Tag Archives: Zind-Humbrecht

Zind-Humbrecht at Coe Vintners

Being an orderly sort of soul, in general I much prefer to go to a themed tasting, rather than a broad sweep across regions.  Comparison is a very powerful tool but I would rather limit the field and try to learn a bit more about an area or grower in depth.   Occasionally you get the best of both worlds, as happened at a recent Coe Vintners tasting, which took place at Home House, a private club in Portland Square.  Billed as a fine wine tasting, it certainly lived up to that with quality wines from Champagne and Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, a few Italians and Spaniards and even the occasional Australian.  But the star of the show was undoubtedly Olivier Humbrecht of whom more anon. 

In the general tasting some tables really stood out: 

Sumptuous Champagne from Pannier and from Dampierre.  I particularly enjoyed 1999 Pannier Egerie and the corresponding non-vintage Rosé.  The latter has a lovely raspberry and strawberry nose, balanced fruit and refreshment, delicious.  The 1999 has good freshness alongside some interesting, mushroomy tones, a nice weight in the mouth  I was less enamoured of the Pannier Blanc de Noir, ie made as white wine from the juice of black grapes. It was certainly distinctive with yeasty, even doughy smells to the fore.  Dampierre was also excellent, especially the Family Reserve Grand Cru, 2000: toasty, hazelnuts, good fruit and very long.  Altogether much better value than the Taittinger Comtes des Champagnes, white of 1998 (still tasted rather closed) and the rosé of 2002.  Of course if someone else has the wines in their cellar and the patience, that might be another matter entirely …

I also tried the Barolo and Barbaresco from Giacosa Fratelli, not least because I had bought a mixed case of these for a forthcoming tasting.  Overall conclusion was that they really need time to get out of their rather rustic youth (the two basic wines) though the 2005 Barolo Bussia has already has some perfume to offer.   A tasting in 2014-20 anyone?  This was even more the case with promising red Burgundy, eg PC Clos de Thorey Monopole, Nuit St Georges, 2006 from Antonin Rodet – I could taste the youthful acidity hours later!  But in ten years time it will be wonderful. 

No need for delayed gratification, however, with the wines of Zind-Humbrecht, though they too will develop with age.  Olivier Humbrecht was showing a great range of wines, 13 in all.  I concentrated on the ones that were new to me, especially from the Clos Windsbuhl vineyard.  The firm’s comment is:

“The Clos Windsbuhl is, with the Rangen vineyard, the least precocious site that we cultivate on the estate. The higher altitude, the old rocky calcareous soil, its location near the forest all participate to create a slow ripening process. Often criticized in the past for this characteristic, we think that on the contrary, it helps the grapes to keep a structure based on acidity and not alcohol, and also that the vines have more time to ripen the grape physiologically.

Humbrecht explained further that the vineyard is around 300 metres above sea level, 100m higher and so cooler than most, and that it has a mixed history.  Before they bought it, the older owners had worked for quality (only really good vineyards had names historically in Alsace) but then there was neglect, overplanting, overproduction in recent times.  Having acquired it on the basis of its ancient reputation, they have grubbed up the new vines but kept the old ones. 

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2007: made with the fruit of the old vines, this is an amazing combination of crisp fruit and structure in the mouth. Wow! 

Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl Vendanges Tardive 2005 – rich, dense, even tending to oily texture from late picked picked grapes, medium sweet but with good acidity, absolutely delicious. 

Another vineyard featured was the Grand Cru Rangen de Thann, very steep (to the point that it has to be ploughed using a winch) and South facing.  In addition to the two Pinot Gris I missed in the excitement (2005, 2001), there was:

Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann 2007, a superb complex nose of honey, nuts and something herby/herbaceous, rounded in the mouth, melons, ripe fruit in general, even pineapple, with a refreshing finish.  Excellent. 

I finished the Zind-Humbrecht table with Pinot Gris Heimbourg Sélection de Grains Nobles 2005, a wine with well over 100 grams of residual sugar per litre – a huge, sweet sticky, but with great marmaladely flavours and counterbalancing acidity, and great persistence. 

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Particularly Alsace

After the anticipation, the tasting.  Ten members of Andover Wine Friends gathered to try two of Alsace’s great white grape varieties followed by a simple supper.  We settled quickly to the task after a taste of Aureus, Cremant de Loire, a bottle-aged single vintage Chardonnay, 2002.  Toasty, decent acidity if slightly milder than much Champagne, must be the best under £10 sparkler with bottle age? 

