Zind-Humbrecht 2012 - Vintage notes

The 2012 Vintage at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht
(text from Olivier Humbrecht)

Colmar was nominated the driest town in France in 2013, based on the average of the last 10 years. This will seem almost impossible to some people with regard to the rainfall the region had during certain months of 2012. 2012 is a contrasted vintage between different villages and periods of the year.

Winter was extremely dry (5 mm in February in Turckheim) and finished very warm in March. Some colder weather and more rain in April, especially in the Rangen, pushed the buds to break out only towards the end of the month. Stormy weather, some heat and significant rain delayed the flowering to the middle of June, despite some isolated early flowers present in precocious vineyard at the end of May. Unfortunately, a bit of cold weather mid-June interfered with the flowering, which was in certain cases only completed in the last days of the month (Rangen especially). We feared a serious crop loss, like in 2010, but the vines seemed to compensate and at harvest time we realized that the crop size was not greatly affected. 

June and July saw high rainfall, especially in Thann (232mm over June and July), in quantities much above the average of the past 10 years. The almost uninterrupted rain cadence made it extremely difficult to insure a continuous protection against fungus diseases. Bio-dynamic farming means that we only use contact products (copper/sulfur) and plant preparations which are easily washed off the vines after a large rainfall. We very often finish the year using less than 1kg/ha of metal copper (against mildew), which is an extremely small dosage, but in 2012, we finished with an average of 2.5kg/ha, showing how difficult the mildew was to control and therefore certain spraying treatments had to be repeated. Early July, the Rangen was hit by a serious hail that removed about 50% of the crop.

With August, the warm and dry weather returned progressively and peaked with a heat wave towards the end of the month. From then the weather was very dry in Turckheim and Hunawihr; Thann received a few more spells of rain, but the end of summer 2012 was considered to be very nice weather. Surprisingly however, nature started to express signs of drought and hydric stress in some areas.

Early maturity controls showed similar results to 2005 so harvest was scheduled to start quite early in the precocious vineyards. What happened after is still difficult to understand and explain, because, with the good weather, the grapes showed beautiful physiological ripeness and were in excellent health, but sugars increased very slowly to our great surprise and maybe satisfaction.

The harvest started on our estate the 17th September and finished late the 24th October. Potential alcohol increased slowly, especially for the Riesling grape, so it was necessary to wait longer than expected. Some rainfalls stopped the harvest middle of October, and usually most grapes harvested after started to develop some noble rot, but the quality and quantity of the late developing noble rot did not result in us producing many of these wines.

2012 will be characterized by pure, elegant wines with much less alcohol than usual, good ripe acidities and which finished fermenting mostly dry for varieties like Riesling. The average yield of the estate is 51hl/ha, with 26hl/ha for the Grand Cru (mostly due to the smaller harvest in the Rangen).

Indice: level of sweetness on the palate. This note combines the sweetness, acidity, alcohol and overall structure of the wine. 
It ranges from 1 to 5.

  • 1: technically dry or tasting dry.
  • 2: not technically dry, but sweetness not apparent on the palate. Some tasters might find some roundness on the finish.
  • 3: medium sweetness, especially present when the wine is young and might gradually disappear with the ageing.
  • 4: Sweet wine
  • 5: High sweetness, VT in richness without the usual botrytis
    Alc/Alcohol: finished alcohol level at end of fermentation, RS/Residual Sweetness: sugars in g/l naturally left in the wine at the end of the alcoholic fermentation. H2SO4: total acidity in g/l expressed in sulphuric acid (in France).

Pinot Blanc 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2013; Alcohol: 12.9° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; 2.9 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.5; Yields: 80 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2013/2017; Average age of the vines: 37 years; Terroir: Oligocene Calcareous and gravely soil. Indice 1.
Like any of the previous vintages of Pinot-Blanc, this wine is made from a blend of Auxerrois (70%) and Pinot-Blanc (30%) originating from the Herrenweg and Rotenberg vineyards. Blending these two grapes is an old tradition in Alsace. The Pinot-Blanc, much leaner and later ripening, compensates for the richness of the Auxerrois. Later ripening soils like the red limestone of the Rotenberg also helps to keep more acidity and a firmer structure. The 2012 grapes were amazingly healthy and showed beautiful yellow ripe skins. An early harvest with moderate richness also permitted the yeast to ferment the wine bone dry quite quickly, allowing for an early bottling.
2/2013: still on the lees, but showing a great nutty nose with a sense of white fruits. The whole wine will benefit from some extra ageing and air. The palate is technically very dry but without any unwanted bitterness or acidity. Nice medium length and smoothness. It is a great every day food wine.
3/2014: now in bottle for a year, the nose as firmed up and shows classic white fruit nose. The palate, despite being fully dry displays a welcoming roundness and soft finish.

