taste is fruity, quite dry, medium-bodied with a typical bitterness in the long aftertaste. Price: € 11.
As an amateur obsessed with wine, it is only too easy to focus solely on wines from the finest terroirs and the most written-about producers. But above all it is a grief that so many extremely well-made, personal and useful wines are overlooked by those who - rightly - visit Alsace. Perhaps it is within the gap between the basic cuvées and the Grands Crus that you may find the bargains that brings the most joy for money. 2007 Riesling Cuvée Spéciale is still very, very young and has an aroma which offers yellow apples, bananas, walnuts and chocolate. The taste is very tight, remarkably fresh with a restrained fruit that lingers in the well-structured aftertaste. Pure pleasure! Price: € 5.80.
Overlooking Quarter Latin of Paris, we find Panthéon, a grand monument with a clear view of Tour Eiffel. One block down the street, on Rue St. Jacques there is a wonderful little Parisian wine shop, Caves du Panthéon, which has a tantalising selection of wines from France's small quality growers. Here you can buy the 2007 Riesling Tradition, a strictly biodynamic wine by Geneviève and François Barmès. The scent contains candied lemon, almond from Valencia and a warm, buttery tone of toffee. The taste is dry and amazingly complete, with a dense fruitiness of apples, pears, ripe yellow prunes and grapefruit. The acidity is ripe and fresh, accompanied by a model minerality that gives a sense of absolute purity in the finish. A wine at a high level despite the modest classification. Price: € 11.
The scientific research on wine has revealed the chemical compounds which give certain aromatic characteristics of white wines. For instance, the characteristic smell of "petroleum" is caused by 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalen, a derivative of carotene also known as TDN. The scent of citrus and ginger, however, come largely from 3,7-dimethyl-2-octen-1-ol, a typical commercially available component that is widely used in perfumes. But still, it will take long until one can identify what lies behind the character of "minerality", you know where the hard, salty, fresh and dry lingering feeling in the mouth when drinking fine Riesling. 2007 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg-Wineck has a generous aroma of warm apples, cloves and sweet flowers. The taste is fruity, supple, rich and already complex with a minerality that remains half hour in the aftertaste. Wonderful and almost for free. Price: € 10.
Take a careful look at the label - soon it will be history! Prehistory is that the domaine Rolly in 1947 was divided between two sons. After another generation, there were the "cousins" Rolli-Edel and Rolly-Gassmann. But due to lack of succession, Rolli-Edel is about to sublimate, the residual stock is sold out and the vineyards united again with those of Rolly-Gassmann. Silberberg, is one of many brilliant Rorschwihr Lieux-dits. Others are Kappelweg, Kugelberg, Muenchberg, Pflaenzerreben, and Stegreben (often far more personal than Grand Cru Gloeckelberg in the neighbouring village Rodern). 2004 Riesling Silberberg has a classic fragrance characterised by a fresh lemons and crushed rock - the hallmark of Silberberg - supplemented by butter-fried apples and honey. The taste is quite dry, almost "spritzig" with elegant citrus notes and a slightly bitter finish. Indeed far from the style of Rolly-Gassmann but very good! Price: € 6.50
At the foot of Grand Cru Schlossberg, surrounded by Clos des Capucins, matriarch Colette Faller along with daughters Laurence (wine-maker) and Catherine make world-class wines. Year after year Domain Weinbach rises above what other producers do the same terroirs, which proves the greatness of the domaine. The wines exhibit amazing depth and density, outstanding body and balance, and are sublime one the nose and on the palate. In addition, since a few years the tendency of Domaine Weinbach is to aim for more restrained residual sugar levels. 2007 Sylvaner has a broad aroma of crushed grapes, rye-bread, spices and citrus. The taste is compact, with strikingly rich fruitiness in a medium rich body. Firm acids gives both spine and freshness, enhanced by a trace of characteristic bitterness. Perfect partner to butter-fried scallops. Price: € 12
While the world is flooded with highly extracted, red wines rich in alcohol with unclear storage potential, Alsace offers elegant, smooth Pinot Noir for every occasion. The Pinot Noir vineyard area is increasing rapidly, and the quality is elevated at all levels. 2007 Pinot Noir is very bright red. The open scent contains all the hallmarks of Pinot Noir; blueberry, strawberry, carrots in butter, bitter orange and a hint of rubber. The taste offers sweet fruit and elegant acidity, low-key but ripe tannins and sufficient tannins, in a medium-body. Aftertaste has fresh summer strawberries and excellent balance. Price: € 10.
