Alsace Millésimes is an initiative by the Alsace wine industry, to replace their traditional tasting fair with a ‘DigiTasting’. Journalists can order up samples and attend virtual masterclasses and meetings with the winemakers of the region. I participated in 2022 and again this year, with one masterclass plus a closer look at seven domaines. Not all of these domaines have UK representation currently, but stockists and prices are given where known. Here are the notes on over 30 wines tasted, forming a small but interesting snapshot of Alsace 2023.
Four wines in a masterclass entitled ‘So Trendy’, intended to show how Alsace wines fit with modern trends, identified as ‘Fresh’, ‘Terroir’, ‘Sweet’, and ‘Red’. Though I thought the premiss was slightly stretched, the wines were good and I could understand the reasoning in each choice.
Domain Schoffit, Riesling Lieu-Dit Harth 2020
FRESH: From a named terroir of gravel soils, mentioned in writings over 1000 years ago. Gentle pear and lightly honeyed aromas. Quite luscious on the palate, ripe and juicy pear again, moderate acidity, and a fruit-driven, accessible but beautifully balanced style. 90/100. 13.5% abv
Domaines Schlumberger, Riesling Grand Cru Kitterle 2017
TERROIR: From mountain vineyards on volcanic soil, there’s much more of a flint and waxy, paraffin nuance to this wine. Fruit is punchy and vibrant, lime-streaked and very zesty, it has a peppery and salty aspect too, and a long finish. 92/100. T.Wright, £29.99. 13.0% abv
Domaine Hurst, Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2020
SWEET: A biodynamically certified wine from granite soils, this has 10.5g/l of residual sugar making it off-dry rather than sweet. Lovely rose petal and gentle patchouli fragrance, with lychee fruit. In the mouth the sweetness plays against a rich texture and concentration. Sweet, almost strawberry notes run into a pithy acidity, helping to balance. 90/100. 14.5 abv.
Cave de Ribeauville, Pinot Noir 2019
RED: From rocky granite soils, this well regarded co-op’s Pinot Noir has a medium density of colour and earthy, spicy aromas of plum and cherry. There’s a bit of tannic grip and good acidity, a savoury, orange edge to that plummy fruit. 87/100. Fine Wine Co, £21.00. 12.5% abv
Agathe Bursin farms 7ha of certified organic vineyard 15 km south of Colmar and surrounded by limestones hills.
Agathe Bursin, Riesling Bollenberg 2021
From the limestone slopes of Bollenberg, quite shy aromatically, a hint of creaminess and yellow plum perhaps. In the mouth it is dry, quite racy and saline, just hints of lemon and lime juiciness, a little spark of sweetness does begin to charm. 89/100. 13% abv
Agathe Bursin, Riesling Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé 2021
Limestone Grand Cru soils, and again relatively modest aromatically. Lemon and apple aromas don’t exactly leap from the glass. In the mouth more concentration than the Bollenberg for sure, a thrust of decisive citrus, a teasing hint of peach before the stony acidity clamps the finish. 91/100. WoodWinters, £37.00. 13.5% abv.
Agathe Bursin, Riesling Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé Vendange Tardive 2021
There are 74 grams of residual sugar in this late-harvested version of the Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé, adding a definite layer of honey and delicate bergamot to the aromas. That sweetness bursts with a vivid Mandarin orange brightness on the palate that really lifts this wine. Acidity is dry and pithy, beautifully pitched against the sweetness. 93/100. 12% abv
Agathe Bursin, Sylvaner Lutzeltal 2021
From the less heralded Sylvaner variety, quite an interesting nose here, slightly yeasty and bready, apple fruit. In the mouth quite dry, with that slight wheat beer character for me again. Juicy and tangy pear fruit and apple acidity, easy drinking and enjoyable. 89/100. Woodwinters, £18.00. 13% abv
Muriel Gueth is the seventh generation in charge here, with eight hectares of vineyards close to Gueberschwihr.