Zind 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 12.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 12 g/l; 4.1 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.2; Yields: 58 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014/2027; Average age of vines: 23 years; Terroir: Muschelkalk calcareous (Jurassic) facing south & east. Indice 2.
We started to blend and separately bottle the Chardonnay (65%) and the Auxerrois (35%) from the Clos Windsbuhl vineyard in 2004 when we believed the vines to be old enough to produce a certain quality (15 years old). Unfortunately (or funnily) the presence of the Chardonnay is the reason why we are obliged to declassify this wine to the Vin de Table category, despite the fact that this vineyard is one of our top sites. In 2012, the grapes harvested were very healthy with a nice acidity. Due to a structural problem, cask 51 (105hl) needed to be replaced with a new cask and the Zind 2012 was the obvious choice for the first wine in this cask. Being the first wine, the cask did not contain any yeasts from previous vintages and explains perhaps partly why the 2012 kept a little more residual sweetness than expected.
1/2014: the new foudre (large old oval oak cask) influence is negligible and only a very sharp taster would be able to detect its presence. The light toasty aromas combine with herbal and white fruit, light smokiness and chalk on the nose. The palate is very elegant and shows little of the sweetness. I did rate this wine indice 1 for a long time before I saw the analysis! Long finish that feels dry but so easy to drink, already today.

Muscat 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2013, Alcohol: 12.6° alc, Residual sweetness: 5 g/l; 3.3 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.4; Yields: 80 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2013-2017; Average age of the vines:  33 years; Terroir: Gravely/silt; 85% Muscat d’Alsace, 15% Ottonel. Indice 1.
All the Muscat comes from the alluvial gravelly soil of the Herrenweg vineyard in Turckheim. It is in fact a blend of Muscat d’Alsace (small berry) and Ottonel. The change in climate has pushed us to increase gradually the proportion of Muscat d’Alsace because it ripens later and keeps a much more interesting structure. The fermentation was very fast and the wine finished tasting dry. Already showing intense fruit, it was obvious for us to take the decision to bottle it early.
2/2013: The nose is very intense and refined, showing beautiful flowers aromas and fruits. The palate is delicate and the dry finish makes a very interesting wine to combine with aromatic light dishes (asparagus, langoustines) and also the perfect summer wine.

Muscat Grand Cru Goldert 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alc: 14.2 ° alc; RS: 6.5 g/l; 5.1 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.2; Yields: 55 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2017-2027+; Average age of the vines: 25 years; Terroir: Oolithic calcareous, East gentle slope. 90 % Muscat d’Alsace, 10 % Ottonel. Indice 1.
The east facing gentle marl soil of the Goldert benefits from a cooler and late ripening climate. Definitely very favorable to the Muscat grape, and within the Muscat different varieties: the Muscat Petit Grains (red and white here) is capable to achieve much more interesting complexity and acidity than the more fruity easier Ottonel. In 2012 we were amazed by how quickly these grapes ripened and kept a brilliant acidity. A slow but powerful fermentation allowed the wine to finish dry.
2/2014: Intense fruity nose, showing great ripeness character. This is a very classic Goldert with intense flavours yet also displaying austere minerals and a natural discretion, so far away from the varietal expression of Muscat. The palate is tight, rich and dry and finishes with a mouthwatering acidity. This is an intense Muscat but also so delicate and pure. Great ageing potential and definitely meant to go with food.
 
Pinot Noir Heimbourg Rouge 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 12.8° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; 3.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 32 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2016-2024; Planted in 1995; Terroir: Oligocene calcareous, facing west, medium slope.
In the 1990s, we gradually removed all our Pinot Noir vines from the valley floor and decided to plant a little part of the Heimbourg vineyard with this grape. We were looking for a later ripening area, capable to keep good acidity but also allowing us to harvest this capricious grape later, without risk of early rot development. The Heimbourg vineyard was ideal: deep marl limestone soil preserving character and acidity, later ripening and with frequent winds keeping the grapes healthy. The vineyard was planted high density (9000 vines/ha) and is pruned very low. The grapes ferment whole cluster and are gently punch down manually. The wine is raised for 18 months in small barrels that are between 2 and 6 years old.
2/2013: rich deep dark red colour with a light haze (no fining, no filtration). Amazingly intense for this later ripening vintage, showing great phenolic ripeness. The nose is very expressive with intense red fruits, cherries. The palate is smooth on the attack but as the wine stays in the mouth, some ripe tannin becomes more palatable. This is a very enjoyable Pinot Noir that will benefit of some time spent in the bottle.

