When Etienne Simonis in 1996 took over the primary responsibility for the family's vineyards from his father René he entered on the same path as so several others of his generation: organic farming, reduced yields, extremely gentle pressing, reducing sulphur levels, long ageing "sur lies fines" and a careful balance between oxidative and reductive conditions. After arduous years he is about to become certified as biodynamic, the domaine ranks among the best in Alsace by La Revue du Vin de France and it has a solid reputation among the local nerds.
But what strikes one at a visit to Simonis is the friendly and gentle impression, from the family as well as from the wines. Here, in a humble small residential area on the outskirts of Ammerschwihr there are no extravagant premises, no head high and absolutely no inflated prices. But knowledge, commitment and quality is abundant!
The basis for Simonis' production is a series of very good vineyards. Flagship are the Grand Cru Kaefferkopf (Riesling and Gewurztraminer), and one of my favourites, the resurgent Grand Cru Marckrain in Bennwihr. Another outstanding terroir is Lieu-dit Vogelgarten in teh valley between the neighbouring villages Kientzheim and Sigolsheim, a vineyard dominated by clayey and calcareous marl. The actual geology is of Grand Cru standard, but the climate is cooler. Result: a deliciously aromatic and focused Gewurztraminer, less charged with and sugar than many Gewurztraminer from the Grands Crus.
Annual production is modest at 28 000 bottles from 7 hectares. The low production is explained by low yields, but also by the fact that some grapes are sold. Of the vineyard area, 36% is planted with Gewurztraminer. The range includes several wines by somewhat odd nature, such as a Blanc de (Pinot) Noir, and two sweet Sylvaners: Caprice de Sylvaner and Qunitessance the Sylvaner. But all in all, it is the classic wines made from Riesling and Gewurztraminer that carried the well-deserved reputation of this quality domaine.
Domaine René et Etienne Simonis confirms a rule with few exceptions: all good producers have exhibit a unique, personal and inimitable character. As for Etienne Simonis, the hallmark is a special combination of generous but focused wines. Lovely, isn't it!?
Latest visit: 2010.