Thursday, December 26, 2013

Crémant Rosé, Jean-Marc et Frédéric Bernard

During Christmas, warm spicy wine stands in contrast to the French tradition to drink champagne. An excellent compromise is to drink Crémant Rosé, a delicious andd refreshing drink made from Pinot Noir. The wine is also part of a larger trend in Alsace, which is to make increasingly sophisticated Crémant on individual grapes (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), drier styles (zéro dosage) and more and more single vintage editions.

Crémant Rosé (2011) by Jean-Marc et Frédéric Bernhard in Katzenthal is lovely salmon pink. The aroma is very fruity with ripe cherry, a splash of strawberries and a touch of toast. The palate is balanced and round with fresh acids that carries a some seductive sweetness (10 grams of residual sugar per liter). Delicious! Price: € 8.50.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2007 Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg, Louis Sipp

The label holds the three words Finesse, Harmony, Authenticity. It's really three relevant epithets for the wines of the firm Louis Sipp. With high aspirations at all levels Etienne Sipp makes classic, firm and tasty wines from all grapes. But perhaps does the style turn out best for Riesling, where the cuvées range from the diehard Hagel, over the fresh Grand Cru Osterberg, the saturated Grand Cru Kirchberg to the generous and and plump Steinacker. Sipp has lovely wines for all tastes!

2007 Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg from Louis Sipp in Ribeauvillé is bright greenish yellow in color. The smell is, even after six years, remarkably young with lemon, herbs, acacia and star anise. The taste is barely medium-bodied with big, firm acidity and a clean, ripe fruitiness that fills out the palate into a harmonious whole. A classic wine from a calcareous soil that slopes gently toward the east. Price: € 18.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

2003 Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg, Bruno Sorg

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.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2012 Riesling Vielles Vignes, Frédéric Engel

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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

2011 Pinot Gris Réserve, Dirler-Cadé

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.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2011 Sylvaner, Laurent Barth

It is a pity that many tourists visiting frown 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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

2002 Riesling Grand Cru Rangen, Schoffit

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 Rangen 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.

Friday, August 9, 2013

2002 Riesling Grand Cru Geisberg, Faller

Grand Cru Geisberg forms a steep amphitheater on the hillside north of Ribeauvillé. It is one of the very best vineyards in Alsace. But only Faller and Kientzler makes "pure" Riesling Grand Cru Geisberg. Trimbach blends his Geisberg with wine from Grand Cru Osterberg to make Cuvée Frederic Emile, and landowners Baldenbeck and the monastery in Ribeauvillé sell their grapes. At Faller, located on the main street Grand'Rue, you may always taste several vintages. Try them and select the one you like best!

2002 Riesling Grand Cru Geisberg from Faller in Ribeauvillé smells devine of ginger, apple pie, honey, white flowers, candied lemon and minerals. The taste is pure, silky but still tight and focused, with lots of fruit in the clean and dry aftertaste. A brilliant wine at its' peak. Price (2005): € 15.

Friday, July 26, 2013

2007 Riesling Langgass, Emile Herzog

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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2008 Riesling Herrenreben, Schoenheitz

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.

Friday, July 19, 2013

2011 Rouge de Saint-Hippolyte, Cave de Ribeauvillé

The villages of Saint-Hippolyte and Rodern are well 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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2010 Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg, Agapé

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crémant, Jean-Marc Bernard

Crémant from Alsace is getting better and better. The raw material has historically consisted of still wine from Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, but now Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are increasingly  used for France's most drunken sparkling wine. Chardonnay provides a lovely acid that allows long bottle aging and lees sur lattes. With bottle storage up to three years before degorgement producers such as Bernhard, Mader and Sorg make serious sparkling wine with lovely volume and mouth feel. The sugar added can scarcely be perceived.

Crémant from Jean-Marc Bernhard offers a fresh nose with brioche, yellow apples, quince and mineral. In the mouth, the wine has a fine mousse that does not feel bubbly. The palate is medium bodied, with lovely fruit, a lively acidity on the tongue and a rich aftertaste with a hint of grapefruit zest in the finish. The balance between volume and acidity make it a perfect match for food. Moreover, it is ridiculously cheap! Price: € 6.80.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2005 Muscat Altengarten, Jean-Louis et Fabienne Mann

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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

2008 Crémant, Pierre Frick

The variety Auxerrois is amazingly versatile. Outside of Alsace it is largely unknown, but here it accounts for 7% of the entire area. Mostly blended with Pinot Blanc (and sold as Pinot Blanc), a small portion is marketed as pure Auxerrois while a significant proportion is  included as base for sparkling sparkling wine where it provides volume and body. If harvested just about mature Auxerrois has sufficient acid to benefit from long elevage sur latte while gaining in aromatic complexity.

2008 Crémant from Pierre Frick in Pfaffenheim is 100% Auxerrois and is beautifully straw yellow colored. The aroma is rich and attractiubve with apple, chocolate, toast and fresh lemon. The taste is serious, balanced and rich with a lovely acid that frames lots of lovely fruit, formin a rich but elegant and balanced whole. A ridiculously low price for a fine wine! Price: € 9.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2007 Pinot Gris Dorfburg, Meyer Fonné

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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

2009 Riesling Grand Cru Kaefferkopf, Meyer-Fonné

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.

Friday, March 8, 2013

2010 Riesling Westweingarten, Anstotz

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 exudesjoie de vivre. Price: € 8.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2010 Pinot Gris Gottesthal, Paul Buecher

The southern gateway to Alsace is not, as often said, the city of Thann, but the municipality Leimbach, just south of Thann. Here wine has been cultivated since the 1300s on a bedrock of limestone. Throughout the municipality there are only 23 acres of land that may be used as vineyards, but just one single hectare is cultivated for grapes. So the wine that comes from here is simply unique. And so good!

2010 Pinot Gris Gottesthal from Paul Buecher in Wettolsheim is dense and yellow-green. The fragrance contains peach, pears, orange, apricot and hazelnuts. The taste is dense, fruity but elegant with a tension and a wonderfully fresh acidity. A perfect wine for grilled vegetables and savory meats. Price: 10 €.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2011 Riesling Dirstelberg, Agathe Bursin

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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2008 Riesling Grand Cru Engelberg, Maurice Heckmann

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.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2005 Crémant, Bruno Sorg

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.