If you haven’t been wine tasting in Alsace before you may find it quite daunting because of the number of wines available to taste. At most cellar doors there are less than 10 wines to taste; in Alsace more than 20. This is because they have 3 major varietals - Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer – and several minor ones – Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir. And each major varietal comes in different guises; a basic wine, a reserve, a Grand Cru. And then there are the sweet wines –vedage tardive (late harvest) and Grains Nobles (grapes affected by ‘noble rot’, Botrytis cinerea). Finally there are likely to be several vintages. We focused on Riesling and Pinot Gris in the basic, reserve and Grand Cru forms. Coming down from Champagne it made sense to start in the North and move our way South to set up a late afternoon departure for Dijon.
Charles Wantz36 rue Saint Marc, Barr 67140; T 03 88 08 90 44 www.ch-wantz.com
We tasted about 10 of their wines as they have a good reputation. Somehow they were not to our taste. We bought Wiebelsberg Grand Cru Riesling ’04 (€13.50) to ‘pay’ for the tasting.
Domaine Hering6, rue du Dr Sultzer, Barr 67140; T 03 88 08 90 07 www.vins-hering.com
Their cellar door is in the middle of the old town of Barr. We tasted a range of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Their entry level Les Coteaux Riesling (€7.20) and Gewurztraminer (€7.70) were both typical of what one would expect and we bought both. The Rosenegert €10.90 is a blend of typical Alsace grapes using the ancestral vineyard method of ‘complantation’ where the vineyard is planted with the varietals mixed together and all varietals are harvested and vinified together. We also though that their Riesling and Gewurztraminer Grand Cru wines were wonderful and so bought Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr ’10 (€13) which had great acid for aging purposes and a hint of sweetness and Gewurztraminer Clos Gaensbroennel ’09 (€17) which had a restrained nose but the full richness of its varietal on the palate.
Domaine Armand Gilg2 rue Rotland, Mittelbergheim 67140; T 03 88 08 92 76 www.domaine-gilg.com
Riesling is this domaine’s strong point. Riesling Mittelbergheim ’10 (€6.30) was lemony and had good acids. The Grand Crus reflected terroir differences; Grand Cru Zotzenberg ’09 (€10.75) was also lemony but had great complexity on the palate. Grand Crus Moenchberg (€10.50) had the typical Riesling turpine nose and a complex palate. We bought all three.
Marcel Deiss15, Route du Vin, Bergheim 68750; T 03 89 73 63 37 www.marceldeiss.com
Marcel Deiss, one of Robert Parker’s ten five star Alsace producers, is a great proponent of the ‘complantation’ concept. He describes this in connection to his Vins de terroirs as “field blends of varietals designated, indeed dominated, by their terroir and site and soil specificity”. Their vineyards and wine making methods are not biodynamic in the ‘certified’ sense; read the website for the unique way they express their approach. We tried several of these wines and the ones that we preferred (and bought) were Engelgarten ’09 (€23) and Rotenberg ’07 (€29). For a full description of the terroir and the varietals please refer to his website.
Andre Kientzler50, route de Bergheim, Ribeauvillé 68150; T 03 89 73 67 10 (www.vinskientzler.com under construction April ’12)
The view from their cellar door (see below) certainly rates a picture on our Pinterest site Sublime Cellar Door Views (see here) We tasted their Riesling and Pinot Gris. The Grand Cru Osterberg Riesling ‘09 (€17.80) was rich, minerally and complex. The Pinot Gris Reserve ’09 (€14) was made from grapes in selected blocks that were picked somewhat later than the main Pinot Gris harvest which resulted in a more complex and slightly sweeter wine than their normal Pinot Gris. We bought both these.
Andre Kientzler cellar door view of Ostenberg Grand Cru vineyard
Bott Frères13, av du gal-de-gaulle, 68150 Ribeauvillé; T 03 89 73 22 50 www.bott-freres.fr
An old family winemaker that is located on the road heading south out of Ribeauvillé. They have two basic ranges of wine - Reserve Personnelle and Cuvée Particulière. We found that we preferred the latter as it was less sweet and, happily, slightly cheaper. To our minds the ’09 Riesling (€8.10), ’08 Pinot Gris (€8.70), and ’10 Gewurztraminer (€9.50) were typical of their varietals. The Riesling was minerally with a touch of lemon; ideal for dishes will chilli in them. The Pinot Gris had a typical nose and a full mouth feel and good acid; ideal with white meats and fish. The Gewurztraminer had the classical rose and lychee nose and flavours; ideal with curries and other spicy foods. We will be getting their half bottles for halfwine.com’s range.
Fux-Fuchs1 Kronenburgweg, Zellenberg 68340; T 03 89 47 81 77 (website, if any, not known)
We had drunk and loved their Pinot Gris Grand Cru Froehn ’04 the night before at Restaurant Frankenbourg so we decided to seek them out. We tasted many of their Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer ordinary and Grand Cru wines which ranged in price from €5 to €20. We decided to buy their ‘11 Pinot Gris Vieilles Vignes (€8) which was flowery, had a complex palate and was slightly sweeter because it had been left on the vines for longer.
