We visit five top Alsace producers

1. Wines of Grand Cru Hengst, Alsace
2. The Best of Alsace – wines back to 1945
3. Visits to Five Alsace Producers

map In part I of my report from Alsace I visited the Grand Cru Hengst to meet 12 producers, then in part II I attended an extraordinary tasting of the cream of Alsace wines back to the 1945 vintage. This final part of my 2014 report includes visits to five fascinating and differing producers, including tasting more than 80 of their wines. The First two visits were to Domaine Rieffel and Boeckel. Both properties are situated in the village of Mittelbergheim in the ‘Bas-Rhin’. Alsace is divided into the Bas-Rhin in the north, and the Haut-Rhin in the south (‘Haut’ because of elevation, with vineyards on the slopes of the Vosges Mountains). The Bas-Rhin, which is cooler and less elevated than the Haut-Rhin, has historically been regarded as somewhat inferior. But amongst fans of Alsace wines there is much excitement about the Bas-Rhin currently, and a band of progressive, quality growers that are producing arguably some of the best wines of the entire region. Reports from the five estates and all wines tasted follow.

Domaine Rieffel

Lucas Rieffel Lucas Rieffel met me at their neat family winery in Mittelbergheim. The Domaine Rieffel business started after the Second World War as a polycultural farm. Lucas’s father planted Sylvaner and started bottling one litre bottles then, but they still sold most grapes to the local co-op until around 10 years ago. The estate has been certified organic since 2012, and Lucas is currently doing some biodynamic farming trials on 10 hectares. It’s an estate where Pinot Noir is a bit of an obsession: “I am always looking for perfect maturity in Pinot,” says Lucas. “Not to harvest too late is the secret. I have studied very old books from the monks in Burgundy, who advise that picking Pinot too early is a mistake, but it is even worse to harvest too late, so I look for perfect maturity in plots that are not too warm.” He also dismisses the fine wine ‘formula’ of reducing yields by green harvesting – removing some bunches of grapes during the growing season to concentrate the vine’s energy on remaining fruit: “I never make a green harvest. The vine will just produce more in the next year to compensate.” His wines are very clean and pure. “It’s not good to see Petrol in young wines,” he says. “It is acceptable after 15 years perhaps, and I know some terroir shows it more than others, but it is not easy to say what causes that.” Lucas bottle everything apart from Pinot Noir and his Grand Crus in screwcap, though he admits there is still some resistance to screwcap in France, “though it is getting better.”