Few producers offer so few products as the Schmitt family in Bergbieten. The list includes a mere 4 wines despite an annual output of 45 000 bottles from 10 hectares. It has long produced classic Riesling from Lieu-dit Glinzberg and from Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten, Vielles Vignes and Cuvée Roland. But in 2007, an Riesling Thalberg was launched, and we now await the first wines from a newly purchased parcel on Grand Cru Engelberg in Dahlenheim. 2007 Riesling Thalberg has, after 18 months of development in the bottle, a complex aroma of lime, white flowers, nuts and passion fruit. The flavour harmonises perfectly with the aroma and is bone dry without being harsh, and it is rich without being the least heavy. A model wine from a sympathetic producer who always who never disappoints. Price: € 8.40.
The Grand Cru Engelberg finds itself on the summit of Mont Scharrach, located in the region called Couronne d'Or, the vineyard area west of Strasbourg. Engelberg rests on calcareous soil, which provides potent wine with excellent character and structure, regardless of variety. Here, Jean-Marie Bechtold crafts delicious wines in a truly personal style in which he achieves a brilliant combination of restrained, velvety softness, dryness and elegance. 2003 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Engelberg has an aroma of coffee, dark berries, liquorice, fennel and a slightly hot, exciting tone of Grand Marnier. The taste is velvety, juicy, medium full-bodied and quite dry with amazingly vivid fruit acidity in the aftertaste. A remarkably fresh 2003. Price: €10.50.
Claude Weinzorn has a passionate relationship to the wines of and the excellent terroirs located on the granite surrounding Niedermorschwihr. His yields is kept low, and the style is classically elegant in a focused and restrained style. ALL wines are delightful in their purity, and both grape character and the vineyard characteristics are fully expressed. 2007 Riesling is based on grapes from young (<30 years [sic!]) vines on the Grand Cru Sommerberg. The aroma is distinctly fruity with yellow apple, melon, clementine and flint. The palate has a fresh attack, it has a slightly less than medium body which is packed with fruit salad, while the finish has intense, almost saline, mineral tones. A terroir wine of high class. Price: € 7.50.
Auxerrois is most unknown grape, mainly because it usually mixed and sold in Pinot Blanc blends, more rarely pure in their own name. The variety stems from Gouais Blanc, a Croatian grape that have been crossed with varieties from the Pinot family to give rise to, among others, Chardonnay, Aligoté (the Kir base of Burgundy), Melon (Muscadet), Gamay (Beaujolais), and the almost extinct Alsatian variety Knipperlé. 2008 Auxerrois has a welcoming, complex aromas of melon, toasted pumpkin seeds and ripe pineapple. The taste is excellently well-balanced, with a fresh and lovely acidity that gives support to the beautiful peachy fruit. The aftertaste has a backbone of tartric acid, which provides structure and freshness, which is unusual for a Auxerrois. A superb wine, whatever yardstick, from one of Alsace's most interesting producers. Price: € 4.50.
Pinot Noir is the grape of Alsace, whose cultivated area is increasing most rapidly. A warmer climate, improved viticulture and progress in the cellar - many factors interact to allow production of full red wines from Alsace. Hence, today one finds many good examples of fruity but elegant, spicy Pinot Noir which must be taken seriously. 2004 Pinot Noir Cuvée Théophile from Hunawihr has a brilliant, bronze shimmering cherry color. The aroma is developed with strawberry/blueberry jam, embedded in lovely oak. The taste is medium bodied, offers velvety fruit with fine acidity and ripe tannins. The silky finish has some length and makes a perfect match with slices of butt of lamb off the grill, marinated in sherry and fresh herbs. A quality wine which many tasters would have placed in St Emilion. Price: € 11.
Jean Boxler in Niedermorschwihr makes Alsace's most captivating Pinot Blanc. The grapes originate from the Grand Cru Brand in neighboring Turckheim. Brand is always floral, fresh wine with a tight focus. Firmness is also a characteristic of Pinot Blanc. As well of the outstandingly talented Jean Boxler. The bottom line is that 2007 Pinot Blanc "B" is an aromatic wine with fresh herbs, white flowers and coconut in the formidable scent. The taste is as compact as the fist of a heavyweight boxer, with layers of ripe, peachladen fruit and a brutal but mature acidity, which leads to a refreshing minerality on the finish. A great wine with huge qualities. Price: € 11.
