Domaine Zind Humbrecht is the pinnacle of Alsace, forming part of the pantheon of the world’s great wines. Their Grand Cru plots are among the finest white wines in the world, spanning the four noble grape varieties; Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Alsace provides the canvas for such versatility, yet Domaine Zind Humbrecht provides the sublime brushstrokes to form their masterpieces. Their wines are among the highest scoring, with numerous perfect 100 point scores. We have been tasting through recent vintages and have selected two stand out wines, which provide brilliant quality, reflective of the Domaine’s highest potential. Their leading wines are perennial buys. Moreover the 2017 vintage has already achieved remarkable accolades and attention.
The 2017 vintage in Alsace experienced an early bud-break, which left the fruit vulnerable to the frost which arrived on the 20th April. Vines on the valley floor were particularly devastated leading to an eventual reduction of 50% of the yields. With crop trimmed, nature began to be kind, flowering exploded in the vineyards beginning at the end of May, with the harvest beginning in early September, until the end of October. The wines as a result are concentrated and aromatic, combining wonderful freshness with power. At the peak of quality 2017 is exceptional, a vintage to collect and savour, though with quantities of the best plots dramatically reduced, it will be hard to sourcThe Grand Cru vineyard Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain is one of the most famous from any region, it is in fact the most southerly of the Alsace vineyards, sited on the Rangen hillside. The Grand Cru Rangen de Thann is located at the exit of the valley, overlooking the Village of Than. The Clos Saint Urbain vineyard encompasses the chapel of Saint Urbain. The terroir is unique, dating from the Carboniferous era, it is made up of volcanic rocks and sedimentary sandstones. Only 0.5 ha are planted with Gewurztraminer, grown towards the bottom of the hillside where there are higher proportions of clay in the soil and a great warmth from the reflection of the sun on the river. As one can imagine, it is a remarkable site producing two remarkable wines, one of the finest Rieslings in the world and their best in class Gewurztraminer. It comes as no surprise therefore, that in 2017 Zind Humbrecht have produced two world-beating wines.
Zind Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain 2017 has been awarded 95-97 points from Stephan Reinhardt of The Wine Advocate. He describes the wines as ‘very long and fresh, with rich and concentrated fruit but never without the purity of the Clos. A great wine that will need plenty of time’. The score makes it one of the greatest ever made, surpassing the 2016 and 2015 out of the gate, with the potential to challenge the 97+ scoring 2012, which already trades at £420. The 2017 is priced today on release at £285 per case of six giving it a Price Over Points score of 36, stunning for one of the greatest wines in class anywhere in the world. The wine is unmissable for any Riesling, or white wine lover for that fact, which can seamlessly age and improve for 40 years and reach a height of complexity, that few wines that cost an order of magnitude more achieve.
Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain Grand Cru is an extraordinary wine, we posit the finest Gewurztraminer in the world. Reinhardt is yet to taste most Gewurztraminers in 2017 and we expect it, like the Riesling to receive one of its highest scores ever. Quantities are minuscule, so it is a savvy idea to secure a case now of what could be one of the highest ever scoring Gewurztraminers. The wine perennially displays stunning notes of spice, with clove, as well as rose petals, orange blossom, cashews and lychee. Famed for fruit purity with nectarine, apricots and incredible minerality on the finish. The Wine Advocate calls this ‘a great Gewürztraminer!’, it is largely viewed as the greatest of them all. Its incredible texture makes it a brilliant wine to drink on its own, however, although cliched, it is the quintessential wine to have with spicy cuisine, with some residual sugar, combined with admirable acidity and brilliant spice, the rich fruit and texture combine with spices in food and bring out a stunning gastronomic wine experience. The price is £285 per case of six, or £47.50 a bottle in bond, a brilliant buy for the finest wine of its kind. For its complexity, its versatility and for its ability to accompany food this is a must have wine for any cellar.
The Humbrecht family can trace their vinicultural roots back to 1620. Domaine Zind Humbrecht itself was created in 1959, following the marriage of Leonard Humbrecht to Genevieve Zind. Today the wines are largely made by Olivier Humbrecht, who needs little introduction as the first French Master of Wine and one of the few winemakers. He is also one of the champions of biodynamics, the current president of Biodyvin. The Domaine has some of the most enviable sites in Alsace, which they have cultivated for generations. The Domaine has been one of the global pioneers in winemaking.
In Alsace they were the vanguard of focusing on low yields, biodynamic viticulture and on minimal intervention. The fermentations are slow, with wines spending six months on their lees. One ongoing project of Olivier is removing filtering from wines, currently he filters 12-24 months after harvest, waiting until after winter racking, filtering once they are clear in the cask. He believes that filtering before damages the wines.
In 1992 the family left their old cellars, moving into new, state of the art facilities. From here they managed to move away from the practice of chaptalisation, the addition of sugar to their wines. Their dedication to low yields has meant potential sugar has overcome this need, allowing the wines to have a stunning natural balance of sugar and acidity pre-fermentation. The wines are made from the finest vineyards, by one of the world’s finest winemakers. Precision and finesse are the two words that define these wines.
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