The wines

Domaine Rieffel is imported into the UK by FMV and sold by Berry Bros. & Rudd amongst others. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Noir Nature 2013, France
No sulphur cuvée, very nice and fresh and bold cherry and bright, with a bubblegum brightness. The palate has really nice bold, fresh, juicy and cherry fruit, nice bracken background and lovely tannin and acid balance. Lovely, lightly sappy Pinot at 12.5% abv. 88/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Noir Runz 2012, France
40 year old single vineyard on clay and limestone. Lovely mushroom and bracken undercurrent, with more sappiness and lovely Pinosity. Delicate fruit on the palate, again that sappy freshness and juiciness, again lovely soft but spicy and supporting tannins and the elegant acidity. 89-90/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Noir Kreuzel 2013, France
Barrel Ample. Only old Burgundy barriques, the vineyards planted in 2005, on the Zotzenberg. Beautifully pitched, creamy but so fresh red fruit character, with the youthfulness so obvious, and the abundant cherry ripeness. The palate has real freshness, another lovely young – and promising – wine. 88-90/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Crémant Extra Brut 2011, France
Auxerrois with small amounts of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. With disgorgement date on label and zero dosage. First fermentation in foudre. There’s a very herbal nose here, with a touch of something soapy, coriander-like perhaps. Very dry, a searing lemon, nettle and salt dryness. 87-88/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Slyvaner de Mittelbergheim 2012, France
80% from the Grand Cru Zotzenberg, but only the younger vines. A similar herby slightly soapy note, maybe it is something atmospheric tasting here out on the terrace of the winery? Dry, nicely savoury and sour, with a dry extract richness and really nice balance. 86-87/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Blanc 2013, France
Fresh, racy, green-tinged fruit with really nice herbal punch and a lovely fruit sweetness and richness. Lots of personality here for Pinot Blanc, with abundant fruit, a crunch of apple skins and plenty of orangey acidity. Long and delicious, a hint of spice. 88/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Gebreit Pinot Blanc 2012, France
One year in old barrels. This has a mealiness and an extra touch of oatmeal to the apple fruit, with some sweetness and a deal of acidity on the palate. It is balanced, the long lightly floral touched sweetness of the fruit matching with really nice acidity. So juicy and appetising. 89/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2012, France
Limestone from one plot, Granite on another. Between 30 and 35 years old. Nicely waxy, but mostly about concentrated, bold apple fruit. There is lemon pith and dry, apple core fruit and acidity to this, very nicely pitched, the hint of sweetness to the mid-palate leading onto a really dry, appetising, and balance finish without too much extract. 89/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Riesling Brandluft 2012, France
Clay limestone with sand, eastern exposure. A very light touch of something waxy and herbal, but again there is really bold fruit, with a touch of star fruit and passion fruit skin, and on the palate lots of lime concentration, with really nice level of dry extract in these wines, plenty of sweetness and substance, but a crispness and clarity too. Lovely again. 90-91/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Riesling Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 2012, France
Pure sandstone on a southerly exposure. Old vines, 18 months elevage all in stainless steel. Delightful custard-touched, creamy nose, with the palate streaked with racy lime fruit, the dry extract shows the sweetness and ripeness, but a lovely acidity here, so clean, so salty and a point, into a long finish. 92/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Riesling Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2012, France
A little more developed waxiness and herby character, but lively notes of peach skins and flowers adding some lightness. The fruit on the palate shows smokiness and a touch of mealy, custard character, but has a mass of acidity, real concentration and tension. Again the dry extract character is so nicely matched to the acids here, licked with salt and pithy lemon. 92-93/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2012, France
Mittelbergheim is the only village in Alsace with a Grand Cru Sylvaner, from the Grand Cru Zotzenberg. This comes from 50-60 year old vines. Has lots of ripe, bold custard-touched apple fruit, with more sweetness on the palate, and a lot of pithiness and dry extract, a very tight young wine that Lucas says ages really well – he recently opened two bottle of 1959 which were delicious. Some balancing sugar here, in a tight young wine that is very Riesling-like. 91-92/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Gris Hagel 2012, France
Made in old barrels. A little dill and soft green, leafy herb note, with nuttiness and nice complex aromas around quite fat apple fruit. Lovely mid-palate sweetness to the fruit, really fills the mouth before the acidity streaks through, clean and fresh, little spices and a little bit of alcohol, but so nicely powerful and along, not without elegance. 89-90/100. Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kirchberg 2010, France
Beautiful round nose of herb-touched, lightly honeyed character, with a soft, macadamia nuttiness, the palate really sweet (described as moelleux unofficially) but beautifully so, a gorgeous honey infused orchard fruit, with lovely length and balance. Joyous stuff. 92/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kirchberg 2010, France
La Colline des Escargots on the label to show it is the dry version, almost like a natural wine, with such a dry extract character, grippy and skinny, so much extract and acidity. Intellectual stuff, perhaps a touch challenging to drink, but delicious thrust and focus. 91/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Gewurztraminer 2012, France
Hugely perfumed, very much shouting Gewurz. Lots of herbs, lots of floral geranium notes. The palate has lovely flowing sweetness, the candied fruit and the super-sweet exoticism, balanced by just a nice, tugging, elegant acidity. Long and delicately spicy into the finish. 88/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2012, France
Again, very clear expression of Gewurz, the herbaceousness and the touch of lychee and old roses, the palate showing lovely sweetness again, this time with such juicy fruit and a lick of sour/bitter character, and plenty of acid adding drama and excitement. Long, warming and spicy, but finishing on fruit and fresh acidity. Very nicely done. 91/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Riesling Grand Cru Wiebelsberg Vendange Tardive 2011, France
65%. So dramatically different, the Riesling is Interestingly much more leafy and dry on this nose, much more green notes, with a lot of shimmering acidity against the equally shimmering sweetness on the palate. It has the life and the green edge continues on the palate, giving this a little bittering note that is lovely in the context, set against such sweet fruit and abundant richness. 92/100.

Domaine Rieffel, Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Zotzenberg VT 2011, France
So massively rich and round, the mango and exotic nectarine fruit plumpness and brightness is delightful. The full, sweet, rich and round character is delightful with masses of fresh fruit flavour, glace fruits, lots of ripeness and fullness, the bittering character of the acidity is beautifully set against all that richness. 93/100.

