Earlier in the year I attended a glorious tasting of wines from top Alsatian producer Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, comparing their Clos Windsbuhl and Rangen sites. I was doubly chuffed to recently receive a further invite, this time focused on their Herrenweg de Turckheim and Hengst sites.
A further bonus was that the tasting would be conducted by none other than winemaker Olivier Humbrecht MW. Olivier is one of just a handful of winemakers with the MW qualification and, as expected, his 90-minute lecture was an absolute joy.
Humbrecht practise non-interventionalist winemaking and are incredibly passionate about making pure wines that speak for themselves. Certified bio-dynamic some 13 years, Olivier stated that he believed that the winery was a “place that you can damage a wine, not make it better”.
As a listed ‘Domaine’ they are only allowed to use grapes produced in their own vineyards, which span some 100 acres and make approximately 200k bottles. Their yields are much lower than permitted and perhaps some 2-3 times less than fellow producers.
The tasting today concentrated on 3 different grape varieties from different vintages: the drier style of Riesling, the sweeter Gewürztraminer and the mixed bag that is Pinot Gris. Olivier rolled out the very interesting statistic that Alsace has as much geologically diverse soil as the entire land between Chablis and Chateauneuf.
To save any duplication in the tasting notes below, or perhaps to act as a summary, all the wines tasted were incredibly pure of flavour, rich in texture, incredibly mouth-filling and satisfying. Truly exceptional quality.
Riesling 2015 Herrenweg de Turckheim, 12.5%
Bottled as recently as February 2017, Herrenweg is situated on the gravelly valley floor, just outside of the village of Múnster. Being the product of a single vineyard the wines have more character and increased fruit concentration. The 2015 vintage was very hot, with June/July temperatures regularly hitting 30-40° C, giving stress to the vines as well as the vignerons. There was, however, just enough rain to ensure a good acid/alcohol balance.
Light yellow in colour with golden highlights, the nose is both intense, concentrated, almost golden, yellow fruit. A touch of apple and a streak of minerality carry through to the palate which is characterised by a fresh acid. Everything is smooth and precise, with the juicy bruised Golden Delicious apple joined by gloopy lemon curd. Very long finish.
Pinot Gris 2010 Herrenweg de Turckheim, 14.5%
Temperatures on the 19th Dec 2009 dipped as low as -19° C giving the coldest winter for a very long time and a subsequent small crop. Further frost damage saw many buds lost and rain persisted during flowering. This is the 3rd smallest vintage since 1989 and would have been the 2nd smallest had 2017 not had more problems.
The golden colour of the wine comes from the ripeness of the grapes and the botrytis as opposed to the 7 years of age it has at this time. After the first wine tasted there was noticeable extra sugar on the nose as well as rich butter, bees wax and honey.
The palate showcased very pure golden yellow tropical fruit, thick rich lemon curd and honey. A very present acidity was well balanced. Superb, with not a bit of the palate wasted.
Gewürztraminer 2013, Hengst Grand Cru, 13.5%
A top growth south facing sloped vineyard on a red limestone base, Hengst is the German word for ‘Stallion’. 2013 was another small crop vintage but, as the vines are an impressive 62 years old, overproduction is not an option. With older vines it’s less about the volume of grapes, but more about the flavour concentration.
Olivier pointed out that Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape which makes an aromatic wine but, just as with perfume, can be overpowering if you don’t get the balance right.
A medium yellow with green gold tints, the nose was full of orange peel and lychee. The palate was softly sweet but densely packed with golden tropical fruit, tangy peach and satsuma. A light spice paired with a good level of acidity kept this going in the mouth for ages.
Gewürztraminer 2010, Herrenweg de Turckheim Vieilles Vignes, 13%
A rarer late harvest wine from the tiny 2010 crop makes this a wine that almost shouldn’t exist.
Golden yellow in colour with intense melon-dominant juicy yellow fruits, there’s also hints of orange peel and lemon curd. The palate was sugar sweet, honeyed, with rich butter, bees wax and mandarin. The acidity was high but well balanced.
Pinot Gris 2007, Herrenweg de Turckheim Vendange Tardive, 15%
A good but complicated year was how Olivier described the 2007 harvest. A rainy start gave way to hot and dry conditions allowing good ripeness but a lot of botrytis.
A lovely aged medium amber in colour, the nose was both pronounced yet slightly restrained and full of deep dark honey, sticky toffee and caramel. The palate oozed with a gloopy oily sweetness full of sweet lemon citrus, mature honey, and lifted by touches of mandarin and peach.
This filled all of my mouth with its silky charm. Substantial length – well in to multiple minutes – which carried on long after the end of this superb tasting.