Eguisheim has two excellent Grands Crus, Eichberg and in Pfersigberg, but it is the latter that provide the most focused wines. A Pfersigberg is never heavy or overblown, and should show discrete minerality and offers a fragrance of the red earth. Riesling and Gewurztraminer grapes are reference varieties, but Muscat fits at least as good, while Pinot Gris has not yet fully convinced on Pfersigberg. 2002 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg has a mature, complex but above all fresh scent with cinnamon, ginger, citrus, honeysuckle and raspberries. The palate is focused and elegant with a trace of vanilla and banana, minerality and zesty acids. The finish is dry due to a pinch of the typical bitterness. A model wine that gives credit to both Pfersigberg and the local style of Eguisheim. Price: € 14
Westhoffen is a village gifted with many types of soils and bedrock. Side by side with classic muschelkalk, one finds white, read and green marl on the ridges that surround the village, forming a protective amphitheater with a stable climate without extremes. 2005 Riesling Bruderbach Clos de Frères grows on calcareous sand with marbles of muschelkalk and dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. The aroma is developed with dates, honey, citrus and a toasted aroma reminding of coffee. This toasted character is also in the flavor which is long, medium-full, elegant and fruity. The acidity develops on the palate and finishes high and crispy, a fingerprint of an Alsace terroir rich in alkaline substances. Price: € 8,20
Grand Cru Brand rises as a steep amphitheater above Turckheim. This hot pot rests on relatively easily weathered granite bedrock with very good drainage. Therefore Brand excels during cool years with a long autumn. Riesling wine from Brand are floral and has an elegance that brings to mind Muscat, while Muscat instead have profound depth and can withstand long storage. 2004 Muscat Grand Cru Brand Cuvée Aurélie has a developed, creamy aroma with mint, roasted almonds and honey, which brings to mind sweet half sibling such as Moscatel de Setúbal and Muscat Beaumes-de-Venice. The taste is totally dry but juicy with superb minerality in the aftertaste. A wine loaded with power but only a little alcohol - to the ridiculous price! Price: € 9.50.
Riesling, of course, is the grape that most clearly of all reflects its terroir. But for the truly talented vinmakarna, particularly those working biodynamic, and some vineyards all wines exhibit the intrinsic features of the terroirs, regardless of variety. Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten and surrounding vineyards always make a clear and unique imprint, even on the Sylvaner and Muscat. The calcareous marl and the relatively cool climate wines with the flesh, freshness, finesse and vitality. 2007 Pinot Blanc is a fruity fragrance with a touch of fennel and citrus. The taste is medium full-bodied, firm but juicy with a typical and obvious taste of yellow, ripe grapefruit. A wine with class. Price: € 5.50.
Muscat is grown on less then 3% of the viticultural area, and this dry wine does not get the attention it deserves. While the grower struggle with inconsistent flowerings and yields, the average visitor to the area skips Muscat when visiting the producers. However, those of us that acknowledges that Alsace Muscat is a serious, unique, versatile, seductive, and interesting wine with loads of quality and personality, we just can't get enough of it. 2005 Muscat Les 3 Demoiselles has multi dimensional aroma where crushed grapes, kirsch, Cointreau, toffee and nuts. The taste has great definition, firmness, structure and firm acidity, while a moderate (12.5%) of alcohol is perfectly embedded. A serious wine made by a rising star. Price: €10
This world-class wines is the result of the amalgamation of the most exuberant grape variety, the most self-minded terroir and one of the most skillful wine producers in Alsace. Hengst is a terroir on cold, oligocene marl which gives acidity and focus, and the extremely sunny and dry microclimate allows the grapes to mature gracefully under the clear October skies. Hence, 2002 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Hengst has a complex aroma of ginger, exotic spices, honey, apricots and wild flowers. The taste is full and ripe with a superior structure, zesty acidity and sweet dry fruits that create an aftertaste that lasts forever. Marvelous! Price: €25.