E. Boeckel

Jean-Daniel Boeckel Jean-Daniel Boeckel (right) and his brother Thomas now run this family business, sited just around the corner from Lucas Rieffel in Mittelbergheim, and begun by their grandfather, Emile – though the family has its roots in the village since the 16th century. This is a substantially bigger operation than Rieffel farming 23 hectares, all of which is currently in conversion to organic farming. From the total production of 350,000 bottles, 100,000 of them are Crémant, the passion of Emile and still a mainstay of this business (they also buy grapes to subsidise this production). Situated at the heart of the Zotzenberg Grand Cru vineyard, they also bottle a Pinot Noir from a parcel called ‘Terres Rouges’, or ‘red land’ in English. It is a limestone-clay base, enriched with iron oxide, an unusual mix which they say gives wines “not unlike those produced in the best parcels of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits.” One charming aspect of their ancient cellar is a 250-metre long ‘train’ system, a bottle conveyor that was installed in 1950 by André and Frédéric Boeckel, which though no longer in use is still in evidence: at the time a very modern system that enabled them to transport bottles from bottling to the storage cellars and on to the labelling room with no human effort.

The wines

Boeckel is imported into the UK by Armit. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

E. Boeckel, Crémant Extra Brut 2011, France
With a very low 2g/l dosage, this all Chardonnay cuvée spends two years on the lees. Lots of nettle and yeast autolysis, lots of bruised apple fruit, and onto the palate very fine, rolling mousse and ultra-crisp, real pushing acidity with zipping tightwire freshness and just enough crisp apple fruit to add a little sweet edge on the mid-palate. 88/100.

E. Boeckel, Crémant Rosé 2012, France
All Pinot Noir, 6g/l sugar. Very delicate, quite pale salmon/peach. Very delicate small red fruit on the nose and a really prickly palate, the mousse pin-prick and fine, with lots of refreshing quality. The palate has lovely freshness and finesse, very fine and racy, loads of acidity for food matching. 87-88/100.

E. Boeckel, Pinot Blanc Reserve 2013, France
Very nice fresh nose, plenty of fruit on the nose, pear and apple, and good fruit on the palate too, with a little tug of something herby and grassy, and a nice hint of sweetness on the mid palate. 85-86/100. E. Boeckel, Riesling 2013, France
Very clean and fresh, all about apples and lemon confit, tight and restrained. The palate has a streaming core of fresh, running water acidity, very nicely made and balanced. 87/100.

E. Boeckel, Riesling Brandluft VV 2012, France
Brandluft Lieu-dit. Old vines of 40 – 50 years old, mostly chalk soils, and heavy soils. Adds more waxiness and fruit skin grip to this, with a leafy character too that is very expressively Riesling, leading onto a full flavoured palate with again that beautifully tempered and pitched acidity. 89/100.

E. Boeckel, Riesling Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 2010, France
Vines 40-50 years old too. There’s a lovely wisp of smokiness and ripeness here adding to those beeswaxy mineral notes. There is a sense of richness here, with really sweet fruit, but the clarity of the acidity, the sense of lightness that brings, is delightful. Very racy, with lots of juiciness – nectarine and soft mandarin acidity, and very elegant. 90-91/100.

E. Boeckel, Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2012, France
Has something both rounded and custardy, and fragrantly herbal about it. But solid, cool, fruity at the core. The palate has quite a rich mouth-feel, with plenty of spice and juiciness and mouth-watering with pithy dryness and lots of juice counterbalancing a touch of sweetness. Very nice and very Impressive, deeply flavoured wine. 90-91/100.

E. Boeckel, Pinot Gris 2013, France
Lemon confit on the nose, with lots of green apple freshness coming through. There is 10g/l of sugar in this, giving richness and perceptible sweetness on the mid-palate, but there’s a ripeness and a fullness to the texture too that adds to the weight and plushness, though like all of these wines, the acid does push through, and this finishes on fruit, acid and light spice, just off of dry in the finish. 88/100.

E. Boeckel, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2012, France
Nice nose, very tight and elegant, fairly reserved, with loads of flowing sweet fruit on the palate. There is a lovely pithiness to this, the grapefruit and lemon of the acid playing against a certain exotic, slightly floral sweetness. Long and very nicely composed. Very long, fine and tight. 90/100.