 IMG_3792Hugh Johnson speaks of the secretive sect of Riesling lovers, a great grape whose public perception is tarnished by memories of poor quality mainly German examples of the 70s and 80s.  In fact, both Gewürztraminer and Riesling are little understood in a wine world full of Chardonnay in various guises, neutral Pinot Grigio and big, muscular reds.  By contrast, Gewürz’s style takes some getting used to, with its combination of low acidity, modern high alcohol level (despite Alsace’s northerly latitude, it is one of the sunniest place in Europe) and off-dry taste which tastes sweet to those who only drink bone dry wines. Full details of the wines are given below – we tasted three Gewürztraminers.  An obvious difference was between the pale yellow of the 2007 with the tell-tale streaks of youthful green still visible and, by contrast, the yellow to gold of the 2000.  What was apparent to all was the outstanding aromatic qualities of Gewürz, some floral and mineral notes, kiwi and especially lychees, then honey and weight in the mouth in the better bottles. The surprise was that Ostertag’s 2006 tasted an older wine than the Hugel 2000.  How can this be? Our most knowledgeable taster suggested low intervention wine making and minimalist use of sulphur dioxide could lead to the fast ageing of the 2006.    

 The colour contrast in the three Rieslings was even more marked, the first two pale to the point of colourless on the rim of the glass, the third, older, wine, much darker and pale gold.  Rather less immediate sensation on the nose, floral and petrol in even the younger wines, honey, toasty, ‘floor polish’ (but only the best) on the older wine.  But then an explosion of flavour in the mouth, borne along by great acidity, refreshing to some, demanding to others.  For most of us, quality did reflect price.  Hugel’s wonderful Jubilee 2005 is very pale in the glass but a wine of good fruit and superb balance, while Zind Hubrecht’s single vineyard Heimbourg 2001 was bold and complex, bottle ageing producing the toasty notes otherwise associated with oak ageing, a wonderful balance between still good zinginess (many years to go if you hadn’t drunk it!) and great persistence, the sensations lingering in the mouth for what seemed like minutes. 

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 Over the supper that followed we had a further treat, Zind Humbrecht’s Pinot Noir from the same Heimbourg vineyard.  This is a brilliant example of Pinot, fragrant, a clarity of fruit and balanced acidity presumably reflecting its northern latitude.  Not cheap but a fine accompaniment to pork and prunes.  Multiple conversations buzzed.  The evening concluded with a bottle from nowhere near Alsace – Pietratorcia’s one-off dessert wine from Ischia, one of the islands off Naples.  This 2002 was bought at the family winery after a particularly good lunch with the wine maker.   A product of the passito method, by semi drying the grapes before vinification, this was a mildly eccentric bit of Italian creativity, the grapes here being Viognier and Malvasia Aromatica.  The former presumably contributes some silkiness and apricot tones, all now knitted together in a pleasant if not outstanding pale orangey-brown sticky.  It’s not just Alsace that can do the particular. 

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 Gewürztraminer

The Society’s Exhibition Gewürztraminer, made by Hugel, 2007, (Wine Society £14)

Domaine Ostertag, 2006 (Berry’s £17)

Tradition, Hugel, 2000 (WS, originally £10.50)

 

Riesling

Collection, Kuentz-Bas, 2005 (WS £11)

Jubilee, Hugel, 2005, (WS £19)

Heimbourg, Domaine Zind Humbrecht, 2001 (Caviste £25)

 

Pinor Noir

Heimbourg, Domaine Zind Hubrecht, 2005 (Caviste £22.50)

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Searching for older Alsace bottles

taller than thou!

taller than thou!

Half the fun of putting a tasting together is in the search.  We will all have our favourite places to start – in your own cellar (under the stairs), your local supermarket, on the web or in a local shop.  I had already put together a tasting of Gewurztraminer and Riesling from Alsace and could draw on some bottles already. These included some 2003s, more 2005s for Riesling, some 2007s recently acquired and the odd bottle of 2000 waiting for an occasion such as this.  But I didn’t want to use up all my older bottles in one go, so I went to see what Caviste in Overton (www.caviste.co.uk) might have tucked away. 

The day was made by finding two quite grand bottles from Zind Humbrecht, one white and one red, the latter to go with the accompanying supper.  First, the perfect find in the shop was its last bottle of the single vineyard Riesling, Heimbourg, from 2001, which should have developed in the bottle over the last eight years.  Second, to complete the day, a quality Pinot Noir.  A nice touch is that both bottles come from grapes from the same 4 hectare vineyard.  The tasting awaits on Tuesday, but the satisfaction of the successful search already.

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