Domaine Gueth, Riesling Original’sace 2017
From a mixed terroir of clay marls, limestone and sandstone, quite fragrant and apple-scented, though aromas are modest. Nicely juicy and sparky on the palate with some spritz and zestiness and a touch of saline in the finish. 89/100. Pierre Hourlier Wines, £14.50. Synthetic cork. 12.5% abv
Domaine Gueth, Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2019
From limestone soils and with 6g/l of residual sugar, a touch of honey to the lemony and rip, slightly nutty apple aromas. Again a juiciness and raciness on the palate, plenty of sherbetty acidity cutting through those sweeter mid-palate flavours. 90/100. 12.5% abv
Domaine Gueth, Assemblage Le Grès Roses 2019
A very unusual blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris from clay marls and sandstone, with 5.4g/l of residual sugar. It may just have been the way the sample was prepared but this positively fizzed with spritziness on pouring. Again, I get that slight yeastiness, and a dry palate where the spritz slightly confuses the picture. Odd. 86/100. 13.5% abv
Domaine Gueth, Assemblage Harmonie 2020
A similar idea, here the blend is Riesling and Gewurztraminer, with 4.5%g/l of sugar. A much calmer wine than the Grès Roses, subtle waxiness and herby florality to apple and citrus. The palate is quite full, with plenty of juicy melon skin and pear skin grip, nicely balanced acid and sugar into a mouth-filling finish. 90/100. Pierre Hourlier, £17.00. 13.5% abv.
Five generations of Kientzlers have grown vines here, with great respect for the land (third year in organic conversion). Vines cover 13.8ha, 4.4ha on Grand Crus sites.
Domaine Kientzler, Riesling Grand Cru Geisberg 2019
Grown on limestone and sandstone, there’s just a touch of residual sugar in a wine that shows hints of beeswax and honey, and ripe apple fruit. In the mouth it has a lightly slippery texture and very pure and expressive Riesling flavours; lemony and intense, with a bracing, salt-licked finish. 94/100. Stannary Street Wine Co., £40.00. 14% abv.
Domaine Kientzler, Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg 2019
From chalky sandstone, A little more subdued than the Geisberg, just hints of waxiness to more straightforward apple and citrus. Very pure and intense palate, great concentration of preserved lemon richness but cut by decisive acidity into a long finish. 93/100. 13.5% abv.
Domaine Kientzler, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauville 2019
Just 5g/l of residual sugar in this Grand Cru from sandstone soils. Richly peachy with almond and yellow plum on the nose, the palate does show that sweetness, in a creamy and mouth-filling style, the generous nature of the acidity adding to the approachable style. 91/100. 13.5% abv.
Domaine Kientzler, Auxerrois 2021
From sandstone soils, this has a lovely sense of juicy and ripe apple fruit, a hint of creaminess too. In the mouth it is dry and very fresh and tangy, a lovely mouthful of vibrant fruit and tingling acid, gets the gastric juices flowing for sure. 90/100. Screwcap. 13% abv.
Domaine Edmond Rentz
The domaine dates back to 1785 and is currently in conversion to organic certification.
Domaine Edmond Rentz, Riesling les Comtes 2021
From clay and marl soils, this has 7.5g/l of residual sugar. That sweetness is perceptible on the palate, after an opening that is reminiscent of nutty russet apples. Quite well balanced, though not showing quite enough verve for a 2021 perhaps. 88/100. Perfect Cellar, £17.00. 12.5% abv.
Domaine Edmond Rentz, Riesling Grand Cru Sonnenglanz 2021
Eight grams of residual sugar in this wine from mal and limestone. Lemon jelly aromas are fruity and forward, just a hint of something floral, and a touch spicy. In the mouth very crisply defined, the sweetness swept up in a rush of delicate citrus and minerals acidity. 91/100. 12.5% abv.
Domaine Edmond Rentz, Pinot Noir Pièce de Chêne 2020
Aged in 228-litre barrels for between 12 and 18 months, there’s a bloody and floral aspect to the nose over dark, blueberry fruit. The palate shows a little coffee richness from the barrels, with sweet and pretty fruit overlaid. Quite substantial in the mouth with 15% alcohol, this is crisp through its spicy tannins and plenty of acidity. 90/100. Perfect Cellar, £18.25.
Domaine Edmond Rentz, Gewurztraminer Rotenberg 2021
From soils with some limestone, this is medium sweet with 14g/l of residual sugar. Candied citrus fruits and lychee on the nose, the palate follows with really very sweet fruit, a medium bodied style with good balance in the finish. 89/100. 14% abv.
A relatively new name and part of M. Chapoutier’s portfolio. Seven hectares of vines are organically grown on the only strip of blue schist in Alsace, and fermented with indigenous yeast.
Schieferkopf, Riesling Lieu-dit Fels 2017
From soils of blue schist (slate), aged for 15 months in foudres. Slightly buttery and smoky mineral aromas to golden delicious fruit. The palate shows good fruit density and richness, but a saline touch to the flavours and acidity gives a very interesting, pure and slaty finish. 92/100. Fraziers, £30. 13.5% abv
Schieferkopf, Riesling Lieu-dit Buehl 2017
A tiny bit more residual sugar than the Fels, but still dry, again this spends 15 months in foudres. A touch of gold to the emerald green colour, and the nose is similar to the Fells with custardy apple and minerality. Maybe just a little more spice and grip than the Fels, though not quite the slick density, but fascinating again. 92/100. Fraziers, £28. 13.5% abv.