E. Boeckel, Pinot Noir Les Terres Rouges 2012, France
From “terra rossa” soils that are iron-rich. 45-year-old vines, and aged in barriques of Vosges oak, only a small proportion new. Delightful cherry nose, with a touch of black fruits – blackberries – a hint of something sappy and green too that sits beautifully in the context. There is very nice smokiness and sweetness to the fruit, with touches of smoke and spice, giving this lovely depth and quite a rich texture. A sweet Pinot, the fruit quite confiture, but it has elegance and lovely spice and balance and is long and delicious. 89-90/100.

E. Boeckel, Riesling Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 1999, France
An excellent vintage. Haunting echo of paraffin and beeswax, a distant echo of petrol, with more about herbal and dry marmalade notes. Beautiful soft fruits on the palate, a touch of soft strawberry meringue, Eton mess character. Beautiful palate, with masses of acidity and gorgeous, dry extract stickiness, with flowing acidity. Should cellar well. 93-94/100.

Gustave Lorentz

Charles Charles Lorentz (right) is currently in charge at the domaine, family-owned since 1836 and a substantial concern. The next generation after Georges will undoubtedly be female, as Georges has three daughters. I met up with export director Pascal Schielé who explained that with 33 hectares here in Bergheim, plus buying 120 hectares worth of fruit, Lorentz is one of the largest family owned domaines in Alsace, and producing all the noble varieties plus Crémant. “Our philosophy is to be gastronomic,” Pascal told me. “We are not looking for residual sugar or too much extraction. Our wines should mostly be dry, and always balanced.” Their own 33 hectares of vineyard where certified as organic three years ago, and both vineyards and winery have been certified as operating organically since 2012. “We produce a small range of organic wines for clients who are looking for it,” Pascal tells me. Half the production is exported, and as Pascal says “I am looking everywhere from Kazakhstan to Qatar – we’re already on Qatar airways and business class with Aer Lingus. Indeed Pascal is carrying on a company philosophy with his globe-trotting efforts: Charles Lorentz travelled constantly in the ’70s and ’80s, and Pascal says “He really did establish Alsace wines in many markets, but it is an ongoing effort – even today a lot of countries do not know where Alsace is – that basic knowledge is lacking.” Annual production sits at 1.6 million bottles, which is the volume they will stick at says Pascal: “We are not looking to increase the volume – the co-ops can do that.”

The wines

Lorentz is imported into the UK by Inverarity Morton. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Gustave Lorentz, Crémant Blanc NV, France
1/3 each of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, 20 months on lees. The colour is very pale, and there is a mass of streaming, tiny bubbles. The fruit is good on this, very appley, a lovely bouncing mousse, and filled with flavour, juicy and lemony, lots of citrus punch and a bit of weight to the mousse. 12g/l. Lovely, and very stylish. 89-90/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Crémant Rosé NV, France
Lovely pale peachy colour, with a touch of salmon. Lovely herby touches to this, with delicious touches of earthy and nettles, some raspberry and a lovely cushioning mousse, the 100% Pinot Noir has terrific acidity and that lovely red fruit background, very plush and mouth-filling, but has a raciness and freshness to the acidity that is deliciously moreish. 89-90/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Pinot Blanc 2013, France
Screwcapped, and Lorentz was one of the first to move to screwcap 12 years ago. 2 years ago invested in their own screwcap bottling line, because the English and the Nordic markets demand it. Quite a bold colour, with some peardroppy ferment aromas and a nice fruitiness, a touch of clove-like herbs, and finishes dry with decent acidity against a hint of sweetness in the background. 85-86/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Riesling Reserve 2012, France
Clean, fresh orchard fruits, with gentle nettle background, but really focused on the apple, and has a hint of sweetness on the palate as well as lots of fruit. Good crisp acidity, elegant and finishes nice and dry with a little weight. 87/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Riesling ‘Burg’ 2010, France
Burg is a lieu dit. Much more minerality here, a little fresh struck stone and a tiny, rounding custard note. The palate has a nice caramel touch that is developed, but has possibly a tiny touch of nice oxidation adding a touch of cidery quality, but there is steeliness and this has lovely acidity and length and the lick of saltiness. 89/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim 2008, France
Glowing gold in colour, with a beautiful nuttiness, developing honey, and a touch of caramel, with a little beeswax richness and fat. On the palate it has delicious sweet and ripe fruit at the core, shimmering with its apple fresh acidity and that lick of salt adding to the complexity. 92/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim 1999, France
Again, the beeswax and the touch of barely sugar here, honey and obvious richness. There is a touch of caramel, but also of herbs and of orange, with the palate still showing plenty of juiciness and acidity, the mellowing, caramel-touched apple fruit is lovely and mouth-filling, very dry now on the palate, but it is the layered complexity that is delightful here. 91/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Riesling Grand Cru Kantzlerberg 1990, France
A smokiness, lots of cracked wheat notes, and spice, and there is a touch of truffle, with plenty of smoky slate and minerality. Still lots of sweetness, lots of decisive lemony acidity. Long and delicious. 93/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Pinot Gris Reserve 2012, France
Ripeness, toffee and lots of promise of sweetness and fullness, with hints of baked apple, and of juicy acidity, the palate has such fullness and richness, but it is dry, with stone fruit dryness to the fruit, that hint of mushroomy dryness, and very good acidity. 90/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim 2008, France
A touch of buttered cabbage lovely fruit, so toasty and rich, really nice rich character. The sweetness of the attack is delicious moreish, because clean fruit and lovely fresh acidity cuts through. Nutty, lovely orange and marmalade quality, so long and so focused. 52g/l residual, but who knew? 92/100.