Paul Blanck32, Grand’rue, 68240 Kientzheim; T 03 89 78 23 56 www.blanck.com
Most of our Sublime Cellar Door Views are of open spaces but the Paul Blanck view down the main street of the old town of Kientzheim certainly qualifies. We tasted their Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer from their ‘Classiques’, ‘Lieux-Dits’ and Grand Cru ranges. The Pategarten Pinot Gris ’09 (€13.15) had a great varietal nose with a minerally, full bodied palate. The Grand Cru Furstentum Pinot Gris ’05 (€22.75) had everything the Pategarten had but was more fruity, full bodied and complex. The Grand Cru Furstentum Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes ’07 (€20.40) had the typical rose petal and lychee nose and palate but with great intensity. We bought the Grand Crus.
Paul Blanc cellar door view towards Furstentum grand cru vineyard
Domaine WeinbachClos des Capucins, Kayserberg, 68240; T 03 89 47 13 21 www.domaineweinbach.com
Dm Weinbach tasting room
Dm Weinbach view over Clos de Capucins towards Grand Cru Schlossberg
Mathew Jukes in one of his Money Week columns described this domaine at the Margaux and D’Yquem of Alsace and it’s one of Robert Parker’s ten five star Alsace producers. So we went against our policy and booked a tasting by e-mail about two weeks prior to our arrival. The tasting was conducted by the matriarch of the family, Colette Faller, in her inimitable style. Their wines are mainly from in and near the Grand Cru Schlossberg, Clos de Capucins that surrounds their premises. They also have a small parcel of Grand Cru Furstentum where they grow Gewurztraminer. All the vineyards are farmed on an organic and bio-dynamic basis. We tasted the lot from several vintages. After much humming and hawing we bought the Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg ‘07 (€25), the Pinot Gris Altenbourg ‘08 (€30) and the Gewurztraminer Altenbourg ‘07 (€32). We will arrange for similar wines to be made available in halfwine.com’s premium wine selection which offers half bottles in the £15 to £20 range. It might seem like a lot but one regularly spends that in restaurants in the UK for indifferent wine; treat yourself at home!
Charles Schleret1-3 Route d’Ingershein, Turkheim 68230; T 03 89 27 06 09 (no website)
This long established maker has a good reputation and has won many medals. We tasted half a dozen or so wines with growing concern as we did not rate them at all. We finally tasted the Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles ‘00 (€26) which we thought was pretty good and so bought it to ‘pay’ for the tasting.
Before tasting at Dm Josmeyer we had lunch up in the vineyards overlooking the town. In the picture below, if you look carefully, you can see three grand cru vineyards highlighted in the sun. Just the other side of Turkheim is grand cru Brand. A little bit hgher up and to the right of the small village of Niedermorschwihr is Sommerberg. To the right in the distance is grand cru Furstentum the other side of Sigolsheim.
Three grand crus in the sunlight - Brand, Sommerberg and Furstentum
Domaine Josmeyer76 rue Clémenceau, Wintzenheim 68920; T 03 89 27 91 90 www.josmeyer.com
Dm Josmeyer courtyard
Dm Josmeyer tasting room
Josmeyer state that their vineyards have an exceptional micro-climate and one of the lowest annual rainfalls in the whole of France. They are cultivated on an organic and bio-dynamic basis. Although we really liked the Rieslings it was the Pinot Gris that grabbed our attention. We started with the Le Fromenteau ‘09 (€14.90) which was a classic dry style Pinot Gris. The ’07 1854 Foundation (€22.90) was full of flavour and full of fruit but a bit too sweet for our taste. The Grand Cru Brand ‘05 (€29.00) was deliberately made in the drier style to be drunk with food; it was fine and taut. The Grand Cru Hengst ‘05 (€29.000 was similar to the Brand but bigger and fuller in the mouth. We bought the three dry style wines.
Domaine Barmès Buecher30 Rue Ste Gertrude, 68920 Wettolsheim; T 03 89 80 62 92 www.barmes-buecher.com
Their vineyards are farmed on an organic and bio-dynamic basis. In addition they do not chaptalize or fine and no enzyme treatment or yeast addition are used. We focused on their premier cru Riesling and Pinot Gris wines. Rosenberg Riesling’06 (€15) was very minerally (limestone and clay soils) whilst the Leimenthal Riesling ‘08 (€17) was lemony (limestone) and the Clos Sand Riesling ‘06 (€18) from granite soils flowery with a hint of lemon at the back, almost like a Pinot Gris. This was a really stunning example of the impact of terroir on wine. After this we just had to taste the Riesling Grand Cru Steingrübler ’07 (€21). It had a flowery nose, was very rich and full of fruit. The ’04 Pfleck, Herrenweg and Rosenberg Pinot Gris were also very good but we decided to buy the premier cru Rieslings.
We were planning to visit to several other wine makers to the south but as we had run out of time we had to abandon them till the next time.