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Feb 16, 2014 08:41 AM

Alsace: the new generation

Interesting article on the changes the younger generation are making in Alsatian wines . . . .

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  1. Clos St Hune is "new generation?"

    13 Replies
    1. re: jock

      Skimmed the article, did you?

      1. re: zin1953

        Au contrare. It so happens that Clos St Hune is IMO the greatest single expression of my favorite white grape and I think a lot of people agree. Clos St Hune has been around long enough in that style that I do not consider it "new generation."

        What I fail to understand in that article is that with the talk of focus on terrior why they are doing blends. Alsace is unique in that it has four grapes (five if you count pinot blanc) that can make superb wines all by themselves. All of them are terroir sensitive especially riesling and pinot gris . To me the blending would remove the sense of place. Guess I'm just an old fart.

        1. re: jock

          Je pense que je suis plus âgé que vous . . .

          Be that as it may, the point in blending is that, historically, it is the varietal wine that was blended -- blended from different vineyards, and there *was* no sense of terroir.

          This might not be the case with the Grand Cru vineyards, which obviously are from a single point on Earth -- Clos Ste. Hune (with an "e"), a VERY special corner of the Rosacker Grand Cru vineyard, being MY personal favorite! -- which are single vineyard/single varietal wines. But also remember that the Alsatian production of varietal wine is largely a holdover from German times.

          The point that many young winemakers are making, in terms of blending, is that there are often several different varieties within one climat, one vineyard¹. In that regard, blending -- not restricted to Grands Crus vineyards -- would (in theory) highlight the terroir of that specific site, without the focus on the grape "interfering," so to speak.

          ¹ As an example, one merely has to look at Domaine Schlumberger -- -- where Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gerwurztraminer can all be found planted in both the Kessler and Kitterlé vineyards (both Grands Crus).

          1. re: zin1953

            Are you really that old, Jason? I don't look my age. At 71 I can still pass for 50-55.

            I understand that Deiss blends several grapes from one terroir "to capture the terroir," but I want to hear about how these blends play out with food, for example. I've hardly ever had an Edelzwicker I wanted to drink. I believe Deiss is rather controversial in Alsace, maybe even hated, but I see that Mme Pfister also has a blended cuvée. After all they've spent years to develop a clientele for their Alsatian white varietals, and along comes this young rebel who starts selling blends.

            I agree with you about Clos Ste Hune, and in Alsace I always go to that little fortified chapel in Hunawihr and look up at the vineyarrds.

            1. re: collioure

              I don't think there is anything rebellious in selling blends, is there? Edelzwicker, Gentil and the like are traditional blends that are many years old. Deiss attracts cynicism because he practices complantation; I'm not sure Pfister is doing the same (although please correct me if I'm wrong).

              Completely agree with your post below re the quality of Weinbach, although I am not sure if Colette is in fact still running the show? There is a new generation coming up in the family, and I think it is Catherine's son Theo who is now in charge of the vineyards.

              1. re: Julian Teoh

                Julian, I *think* the idea is -- like Deiss -- blends from a single site, rather than tossing together a bunch of grapes from multiple sites.

                1. re: zin1953

                  But Deiss cops it for harvesting all varieties at the same time (implicit in this is obviously that the fruit is at different levels of ripeness), blending the must, etc. I didn't get the impression from the article that Pfister was doing that.

                  I just got the impression that she wanted to do a Gentil-style blend, which is all well and good (I like Hugel's version), but hardly rebellious.

                  1. re: Julian Teoh

                    Julian, I'm not trying to debate with you. I am not inside the minds of the "new generation." I'm just saying that what I've read (in Decanter and elsewhere) repeatedly speaks of blending and site-specific terroir . . .

                    1. re: zin1953

                      I'm not either, Jason. I was just trying to say that I didn't think that Pfister was one of the complantation culprits...

                      I see an irony that it is going to get even more confusing to sell Alsace wine if the new trend is to blend. We generally had a grasp that PG and Gewurz would tend more to off-dryness than a Riesling, but who knows with blends, unless winemakers adopt a standardised measure of palate sweetness ad indicate it on the label?

                      1. re: Julian Teoh

                        Well, personally, I have always preferred the wines made by the father, Léonard Humbrecht, rather than those produced by the son, Olivier . . . except the SGNs, which are (quite often) glorious. But I've always found Zind Humbrecht's "regular" wines too sweet for my palate.

            2. re: zin1953

              Au contrare again at least as far as collioure is concerned - je suis 73.
              i could easily pass for 72 ;)

              1. re: jock

                Je me rends - le Magniot Line est le vôtre.