Gustave Lorentz, SDGN Pinot Gris 1989, France
Not on label but comes from Altenberg. Has some herbal notes, lots of truffle, lots of mushroom, very nice development. The lovely honey and the barley sugar, with such gorgeous marmalade quality, it has bergamot, gorgeous fruit, the thickness is beautiful, with cinnamon and clove, a welter-weight of fruit and viscosity. 100g/l sugar. 95/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Gewurz ‘Evidence’ Organic 2012, France
Firm, smoky nose, not too exotically perfumed, with some spices and gentle floral background. The palate has some weight and a hint of fat, lots of spice, lots of nice clean, leafy aromas. The palate shows a nice touch of Gewurz floral and leafy quality, lots of racy citrus, lots of juiciness, it has good weight, and the finish is dry despite the 10g/l of sugar just adding a touch of sweetening counterpoint. 87/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Gewurz reserve 2012, France
More richness, a waxiness and floral touch, a little more exoticism here with notes of Nivea cream and lychee, and the palate showing a little more fruity exoticism and a really nice balancing acidity. 87-88/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Gewurz Rotenberg 2010, France
Lieu dit. Massively deeper and more exotic, the touch of green herbs outweighed by the fat, plush, mango and lychee ripeness. The palate has weight, fat, juiciness and the dryness of the finish, the really nice kick of acidity is quite mineral but flashes through the fat and the sweet creaminess. Delicious. 91/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Gewurz Altenberg 2008, France
Quite a lot of elderflower and passionfruit, with honeyed development, a little Turkish delight. Lots of tropical fruit here. The palate has lovely mango sweetness, real tropical fruit at the core of this, with lots of richness, but still quite fresh – medium bodied rather than full, and such delicious acidity licking the edges. Full, sweet and very long, not to flamboyant but powerful. 91/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Gewurz Altenberg 2010, France
Fresh on the nose, the glace fruit quality here, melding with really fresh cut lime and orange, delicate blossom notes and such a lovely wine – floating and gossamer, so much light and elegance as well as the sweetness of the fruit and the underlying ripeness. 93/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Gewurz SGN 2000, France
Exotic, toasty, lots of ripeness and richness, glace fruits and lots of lychee and mango purity, glace-fruits, candied, and has lovely sweetness. Delicious direct, candied fruit. 92/100.

Gustave Lorentz, Pinot Noir Cuvee Particulier 2009, France
20% aged in oak, from their own vineyards. Big ripe cherry colour. Rather reductive, not sure this was quite right. Not scored.

Gustave Lorentz, La Limite Pinot Noir 2009, France
In new French oak. A little reductive note again perhaps, but actually this comes through a lot better, with some mushroom and some stalkiness, the touches of briar and cherry and the quality of silkiness on the palate is good. A little tannin, a lot of cherry fruit and really nice Pinot quality here. Very good acidity, fine spiciness, the oak very well handled. 89-90/100.