Bollenberg is located on a ridge, connecting Westhalten and Orschwihr. This lieu-dit gives rich wines with obvious varietal character, charm and class and the growers match the many micro-climates with each grape. Nevertheless, the prices of the Bollenberg are so low that one becomes embarrassed. 2005 Muscat Bollenberg is a pure Muscat Ottonnel. The aroma is not only peach lade, but does also offer honey, licorice and the delightful fruitiness that is a hall-mark of Muscat. The taste is compact and medium bodied, with splendid acidity and the hint of bitterness that goes so well with asparagus. A real treat! Price: €6.00
Alsace wines can either be fully dry or carry various levels of residual sugar. The "detection limit" for sugar is ca 4 gram/liter, but if the level of acidity is high (as in many Riesling wines) 10 gram/liter may pass unnoticed. However, regardless of sugar level, all wines from Alsace should be fresh, lively and balanced, never flat, heavy or dull. 2007 Pinot Gris from Roland Schmitt in Bergbieten has an aroma, typical for the grape; orange marmalade, smoke and apricots. The taste is medium bodied with notes of rhubarb pie and pineapple, superior freshness, minerality and an almost dry finish. A lovely wine for the table that will gain complexity over several years. Price: €7.00
The vintage 1999 is just as underrated as 2000 is overrated, at least for those of us that love firm, classic, pure, long-lived and velvety Riesling that make the heart beat. Etienne Sipp makes nothing but excellent wines, with a fabulous ability to chisel out the most important feature of a great wine: balance. 1999 Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg has a fully developed aroma of arrack, chalk, wild strawberries, turpentine, ripe apples and candied lemons. The taste is medium-bodied, fruity and clean, and the wine coats the mouth with sweetness without sugar and tartness without any bitterness. The finish is long, full of the Ribeauvillé minerality and really, really good. Price: € 14.50.
Muhlforst is a lieu-dit in Hunawihr, covering over 80 ha next to Ribeauvillé. The vineyards face south-east, and the terroir is dominated by marl, rich in lime. Muhlforst is one of the most reliable lieux-dits in Alsace, playing in the same league as Bildstoecklé, Bihl, Bollenberg, Rotenberg and Herrenweg. Riesling Muhlforst 2002 has a complex nose of grapefruit, with a trace of honey and lemon. The taste is bone dry, with layers of pure fruit, some apples, superb minerality and coarse aftertaste that one also finds in the neighbouring Schoenenbourg. A wine that, just like all others from Mader, is a model for classic Alsace wines for the table as well as for the cellar. Price: € 8
Vintage 2006 is heaven or hell, with rot or concentration. Grand Cru Mandelberg is also heaven or hell, either square or sublime. Gewurztraminer is certainly heaven or hell, with generous charm or boring stickiness. 2006 Gewurztraminer Mandelberg is only heaven. The aroma shows breed with smoke, coriander, roses and the hint of banana that characterizes Gewurztraminer that benefit from cellaring. The taste is quite full, with freshness, complexity, depth and a long, lingering aftertaste that is a perfect match for a real, homemade curry. A great personality! Price: € 10
Katzenthal has 21 wine producers, all small and several quality conscious. Here, the prices are low, the doors are open and the hospitality unsurpassed. Vincent Spannagel is the only producer that offers a Muscat from the cool granite of Wineck-Schlossberg, made from wines of Muscat Ottonel and Muscat d'Alsace planted as lateliqourish as in the year 2000. 2005 Muscat Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg has a big, striking aroma of crushed grapes, mint, apples and liquerish. The taste is mouthfilling with plenty with a lot of substance, clean and fresh acidity, and a touch of bitterness (from Muscat d'Alsace) that adds character to the wine. A wine that proves that for Muscat, 1+1=3. Price: € 10.
Even though the trend had begun to swing towards less sugary wines, puritans may turn with confidence to André Rohrer in Mittelbergheim. Here the wines will qualify for any GI diet, yet they all have rich and mature fruit and clearly show the signs of the terroir. Lieu-dit Stein is situated in the very south, below the village on limestone (acidity), protected from the cooling winds (maturity). On the nose, 2007 Riesling Stein offers oranges and lime, toast, pesto and time. The taste is bone dry, almost medium bodied with a peppery acidity that backed up by velvety fruit. The aftertaste is absolutely pure and very, very elegant. A stylish produce from a merry vintner! Price: € 7.
On the New Year of 2009, Charles Koehly left this world, far to early. Since the early 1970's, this bold and dedicated entrepreneur developed a successful domain, representing the dynamic tradition of Alsace family estates. The house style is classic, crisp and charming. 1999 Altenberg de Bergheim has a big, generous aroma of lilic, petrol, honey, nutmeg and the inimitable scent of orange tree flowers. The taste is light, elegant and clean with a greenish, apply component that gives the wine freshness and personality. A wine that is truly french, the best mark a wine can get. Price: €11.50.