                J'ai 60 ans.

                1. re: zin1953

                  A mere youngster then

                  Almost a young whippersnapper.

                  Why didn't you say so!

      2. All this reclassification rather passed us by as we had long-term relations with Trimbach whose Riesling labels never budged.

        Now that I'm buying for myself I've had to pay some attention to these relatively new terms like SNG and to the Grand Cru vineyards.

        And, yes, I prefer drier Alsatian wines, and I note that many Alsatian vintners now put residual sugar labels on the back of their bottles.

        I remember 30 years ago when Hubert Trimbach told us that his objective was to raise the price of Alsatian wine. Well, he succeeded and that may be part of the problem with the decline in sales. When I sought a vintner for a shipment of 36 bottles, his wines seemed a bit expensive* for me. Ordered bone-dry Riesling and semi-dry Gewurz from Orschwihr instead.

        (BTW I fully expected an article about Jean-Michel Deiss whose blended varietals I have never tasted.)

        * Yes, I'm spoiled by the great wines values here in France.

        1. I've had the privilege of drinking a few aged off-dry gewurztraminers at San Francisco offlines. The person who got them offered an internship to Catherine Weinbach (I think that's her name) when she was a UC-Davis student and the family repaid the favor in part with wine.
          They were 20 years old or close it at the time I drank them and they are among the best wines I've had. The nose was incredible. You just wanted to go stand in the corner and huff the wine. I guess I can see the interest in dry wines, but slightly off-dry wines can be magical as well.
          The guy who used to have the best wine store in Reno said he couldn't sell Alsace wines.

          6 Replies
          1. re: SteveTimko

            Catherine Faller is the name of the woman you are thinking of; the estate is Domaine Weinbach.

            / / / / /

            Steve, back in 1989, I was privileged to be invited to a very special luncheon with Etienne Hugel to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Hugel firm. For me, the two highlights of the meal were the 1953 Gewurztraminer, and the 1945 Riesling Vendange Tardive -- both from magnum. Truly stunning!

            1. re: zin1953

              Ah, yes, the famous Mme Faller and her daughters.

              Hey, I am jealous. I have no daughters or granddaughters. However, I am going to live a long time (because I drink two glasses of good wine very day). So I will see my great-granddaughters.

              I have always admired the wines of Dom Weinbach. Who wouldn't? I put a few on my list as i was closing our restaurant and they were gone in an instant.

              I read that Colette runs the show there. Catherine is one of the two daughters at this classy address. Laurence is the other.

              I love the way French families keep these marvelous wine estates in the family for generation after generation.

                1. re: SteveTimko

                  The fact that it's the other sister -- Laurence -- notwithstanding, Steve, this is horrible, horrible news . . .

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Actually, I screwed up in telling the story originally. It was Laurence who was the intern.

                  2. re: SteveTimko

                    Oh my gosh! What a terrible tragedy.

              1. Last night drank a Barmes-Buecher 2009 Clos Sand amidst 13 other rieslings from Alsace and Germany. It was by far the driest and very well made, but noticed at end of evening it has the most left in the bottle. Maybe super dry, if my friends are usual tasters, may not be what everyone wants.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Super-dry? I'll tell you in a few weeks, but I like good fruit, not sugar and not wood either. I found that the residual sugar in the Alsace Rieslings I had been buying was interfering with the enjoyment of wine/food combinations.

                  So I just took in what will be about a 3-year supply of three different Rieslings from Orschwihr. RS = 1g/L. And what's more the labels all state “vin non-chaptalisé!”

                  And now back to "Alsace: the new generation." Has anyone tried these relatively recent varietal blends?

                2. Think l lie in the old fart position in oh so many things.
                  My current cellar contains CS Hune from a few vintages (on my wall is a 15 year vertical of labels from them), a big bunch of the three Grand Crus from Deiss with Schoenenbourg my usual favorite, Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris from Zind Humbrecht, Ostertag's A360P now finally classified as a wood aged pinot gris, and Weinbach Inedit a usually off dry Riesling from Faller. These are far from the 'new' Alsace and l suspect l will always love the ones l am with, the age appropriate ones.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    It was the "old Alsace" that made me fall in love with their wines; more power to it!

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      In the FWIW Dept., as I mentioned above, I don't really care for the wines made by Olivier Humbrecht at Zind Humbrecht -- save the SGNs. I guess I must truly be an old fart, as I've always found Léonard's "regular" wines to be better and drier than Olivier's.

                      But Clos Ste, Hune, OTOH, is to die for . . .