Alsace now has Pinot Noir Grand Cru

Tom Cannavan

It was 2014 that I reported from a visit to the producers of the Grand Cru Hengst. At the time they were lobbying for Pinot Noir from Hengst to be recognised as Grand Cru - at the time it was forbidden to even state Hengst on the label of Pinot, so there were lots of 'Cuvee H' and similar labels around.

Now, two sites have just been officially recognised as Pinot Noir Grand Crus, Hengst and Kirchberg.

Tom Cannavan

I don't think I have any to be honest, and if you read my 2014 article it includes notes on 4 Hengst Pinots, that would now be GC, with scores of 87, 87, 88 and 90....
I have had several Alsace Pinot Noirs gone through my cellar and currently have 3 bottles. I think global warming has made the grape successful in more vintages than, say 20 years ago.
Zero. I purchased a mixed half dozen in 2005 & all were mediocre, bar one from Zind H.
I've bought none since & have no notes post 2011, though may have tried a rogue bottle or two.
Mr Crossley is an enthusiast, IIRC. Whilst he has partly persuaded me as to the merits of Spätbugunder, Alsace PN remains beyond the Rubicon.
Mrs B has just returned from Alsace and she greatly enjoyed a bottle of Weinbach's Pinot Noir when she was there. I've not had that one myself but when we were last there together (2018) we had a few good ones, including Albert Mann and Bott-Geyl. Perhaps the most surprising was Henri Ehrhart's Rouge d'Ottrot. Rouge d'Ottrot was historically recognised as being among the best PN in Alsace but, in our experience, still pretty feeble. But climate change - and, presumably, improved wine-making techniques - appear to have resulted in significant improvement. Ehrhart is quite a moderate producer but his 2015 PN was very enjoyable.

I currently have three bottles in the cellar, one of which is Hugel's Neveux 2009. The rarely produced Neveux cuvee used to be known as one of the best Alsace PNs and the 2009 must be ready to drink so I think I'll look to crack it open soon.
Weinbach's W is the only one I drink regularly, as my friend bought a case when we visited and he brings out a bottle to share when we get together. It's a very nice wine, as you'd expect from such a stellar producer, but doesn't set my pulse racing. The one I think deserves special mention is Rene Mure's V or Vorbourg, ironically turned down for promotion to grand cru 20 years ago. WineSoc currently has a fairly mature example in stock. Speaking of 20 years ago, Marc Hugel now believes Alsace has the same climate as Burgundy did 20 years ago, so some producers are obviously looking seriously into the potential of PN and experimenting with whole bunches etc. It'll probably be a case of try and buy at the cellar door though - very few make it over here still.
FWIW Benjamin Lewin in his 2022 guide to Alsace lists these as reference points for Alsace PN:

Marcel Deiss - Burlenberg
Hugel - Les Neveux (lieu-dit Pflostig)
Albert Mann - H (GC Hengst)
Jean Louis & Fabienne Mann - Chemin de Pierre
Rene Mure - V (Vorbourg)
Rieffel - Runz
Marc Tempe - M (GC Mambourg)
Weinbach - W (Clos des Capucins)
Valentin Zusslin - Bollenberg Harmonie

I’m aware Colin and others have covered a few of these already. Also worth noting that a few of these producers are not on my radar. Benjamin Lewin rates the Valentin Zusslin Pinor highly, for instance, yet not a domaine I’d come across before.
I've had the Weinbach and Marcel Deiss from that list. I would also recommend the Trimbach Cuvée 7 which is from the Rotenberg vineyard and only made in the better vintages. Rolly-Gassmann also make some very good pinot noir. with the Rodern being quite notable.
I did sample the Deiss Burlenberg and the Tempe Mambourg when last in Alsace, when a local wine shop had them available to taste. The Deiss was good but, as with all his stuff, quite expensive. I have to say I’ve never got on well with Tempe’s wines, well-regard as they are. I don’t suppose I should read too much into a one-off tasting of small samples, though. I’ve not had Mure’s V for some years now but it used to be a cut above most other Alsace PNs.

Tom Cannavan

I very vividly and very fondly remember the 1985 Pinot from Hugel, that was a total revelation for me, drunk around 88 maybe - 35 years ago or so, and I expect my first great Pinot experience - not truly great of course, but showing the 'sexy' side of mature-feeling, pale, truffley Pinot. Too early for me to have the note in my database though it may be in a notebook back home. I do have notes on the 1997 and 2015 in my DB, both positive and both 89/100.
I've rarely had an Alsace Pinot and have none in the cellar. The only one I recall was a large producer pinot that had a few years under its belt, likely from being on the shelf. Despite it being light coloured and watery looking I liked it in its own way and Tom's "truffley" descriptor took me right back to that wine.