Lucas Rieffel is a young vigneron who is very well known and respected, all over Alsace. Since a decade, he makes well balanced, elegant wines with profound environmental concern, and the various terroirs in the communes of Andlau, Barr and Mittelbergheim. Gewurztraminer Gesetz 2007 offers an aroma of spices and banana, indicating the the wine will develop complexity after a few years of cellaring. The taste includes apricot and pineapple, and is mellow and slightly sweet without being sticky. The sugar will be integrated in a few years, and leave room for a focused variatal character. Superb craftsmanship and a promising future. Price: €8.
Biodynamic viticulture, naturally controlled yield and vinification based on care in every step is not just a trend, it is becoming normal for quality conscious producers. The young couple Binner in Ammerschwihr belongs, with Pierre Frick and Bruno Schueller also to a small group that avoids adding sulphur at all. Riesling Hinterberg 2002 offers a giant aroma of white flowers, almonds, honey and candied lemons. The taste is precise with a palette of citrus flavors, saltiness and a minerality that is dressed in superb acidity. I wonderfully chiseled wine the elegance of which resembles that of the neighboring Florimont. Price: €12.
With Riesling it is simple, the greater the terroir the greater the wine. With Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer it is more complex; the generic wines from less exposed terroirs often provide the most wonderful drinks in the hands of skilled winemakers. The wines crafted by Bruno Schloegel, who runs domaine Clément Lissner in Wolxheim with its' highly specific terroirs, proves this point. Pinot Gris 2007 has a lovely, pure aroma of burning hardwood, pear and quince. Not a trace of rot in sight. The taste is full but not heavy, with a purity and freshness that challenges any Pinot Gris in Alsace. The essence of Nature, put into a bottle! Price: € 5.50
In Alsace there are several young and skilled female winemakers, e.g. Agathe Bursin (already legendary), Eliane Ginglinger (top-notch Riesling Grand Cru Goldert) and Mélanie Pfister, born in 1981. Following internships at Zind-Humbrecht, Méo-Camuzet and Cheval Blanc, Mélanie has taken on the challange to transfer the concept of making serious multi-variety wines from Bordeaux to Alsace. Cuvée 8 2006 includes Gewurztraminer that brings volume and spicyness to the nose, Pinot Gris that contributed with body, complexity and champignons (at least in 2006), Muscat that gives elegance, and Riesling that stands for freshness and the tartric acid that guarantees structure and backbone. Well made and perfect on the table! Price: € 10
"Rouille" is a delicious and very french sauce, that comes in as many versions as there are households. When made from bread, red grilled bell peppar, fresh chillies, garlic, egg yolk and olive oil, it is perfect to a rich fish soup and a full bodied Riesling. Riesling Grand Cru Sporen 2004 offers candied lemons, coffee and smoke on the nose. The taste is generous but still has minerality supplemented by honey, fruit salad and integrated residual sugar. A very personal XXL-Riesling that thinks that it is a Gewurztraminer. Price: € 8.
The village Wolxheim, located some 15 km due west of Strasbourg, hosts many inspired producers that have access to several high-class soil types. But even on the greatest terroirs, selection is everything, especially in difficult years such as 2006. Pinot Gris 2006 "Les Perles Rares" is golden in color and has, despite of the vintage, a lovely fresh and pure aroma of clementine, roasted almonds and quince. Despite the residual sugar, the taste is fresh and long with an elegance, saltiness and minerality that resembles a Palo Cortado sherry. Price: € 7.50.
