At a tasting put together by Inverarity Vaults was this small selection from arguably the most sought-after estate in Alsace, Zind-Humbrecht. In attendance was Margaret Humbrecht, Olivier Humbrecht’s wife, who is originally from Clydebank near Glasgow and who met Olivier whilst both were travelling in Australia. Now she divides her time between her Alsace home and visiting her family in Scotland several times per year.
Amongst the things we chatted about before a tasting of a few of Zind-Humbrecht’s less exalted cuvées, was the index system the estate has introduced on its drier wines – those not officially classified as Vendange Tardive (late-harvest) or Selection des Grains Nobles (Botrytised). In very small print on the label is an index number from 1 to 5, to indicate the perceived dryness of the wine (one is driest). Margaret explained that this is a tasting assessment rather than technical analysis, aimed at informing consumers what to expect when they purchase a bottle. One of the criticisms levelled at Alsace is that the level of sweetness is not easy to gauge on many wines, making them hard to choose in restaurants for example.
Their 40 hectares having been farmed biodynamically for many years, and Margaret says Olivier is primarily concerned with expressing his terroir, and looks for the character of the vineyard to dominate the varietal hallmarks of the fruit. Each vintage is therefore very different from the last, and requires an understanding and appreciation of each year’s wine. Consistency of quality and the expression of the vineyard is more important than absolute consistency of “product”.
Zind-Humbrecht (France) Riesling Gueberschwihr 2001
Tight, fine, mineral and waxy nose, with a touch of stone fruit and fine appley notes. Lovely hint of sweetness and unctuous quality. The palate is mouthfilling and quite rich, but dry and savoury, with finely tuned orchard fruits, a beautifully limpid mouthful of apple and herbs and fine orangy acidity. Delightful wine, with beautiful length and precision, and excellent. Around £17.00. See retail stockists on wine-searcher.com
Zind-Humbrecht (France) Pinot Gris Herrenweg de Turkheim 2004
Quite a rich, golden colour. Quite a meaty, quite powerful dried herb and citrus fruit nose, with notes of orange and some subtle floral notes. On the palate there is a minerality running through this, with an edge of delicate sweetness, and a fine, fruity, mouthfilling weight of multi-layered flavours. Lovely acid here too, in a terrific wine with spice and a grippy pear skin note into a long finish. Excellent. Around £25. See retail stockists on wine-searcher.com
Zind-Humbrecht (France) Gewürztraminer Herrenweg de Turkheim 2004
Again a rich golden yellow colour. Fragrant rich, sumptuous nose, immediately suggesting sweetness. There is very fine aromatic fruit here, with delicate notes of lychee and pink grapefruit, and a fine spicy background. On the palate there is a really blast of pithy, dramatic grapefruit character, with a bittersweet balance of ripe fruit and searing acidity. Bone dry in the finish, this has a delightful clarity and freshness. Very good indeed/excellent. Around £25. See retail stockists on wine-searcher.com