Cave de Beblenheim

beblenheim This Co-operative cellar is a large concern, one of 20 Co-ops in Alsace, created 1952 after the local négociant on the site was bankrupted. The growers bought the business, and today produce five million bottles of still wine and one million bottles of Crémant. Today they are the best selling Alsace ‘brand’ in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy amongst many export markets. Photo courtesy By Bernard Chenal. In 2009 the Co-op bought the Pierre Sparr domaine, giving good access to new markets including the US, Canada and Italy. Export Director François Fischer told me that Pierre Sparr is run as a separate unit, retaining its own vineyards, winery and label. The co-op also recently took over a winery facility 60km north of Beblenheim, along with 80ha of vineyard. “It’s much cooler than Beblenheim,” says François, “and it could be our hedge against climate change.” François tells me that they used to sell a lot of wine through Tesco at Calais, but as the price they were being paid was driven down by Tesco, they realised they could no longer support and promote their wines through that channel, and the market collapsed. But he seems un-phased by the challenges of placing such large volumes of wine in the market on behalf of his 150 members: “The Alsatian temperament suits working cooperatively more than in some other French regions,” he says. “That’s why co-ops constitute well over 40% of the total Alsace production.”

The Wines

Cave de Beblenheim is imported into the UK by Bottle Green. ISee all stockists on wine-searcher.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Noir Medaille 2012, France
Pinot is only 4% of production. Fairly neutral, touch briary with modest spice and red berry compote fruit. The palate has decent fruit and a fairly fresh and a touch rustic honesty. 84/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Noir Fut de Chene 2011, France
Beblenheim has been making oak aged Pinot for over 20 years. More creaminess on this pale coloured Pinot, a touch of earthiness and nicely ripe red fruit. Quite juicy, the oak adding a touch of depth, but it does feel a little lean and lacking a little fruit sweetness and plumpness. 12% alcohol. 85/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Crémant Brut NV, France
Blanc d Blancs, mainly Auxerrois, with 10g/l dosage. Very pale colour, quite sherbetty, with pear and lemon, and a bright appley zing. There feels like a reasonable amount of juicy, fresh pear and apple sweetness on the mid palate, with nice finesse and ‘prettiness’, fresh and appetising, aperitif style, with the sweetness and acidity nicely balanced. 86-87/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Crémant Rosé NV, France
100% Pinot Noir, and accounting for around 10% of the Crémant production. Quite a bright pink colour, with a very accessible sweet strawberry and raspberry and icing sugar character. 12g/l dosage here, with a nicely balanced fruit and dry finish, showing nice bite. The extra 2g of sugar is not felt, in a very charming wine. 87/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Crémant Chardonnay NV, France
Chardonnay can only be used for Crémant under AOC rules – not allowed in white wines, even as part of a blend. Pale green colour, more roundness than the Brut, a touch of baked apple. This has a fresh, racy mousse, not giving a lot of softness, but keeping the palate fresh, with a sour apple and lemon dryness. 87/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Crémant Blanc de Noirs NV, France
All Pinot Noir, with a lovely nose, showing a little breadth with some yeast and biscuit and good apple fruit, maybe just a touch of red fruit in the background. It has a very nice balance, with a freshness and again, a crisp and easy aperitif style. 87/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2011, France
Fairly neutral, with simple apple fruit and a juicy and uncomplicated palate with more of that sour apple and a decent balance. 85/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Blanc Reserve 2012, France
Again rather neutral, with citrus and apple, perhaps a fleeting glimpse of honey. On the palate it Has a nice creaminess, a rounded lightly spice note, and a rounded but crisp finish. 85-86/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2011, France
Much more ripeness and richness, the hint of toffee and deeper, slightly honeyed and spicy notes is nice. A little candied quality to the fruit. The palate has a burst of orange and really nice juicy fruit freshness. 87-88/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Riesling Kleinfels 2012, France
Bold, lightly waxy apple fruit. A small rounded character, with a hint of real ripeness to the fruit. The palate has a very fresh character, lots of nice fruit and a hint of something mineral in the background that might develop a little. 87/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Riesling Kleinfels 2013, France
Tank sample. Youthful of course and a little tanky character, the lemony bite and freshness is really crisp and promising, a tugging sense of salty minerals, and seems very promising. 87-89/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Riesling Clos Sainte-Odile 2011, France
Available in M&S. A rare ‘Clos’ or walled vineyard in Alsace, of 14 hectares. A touch of nettle and herbs, with a really juicy palate showing an extra ounce of depth and juiciness – lots of zest lemon and a touch of saltiness, nice pithy dryness and very direct and pleasingly long. 87-88/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg 2010, France
Marl and chalk soils in this Grand Cru, and it is massively more mineral with touches of wax and smokiness, a wisp of freshly cracked stone. On the palate it has loads of juicy flavour, a lot of fruit and extract, and delightful length, the shimmering acidity playing against the ripeness and sweetness, but the salty lick of acidity still present. 90/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Gris 2013, France
Tank sample about to be bottled, and will be in Waitrose. Ripe stuff, with a deal of passionfruit and some herby notes, quite punchy. The palate has a little residual sugar, the sweetness is nice and rounded, with easy drinking charm. 86/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Gris Vieilles Vignes 2011, France
Quite a lot of pastry notes to this, of apple and orange, a touch of marmalade or orange and a nice baked apple pie character with a fairly dry finish. Good juiciness. Quite explosive and commercial, but very good. 88-89/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Sonnenglanz 2012, France
More sophisticated, elegant nose than the VV, with a buttery, baked apple pastry note and much more sweetness on the palate: juicy sweetness and vanilla touches, with custard and plenty of ripe fruit. Mouth filling and delicious in style, maybe lacking the flamboyance and fireworks of the VV. 89/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Gewurztraminer Reserve 2013, France
In M&S. Understated Gewurz aromatics, but very nice expression with gentle smoke, floral and leafy notes, and a touch of exotic rose perfume coming through. The palate has a touch of sweetness, and then lovely juicy fruit, a little mango or passionfruit brightness, juicy and fresh. 87/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2011, France
Adds a depth to the nose, but fairly subtle, with a hint of Nivea cream and Turkish delight perfume and exoticism, but it is ripe and fruity too, with a pleasing mid-palate sweetness and lots of flavour and punch. Beautifully balanced, lots of richness and texture. 89/100.