From Bergheim and north, Auxerrois is the main component in wines sold as Pinot Blanc. Sylvie Spielmann has the ability to craft vibrant, complex Auxerrois without any of teh heavyness sometimes associated with this early maturing grape. Although Sylvie uses an old chain-driven press, her grape material is first class and her ideals classic in every sense. Pinot Blanc Réserve Bergheim 2004 has a fruity aroma with pear and banan as well as white flowers and mint. The taste is medium-bodied, supple and juicy which feels complete on the palate, offers a wonderfully balanced acidity and a noughty touch of grapefruit bitterness in the finish. Price: &euro: 9.50
Mandelberg in Mittelwihr is an unpredictable but sun-drenched terroir, where the heavy, cold soil of which yields monolithic, unpolished but complex wines with high levels of acidity. Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mandelberg 2006 is deep golden yellow, like a VT or a SGN. The aroma is saturated with heather rather than roses, apricots rather than lichee, and a seducing touch of almonds. The taste is based on figs, pears and raisins, with the typical bitterness on the finish. Thank you! Price: € 10
Even if Sylvaner lacks a 'fingerprint' charcteristic, on the nose as well as on the palate, this historic variety does indeed give harmonous wines with a wide use. Sylvaner Rosenberg Vielle Vigne 2005 is a biodynamic wine made by one of the stars of Alsace, and offers warm plums, raspberries, toffee and vanilla on the nose. The taste is medium full with a bit of barrique feeling, fresh and complex with some pear and a trace of bitterness, while the finish offers surprising length and superb acids. Impressive! Price: € 8
Gebreit is a vineyard situated on a plateau between two of the Grands Crus of Andlau; Kastelberg and Wiebelsberg. Here, the must gets richness and acidity enough to carry up to a year on oak. Pinot Blanc Gebreit 2005 has an intense aroma with vanilla and black licorice. The taste is fruity and supple with a hint of pineapple on top of a rich, creamy structure with fresh acids and some bitterness in the finish. A biodynamic wine in the style of a Chardonnay. Price: € 7
After a shift in responsibility in 1996, young Etienne manages the lovely vineyards Vogelgarten (Sigolsheim), Grand Cru Marckrain (Bennwihr) and Grand Cru Kaefferkopf with high ambitions; late harvest, low yields and ambitious vinification. Riesling Grand Cru Kaefferkopf 2007 has a big, fresh, up-front aroma, supported by relatively high levels of volatiles. The taste is firm and tight with brilliant minerality and the obnoxious loveliness of the terroir. A great success with outstanding potential from a classic terroir. Price: € 10
In the 2008 edition of Les Meilleurs Vin de France, The Best Wines of France, the Revue du Vin de France awards two out of three stars to Josmeyer. Other domaines on this level are Lynch-Bages, Le Pin and Selosse. Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2000 has a complex, powerful aroma of honey, some petrol, honey, spring flowers and red grapefruit. The taste has a huge volume, layers of layers of sophisticated fruit, traces of botrytis and eternal finish. World class. Unforgettable. Perfect. Price: € 26.
The summer of 2003 was extremely hot and the acidity levels fell drastically already in September, leaving many Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris without sufficient grip to carry the residual sugar. But there are exceptions! Pinot Gris Grand Cru Engelberg 2003 has an aroma of rhubarb and slightly burned fruit-sauce. The taste is like velvet, quite full with figs and toffée, supported by a backbone of lovely acidity, typical for the terroir, and a trace of bitterness. Great craftsmen-ship from Dahlenheim! Price: €10.50.
Bollenberg in Orschwihr is an important lieu-dit that would deserve rank as 'premier cru', if such a classification existed. The wines of Bollenberg are, regardless of producer, focused, never blowzy and posses textbook grip and 'fraicheur'. Gewurztraminer Bollenberg 2004 is light golden. Lilies, banana and turpentine add complexity to the nose. The primary taste offers vanilla ice cream, while the finish is dominated by firmness and licorice. No trace of sticky sweetness. Camille Braun has done it again! Price: € 7.60.
This young wine-maker continues to impress with a homogeneous range of wines on an extraordinary high level. Regardless of grape variety or type of terroir, Etienne Lowe manages to convey personality into every wine he makes. Riesling Bruderbach 2004 glows in deep greenish gold. The aroma offers yellow apples, pears, figs and a whiff of arrack.The taste is fruity with melon, mature apples and red grapefruit, a full mid-palate, great balance and superb acids. The finish reveals undeveloped minerality. Price: € 8.20
Mittelbergheim hosts many young and serious, ecologically oriented producers that develop the potential of the vineyards with great determination. One of these is Lucas Rieffel who enjoys a strong reputation among peers all over Alsace. Klevner Vielles Vignes 2005 is made from grapes of 80 year old vines of Auxerrois. The aroma is powerful and spicy with hard-knit fruit. The taste is quite full and dry, the fruitiness is compact, and the long aftertaste is a bit herbal and square. A great success! Price: € 6.20
Wolxheim is a calm and charming viticultural village, situated beneath the Madonna statue on top of Altenberg and Horn. Here, you have many possibilities to find splendid Riesling that need many years of ageing to show its potential. Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Wolxheim 2001 has a mature aroma of acacia, lime, some red currant and petrol. The taste offers liquerice, minerality and the fullflavoured fruit that comes with maturity. A splendid example of the small miracles offered by the family domaines of Alsace. Price: € 7.20.