Schieferkopf, Riesling 2017
From schist, this had just a teeny bit of residual sugar. It displays a little bit less of the mineral qualities of the lieu-dit wines but is charming with light candle wax notes over orchard fruit. The palate is juicy, sharper, or rather zestier than the lieu-dits, with lemony acidity. 90/100. Tannico, £21. 13.5% abv
Schieferkopf, Pinot Noir 2020
From granite soils, fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged 12 months in barrel. Nice medium density colour. Quite a pretty nose, of cranberry and crushed petals, a firm gravel note beneath. The palate is elegant and medium bodied, with juicy acidity and fine tannins, the fruit staying savoury with a light polish of oak. 91/100. 13% abv.
Domaine Maurice Schoech
A family domaine since 1650 with organic vineyards on hillsides around Ammerschwihr. Several Grand Crus including Schlossberg and Rangen de Thann.
Domaine Maurice Schoech, Riesling 2021
A dry Riesling from vineyards around Ammerschwihr, this has a discreet nose of lemon and salts, a little herbal note. The palate has lots of juicy, fresh apple, again that little saline note to the lemony acid of the finish that is appealing. 89/100. 13% abv.
Domaine Maurice Schoech, Riesling Grand Cru Kaefferkopf 2020
From the granitic and sandstone terroir of Kaefferkopf, 5g/l of residual sugar just soften this wine that opens with a nice mineral character of wax and stones, a hint of custard apple. That sweetness is perceptible, but a rounded, creamy weight of stone fruits and then nicely judged acidity makes for very pleasing balance. 92/100. 13.5% abv.
Domaine Maurice Schoech, Pinot Gris Cuvée Justin 2019
From vineyards on the granite slopes of the Lieu-dit Sonnenberg, this is fermented in oak and matured on lees for nine months. There’s a subtle nutty earthiness on the nose, an apple core dryness to the aroma. In the mouth 5g/l residual sugar gives this sweetness, the fruit somewhere between peach and lemon. A little creaminess from the barrel fleshes out the finish. 88/100. 14% abv.
Domaine Maurice Schoech, Grand Cru Kaefferkopf ‘Contemplation’ 2019
A field blend of 70% Gewurztraminer with Riesling and Pinot Gris, harvested, pressed and vinified together. The nose is dominated by Gewurz aromas, but delicately so, with rose-hip and lychee and plenty of florality. In the mouth there’s a lusciousness with 27g/l of sugar, but a lovely sense of finesse and lightness too thanks to crisp acidity from those other varieties, and only 13% abv. Distinctive and enjoyable. 93/100.
Domaine Bruno Sorg
Created in 1965 by Bruno and Renée Sorg, son François runs the business today, with 12 hectares of vineyard in Eguisheim, on mostly sandstone soils.
Domaine Bruno Sorg, Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2018
From a Grand Cru that has an interesting gravel soil that is rich magnesium, this has a very pure, gentle aromatic, of ripe and delicate apple blossom, but with lots of precision. In the mouth it is really nicely pitched: there’s a lemony freshness and the bite of crisp apple, but it flows like a mountain stream into a long finish, touched by a saline slipperyness, but sheer and precise. 93/100. Palmers Wine Store, £29. 12.8% abv.
Domaine Bruno Sorg, Riesling Grand Cru Florimont 2018
Similarly delicate, stony and subtle aromas. a little glacé fruit and a touch of honey. The palate has that decisive acidity and precision again, perhaps marginally more robust than the Pfersigberg, but balances that with extra tang and juiciness. 92/100. 12.8% abv.
Domaine Bruno Sorg, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2018
This is a dry Grand Cru Pinot Gris that opens with spice, pepper and florals atop pure orchard fruit. There’s the merest hint of sweetness to the initial flavour, then such a pure, harmonious blend of rich, quite exotic nectarine, a bright orangey acidity, and shimmering length. A lovely Pinot Gris. 92/100. Noel Young, £27.50. 13.8% abv
Domaine Bruno Sorg, Pinot Noir Sur la Vieille Route 2018
Like all of Sorg’s wines, there’s such a lovely sense of precision and clarity here, pure red fruit aromas of raspberry layered with spices and hints of exotic florals. In the mouth sweet fruit has that tart red fruit edge, but is quite deep, touched with vanilla and chocolate, the finish long and poised, gentle tannins don’t disrupt the flow, with well-judged acidity and oak. 91/100. 13.8% abv.