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Zind-Humbrecht is one of the great names of Alsace, and in the tiny-yielding 2017 vintage this dry gewurz is especially rich, intense and spicy, with remarkable length. For all its heady complexity and texture, it is still an elegant and clean-cut wine, not to mention an absolute joy to drink.
Product Code: AL14861
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This domaine came about in 1959 following the marriage of Léonard Humbrecht and Geneviève Zind. It has become one of, if not the very greatest estate in all of Alsace with wines that are much envied by others; copied but rarely matched. The family’s 40 hectares of fine vineyards, run on biodynamic lines across five villages, provide a substantial resource from which to produce a whole array of fabulous, terroir-expressive wines. Following in his father Léonard’s extraordinary footsteps Olivier Humbrecht has assumed responsibility of the estate with gusto and has continued to build on his father’s considerable achievements. As well as his triumphs in the family domaine Olivier is the first Frenchman to gain the Master of Wine qualification. There are many reasons for the resounding success of this domaine, not least the Humbrechts’ unwavering commitment to their precious vineyards, some of which are on notoriously difficult steep sites. Many are unworkable by machine, so the Humbrechts use horses to plough the land. As well as owning vines in 4 grand cru vineyards – Brand, Hengst, Goldert and Rangen – the domaine also makes wines from a number of single vineyards, or lieux-dits,including some rare walled sites, which have no status in the cru system but nevertheless have immense potential of their own. In the winery the approach is non-interventionist. The regular bottlings need at least a couple of years’ ageing whereas most of the single-vineyard or grand cru wines require at least 5 years, whether regular or late-harvest bottlings. Olivier is married to Margaret, a Scot by birth. They own a croft in the Highlands, where Olivier can indulge his other passion - whisky. He sources his own bottlings which he sells in France and is also a keen distiller making tiny quantities of extraordinarily scented eaux de vie.
The region of Alsace lies in the rain shadow of the Vosge mountains in north-eastern France, divided from Germany by the mighty Rhine River. With the Vosge peaks protecting it from prevailing, rain laden westerlies it is one of the driest and sunniest parts of France outside of the far south and is a wonderful place to grow grapes.However, the wines of Alsace are sadly still often misunderstood. Their Germanic names, flute-shaped bottles, reminiscent of their Rhine and Mosel counterparts, and diversity of styles have all caused confusion and doubt in the minds of those consumers unfamiliar with them. Furthermore the pursuit of quality through lower yields and later harvests has come with higher levels of sweetness in many wines, though most are dry and eminently suitable for drinking with food.In contrast to many French regions, Alsace labels are relatively easy to read for many a modern wine drinker, showing as they do the grape variety clearly. There are some multi-grape blends too, and give or take some pinot noir production almost all the wines are white. The hierarchy of appellations is simple to understand too, with AC Vin d’Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru and AC Cremant d’Alsace for sparkling wines being all you need to know. Vendange Tardive and Sélection des Grains Nobles are two further designations within those classifications for wines made from later-harvested grapes that are higher in sugar and wines made from grapes affected by botrytis (aka noble rot) respectively. Grand cru wines must be made with grapes from a named vineyard site of that designation harvested at lower yields than those permitted for AC Vin d’Alsace wines. Though they are not all equal in terms of quality and many were granted such status to satisfy local political demands, many of these sites are producing some of the greatest wines of the region. There are about 50 such grand cru sites in Alsace and wines from these sites can only be made from four noble varieties – riesling, muscat, pinot gris and gewurztraminer – though the grand cru vineyards themselves can be planted with any permitted variety. Curiously, though, it is often the producer name and brand that is considered of higher importance than cru, and some producers do not use the name of a grand cru vineyard on the labels of wines made from those sites. Different producers are known for their house styles and it is often this, and the trusted quality of their ‘brands’, that attracts the savvy drinker. The grape varieties are varied. Gewurztraminer is a grape that divides people into those who love it and those who hate it. Highly aromatic, with scents of lychee, rose petals and spice (gewürz is the German word for spice), sometimes very dry and sometimes richly sweet, gewurztraminer from Alsace can accommodate many difficult food pairings. They include Thai and other aromatic Asian foods, ginger-infused foods, and washed rind cheeses such as Munster.Muscat, so often made to be sweet in other regions, is nearly always bone dry in Alsace. Perfumed and grapy, muscat makes an excellent aperitif and partner to asparagus. Pinot blanc is an excellent everyday wine, not so aromatic, clean and round and often blended with auxerrois with which it share a similarly clean scent and flavour profile. Pinot gris produces full, rich wines, less spicy than gewurztraminer and capable of long ageing. It can be a superb match for food, particularly roast goose, smoked fish, Oriental dishes and a varied cheeseboard. Sylvaner is now an endangered species, being superseded by other varieties. It makes lively, refreshing whites with good acidity that in the best examples can age surprisingly gracefully. It is often drunk with food in Alsace restaurants, particularly onion tart, ham, bacon and pork.Riesling is, for many cognoscenti, the region’s greatest wine. Here it produces dry, fuller-bodied styles with more rounded acidity. Like its lighter, often sweeter German counterparts, it develops great complexity with age, taking on its distinctive petrol aroma. The red pinot noir grape ripens easily in Alsace and more and more wines are being made, with more substance, colour and aroma than their historical forbears. Some from the best producers are showing the ability to age well.Please see our How to Buy Alsace Guide in the Wine World & News section of our website for a more detailed feature on the Alsace region.
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