Dahlenheim, located 20 km due west of Strasbourg, hosts at least three very good producers, all making classic dry wines for the table. The Grand Cru, Engelberg, gives wines that resemble those from Altenberg de Bergheim; floral, smooth wines with an acidity that develops on the palate. Riesling Grand Cru Engelberg 1999 is mature and floral on the nose, with Sevilla oranges and terpentine. The taste is medium bodied and dry without being lean. The finish offers a taste of fresh grapes, some melon and a trace of bitterness. Price: € 8
Mittelbergheim is not only one of the 100 most beautiful villages in France, the calm streets are lined with ancient buildings and young winemakers with ambitions. André Rohrer makes dry but firm wines that are certified according to INAO's Agriculture Biologique. Pinot Gris 2005 is golden with apricots, pineapple and nuts on the nose. The taste has a fresh attack, is full on mid-palate and offers a clean finish. Dry enough, despite 10 grams/liter of residual sugar. Price: € 5.50
Olivier Humbrecht is one of the globally most important and renowned winemakers, and he stretches his art to the limit. While other serious producers press for 4 hours, clarify the must during 48 hours and avoid malo-lactic transformation, Humbrecht presses for 18 hours, limits clarification to 4 hours and allows all wines to pass malo-lactic. 2006 Pinot Gris from the tiny Clos Windsbuhl, overlooking Hunawihr, is so pure, so focused, so elegant and so complete that no words can do it justice. Price: € 45.
Some 25 years ago, Jean-Pierre Frick in Pfaffenheim pioneered biodynamic viticulture in Alsace. And Frick continues to challenge, eliminating sulfur in the vinification process and using beer bottle caps for all his wine. Pinot Gris Cuvée Précieuse 2002 has a golden tint and a complex aroma of almonds, smoke and orange jam. The taste is full and fucused with character and personality, and an acidity that carries 16 gram/liter residual sugar without effort. Price: € 9.50
Osterberg yields powerful, multi-dimensional wines with an abundance of the minerality so characteristic for Ribeauvillé. Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg 2004 from Joggerst has a yet restrained nose with smoke and loads of fruit. The taste has good attack, surprising power, perfect balance and a long, clean aftertaste with yummy, almost sandy minerality. Deserves its gold medal from Riesling du Monde 2006. Price: € 12,40
Marckrain is a misunderstood Grand Cru with obvious potential, currently demonstrated by brilliant producers such as Michel Fonné (René Barth), Fabien Stirn och Laurenth Barth. Muscat Grand Cru Marckrain 2004 from Barth René has a forward nos with dominated by peaches, som banana, mint and grapes. The taste is supple, fresh och complex with fabulous minerality. A perfect wine to go with asparagous and sauce Hollandaise. Price: € 10.
Hugel is the most influential producer in Alsace and their top Riesling is the benchmark. Riesling Jubilee Hugel 2001 origins from Grand Cru Schoenenbourg in Riquewihr, a legendary vineyard on gypsum and marl. The nose is developed oozing with honey, some lemon but also pineapple and peach. The taste is mature, more than medium bodied, rich and harmoniuous with grape, some minerality and velvety acidity. Price: € 21.
Within the boundaries of the hidden village Andlau one finds three superior Grands Crus with diverse characteristcs; Kastelberg (shist), Wiebelsberg (sandstone) and the illusive Moenchberg (lime topsoil on granite). While famous for its' amazing Pinot Gris, the geology of Muenchbergs yields Rieslings that combine fruitiness with focus. Riesling Grand Cru Moenchberg 2002 from Guy Wach offers kiwi, papaya and citrus, and a succulent taste with some minerality and a lovely bitterish attack. The taste is even more complex than the aroma. Price: €10.85
Goldert may be the most well protected of all the Grands Crus of Alsace and is famed for perennial success of Muscat and Gewurztraminer. Grown on calcareous soil overlooking the Rhine, this Riesling Grand Cru Goldert 2005 is beautifully crafted by Eliane Ginglinger in Voegtlinshoffen. The promising nose is tempting with candied lemon, mature exotic fruits and a hint of honey. The taste is full but focused, daring but dry, fresh with a trace of grapefruity bitterness, characteristic minerals and seducive fruit. Pure quality. Price: € 9.80.
Muscat from Alsace is the ideal companion of the first asparagous soup of the season. With its' bitterish character, typical for Riquewihr, it disarms the umami-flavours of the beloved primeur. Muscat d'Alsace 2004 from Frédéric Engel has, at 4 years of age, attained a level of maturity where a youthful charm has been replaced by character and complexity. The taste is try, yet quite full, offering oranges, liquorice and mint. A solid wine that conveys the charm and joy of an entire region. Price: €6.