Cave de Beblenheim, Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sonnenglanz 2011, France
More shy, more reserved on the nose, with the Gewurz character quite subtle, but it is there, the palate has concentration and intensity, perhaps more than the other wines shown here and definite potential. The tight acidity and the concentrated nature of the fruit – a natural intensity on the palate – suggests it will bloom and deepen intime. 89/100.

Paul Blanck

Philippe Philippe Blanck is a towering and ebullient character who describes his wines as “Authentic wine for food pairing.” He welcomes visitors to the winery in the centre of Kientzheim, and says “I like to know who is drinking my wine, I don’t want to be in all the 3* Michelin restaurants particularly; I want to be pouring wine for people, talking to them and meeting them.” (Photo courtesy dna.fr.) It’s a big range here, including the Swiss varietal Chasselas, appearing under the title “Forgotten grapes,” The family has Austrian ancestors, but Swiss Chasselas is still an unusual cuvé for Alsace. Philippe rattles off plenty of facts and figures, including that 80% of production is exported, and that 65% goes into screwcap – the 35% that doesn’t “Is for more conservative markets, especially for the top wines.” But indeed wines have been bottled under screwcap since 2001, including some of their Grands Crus. Under the current generation, Philippe and his brother Frédéric, the Domain has increased its vineyard area from 24 to 36 hectares, with five Grands Crus accounting for more than a third. Discussing the family’s vineyard holdings, Philippe says “I think it will take two more generations before we can really tell you about our terroir; to be able to describe and really taste the differences in the glass.” To demonstrate that understanding the vineyards is an ongoing process of refinement, he adds “Take the Grand Cru Schlossberg for example, which is limestone. The vineyards in the middle of the hill suffer when it is hot, but older vines do not, and those nearer the top of the slope are fantastic.”

The wines

Paul Blanck is imported into the UK by Laytons in the UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Paul Blanck, Chasselas 2013, France
Nice little mineral/smoky character to tight apple aromas, not hugely aromatic, but has a lively freshness, clean and seems remarkably sweet in the finish given that Philippe says it has 3g/l of sugar. Long, powerful and quite concentrated, and really tasty. 87/100.

Paul Blanck, Muscat 2012, France
Muscat d’Alsace, a cross of Chasselas and Muscat Ottonel, 40% comes from grand Cru vineyards. Bold, very expressive floral aromas, with a touch of elderflower and of green herbs, with again considerable sweetness on the palate, the palate showing lots of crisp acidity and nice concentration, with a natural, long and pure finish. 88/100.