In their youth, the wines from Altenberg de Bergheim are firm and fresh with a distinct scent of oranges. With time they fill out and gain richness, body and splendid charm. Riesling Altenberg de Bergheim 1995 (still for sale at the domaine) from Gustave Lorentz offers citrus and diesel on the nose but especially vanilla, passion fruit, cinnamon and cloves. The taste is seducive and silky but still zesty and juicy with admireable acidity. Sigh... Price: €30.
Binner in Ammerschwihr makes dry, biodynamic wines. Gewurztraminer Kaefferkopf 2004 from Audrey & Christian Binner spent 11 months "sur lie" before it was bottled without filtering. The nose is very fruity with kiwi, aprocots and pinappe, the taste offers anise and fruit cocktail. Price: €12.
Alsace Muscat is fresh but fruity, dry but supple. It feels natural all the way, and matches salads and veggie dishes perfectly. The 2004 Muscat from Jean-Marc Bernahard in Katzenthal has melon and almonds on the nose, while the tast adds spices such ginger, anis, cloves and a hint of bitterness. Price: €7.
Sylvie Spielmann owns half of the smallest Grand Cru of Alsace. This terroir gives firm wines that need very long to develop and show their full potential. Spielmann is a of master of Gewurztraminer, and in addition to Kanzlerberg and Altenberg de Bergheim she offers a splendid lieu-dit Blosenberg. The 2000 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kanzlerberg has a complex aroma of vanilla, raspberry, liquorice, violet and the spearmint typical of the terroir. The velvety taste offers perfect balance beteen fruit, integrated sweetness and superb acidity. Price: ca €15,00.
Rosacker may be best known for its' Riesling but the heavy clay also gives birth to outstanding Gewurztraminer. The 2004 Gewurztraminer Rosacker from Jean-Luc Mader offers aromas of jasmine, banana, honey, citrus and spices. The taste is firm, typical for the house, medium bodied and still a bit sweet. The aftertaste is complex with a stiff minerality that is the hallmark of this great terroir. Price: ca €11.00.
Patrick Schaller, educated in Champagne, has a reputation for first class crémant but does also offer a complex Muscat, uncompromising Riesling Grand Cru Mandelberg and a smokey Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sporen, true to the terroir. The 2005 Riesling St Grégoire is typical for the house style; firm, focused and fruity. The nose offers yellow apples and the taste is long and creamy. Price: ca €10.00
Crémant is an underrated wine at the table. Made according to métode Champenoise, but employing less chaptalization and other tricks, it is perfect match for white meats and fish. Crémant d´Alsace from Clément Klur offers almonds, vanilla and oranges on the nose. The taste is medium-light bodied and dry with pure, silky acids and a slight bitterness that adds character. Price: €8.50.
The vintage 2006 was very diffucult as rot started to spread due to a rainy August and warm rains in September. However, due to the thick skin Gewurztraminer did very well. 2006 Gewurztraminer from Mittnacht Fréres in Hunawihr, run by Marc and Christophe is made according to biodynamic principles. The aroma offers a hint of banana, cardemoms, fresh ginger and roses. The taste is more than medium-bodied, deep, clean without any bitterness and perfectly balanced. Price: €9.65.
It takes a winemaker with the skill and dedication of Fabien Stirn to make a Gewurztraminer that expresses the terroir as much as the grape variety. 2002 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sonnenglanz has a complex nose with roses, white , flower and maturation. On the palate, the first impression says "Sauternes", with some botrytis, honey, some sweetness and razorsharp acidity. Then, a superb and stunning minerality develops. The taste lasts for minutes. A World Class wine. Ex cellar price: €10.
Gérard Schueller is now managed by Bruno Scheuller. As other producers that work according to biodynamic principles, Bruno Schueller makes wines that possess a lot of character and variability. The 2005 Pinot Blanc, a 100% Auxerrois, shows an exciting aroma of nuts, honey and molasses, reminding of a sweet Chenin Blanc from Loire. The taste is nutty, fresh, full and bone dry. A superb gastronomic wine. Ex cellar price: €6.
Spring time is asparagus time. June allows us to indulge a creamy asparagus soup, Risotto milanese with tender bud of green asparagus, and the hedonistic marriage of asparagus and a sauce hollandaise, charged with fine strips of lemon peel. The 2005 Muscat Marnes Vertes from the dynamic Etienne Loew is almost white. One the nose, you will find the fingerprint grapy aroma, passion fruit and a hint of mint. The taste bears has astringency typical of marly terroirs. Heaven can wait! Ex cellar price: € 7.50.