Paul Blanck, Gewurztraminer 2012, France
Stainless steel, with some declassified wines from the Grand Cru. Not particularly aromatic, a little touch of herbs and light floral notes, but more about dry lemon. A little floral and talcumy character, and there is sweetness on the mid palate before finishing dry. 87/100.

Paul Blanck, Gewurztraminer Altenbourg 2008, France
Clay soils, aged one year on the lees, has a whole lot of floral or exotic aromatics, and has developed that white truffle and earth – I had a sneaking suspicion this had a touch of corkiness at first, but that earthiness comes through. Coming back to it, long and sweet, rounded finish, and the nose has nothing difficult. Very nice wine in the end. 90/100.

Paul Blanck, Gewurztraminer Furstentum 2008, France
Limestone soils, a lovely developed honey aroma, with again a little of the mushroomy character, and a juicy fruitiness behind. The palate has lots of creaminess of texture and good acidity, a touch of fig or something quince-like, with spice and richness, and plenty of acidity. 89-90/100.

Paul Blanck, Gewurztraminer Mambourg 2008, France
Marl soils, but again this has developed a lot of the truffly quality and the slight earthiness, with a warming core, quite straightforward and there is lots of creaminess and straightforward appeal. The finish is a touch nutty and juicy, with orange and lime juiciness. 90/100.

Paul Blanck, Gewurztraminer Furstentum 1985, France
Fascinating, slightly oily nose with some wax and herbs, and a touch of candied quality – something like a top Sancerre – with a little earthiness and creaminess and plenty of character here. On the palate it has a bone dry character, with a stripe of lean, tight acids and serious concentration, quite long, beautifully balanced, still with real energy even though it is not fruity – pithy acid and a touch of tannin drive forward. 91-92/100.

Paul Blanck, Gewurztraminer Altenbourg VT 1985, France
Still a lot of green to the colour here, and such an old Riesling-like nose, with again some beeswax and oily notes, and then the Gewurz comes through, herby and nettly, and that touch of truffle. The palate is thick and viscous, with plenty of tannin and acidity again, a lot of structure here and a lot of spice, into a long finish that is surprisingly youthful and powerful. Began life with around 10g/l of sugar, but now basically dry. 93/100.

Paul Blanck, Furstentum Tokay Pinot Gris 1996, France
Lots of Botrytis in this year. Big yellow colour, masses of shaved white truffle and then fig and quince, with so much interesting character, though the sweet honeyed fruit takes over on the palate, showing that this has plentiful sweetness, and suggestions of pineapple and glacé fruit, before nice base acidity. Really enjoyable wine with lovely evolution. 91/100.

Paul Blanck, Wineck-Schlossberg Pinot Gris 1998, France
Opened one week before says Philippe proudly. Perfect truffly development from granite soils, lovely little honey notes, little mushroom and earthy notes, very natural, with still a lot of youth and intensity, the charm of this is its creamy perfection – long and very nicely balanced, tight and savoury but has the sweet-edged charm that makes it very easy to drink. 92/100.

Paul Blanck, Wineck-Schlossberg Riesling 1999, France
Another wine that had been opened around a week before. Bold yellow colour, a big smoky minerality, this has a touch of shoe polish, perhaps not in peak condition, but has razor sharp minerality and acidity on the nose, really showing the tension and racy thrust of the granite soils – dry and taut, a bone dry essence of the wine. 90/100.

Paul Blanck, Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2011, France
Fabulous nose, so much honey here, so much beeswax and Riesling minerality. The palate shows a lovely thrust of granite directness, with a fat lemony juiciness, the peel and the orange and mandarin orange brightness, a touch of saltiness, really fresh and honeyed, and delightful drinking – power and fat, yet very precise. 92-93/100.

Paul Blanck, Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2009, France
Much smokier, a little more slate and smokiness, a touch of Germanic character, is there a tiny touch of sulphur? The wine opens on the palate, with intense minerality and taut acidity, the sweetness is there beneath the acidity, giving this a long, ripe finish of lime and stony minerals. 91/100.

Paul Blanck, Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2004, France
Lots of green here, lots of herbaceous notes, a touch of smokiness and then cool apple and lime-streaked fruit. The palate has lovely round flavours, with plenty of dry extract, drier than the 2009 or 2011, with a touch of candy and sweetness in the finish just flecking this with sweetness lifting it. 92/100.

Go to part I Wines of Grand Cru Hengst, Alsace
Go on to part II The Best of Alsace – wines back to 1945

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