Riesling 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2013; Alcohol: 11.7° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; 3.8 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.3; Yields: 79 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2013-2019; Average age of the vines: 33 years; Terroir: gravely/silt on valley floor and calcareous hillsides; Indice 1.
In 2012, we took most of the Riesling grapes from the Herrenweg vineyard, starting with the younger vines, and keeping only the oldest vines for the vineyard designated wine. There are also some grapes originating from limestone vineyards. All grapes showed exceptional physiological ripeness in 2012, but curiously, even on the early ripening valley floors, we did not reach high sugar levels. After a fast fermentation, the wine fermented bone dry. The skin ripeness and the origin of the grapes explain the intensity on the nose in this wine.
2/2012: the nose shows intense white fruit aromas, classic Riesling intensity without the more stony character often found on richer wines. The palate feels surprisingly intense, while finishing very dry but without any tightness, probably due to a medium acidity. It will be a very easy wine to enjoy and drink in its youth.

Riesling 2012 (lot 141) – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 12.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 2.6 g/l; 3.8 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.1; Yields: 78 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014-2022; Average age of the vines: 33 years; Terroir: gravely/silt on valley floor and calcareous hillsides; Indice 1.
This second lot of Riesling also originates for two-thirds from the Herrenweg vineyard and the cask was topped up with some Riesling Calcaire and Terroir d’Alsace. It explains why it is slightly richer but in essence is very similar to the lot 140. It clearly illustrates the variation that can be seen on different casks, depending on wild yeast activity. This wine fermented much longer, a whole year, and therefore could only be bottled 17 months after the harvest. Very healthy grapes, so it finished dry.
1/2014: light yellow colour. Longer lees contact has influenced the nose by allowing stronger flinty aromas and a little less fruit, but overall, this wine shows nice aromatic intensity. The palate has good minerality and eventually opens up after some time. Elegant, delicate finish, typical of 2012. Extremely drinkable and easy to enjoy. I believe that despite the more modest origin, this wine will age gracefully.

Riesling Terroir d’Alsace 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 12.7° alc; Residual sweetness: 2.6 g/l; 3.8 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.3; Yields: 72 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2022; Average age of the vines:  29 years; Terroir: granite; Indice 1
This is the deal: we only make this wine if we can be sure that the fermentation will be complete and the wine dry (under 5g/l residual sweetness). We usually use grapes originating from the Herrenweg area, or a vineyard just below the Clos Jebsal and certain parcels in the Brand (mostly younger vines). In 2012, as we only kept the old vines in Brand for the Grand Cru wine, this wine was made from 100% granitic Brand vines. Healthy grapes, perfect ripeness, good wild yeast: the wine finished dry with a great structure.
2/2014: the nose displays a fullness and mineral intensity rarely achieved in this wine. No doubt the pure granitic origin explains the minerality and wet stones character, not as strong when there are more valley floor vineyards blended into this wine. The wine feels very young and in need of ageing, but more air contact will allow superb fruits aromas to develop. The mid palate shows a wonderful bright richness, yet totally dry. This is a fabulous dry Riesling with a crisp clean pure mineral finish.
 
Riesling Calcaire 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling: 2/2014; Alcohol: 12.9 °alc; Residual sweetness: 8 g/l; 4.1 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.1; Yields: 72 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period 2015-2023; Average age of vines: 38 years; Terroir: Limestone/calcareous/siliceous, facing East and South. Indice 1.
The Riesling Calcaire mainly originates from our Riesling vineyards located in Gueberschwihr. We then add some grapes from the Heimbourg if the crop isn’t large enough to fill in the cask. In 2012, while some vineyards located on alluvial soil suffered from the dry weather, limestone soils were able to resist perfectly and never showed any sign of stress. Just like most Riesling grapes in 2012, these were harvested in perfect health and allowed for a slow fermentation. The slightly higher acidity, very typical of richer and deeper limestone soils, can explain the presence of some residual sweetness, however completely hidden behind a great structure, allowing the wine to remain at Indice 1.
2/2014: bright green yellow colour. The nose shows fresh herbal, hay and fruity nose (citrus), and then, with time, eventually develops intense iodine, limestone/stony aromas. The palate has the typical weight and density usually associated with richer marl soils. From an oily richer mid palate, it goes towards a drier and tighter finish, where the acidity kicks in. Like many Calcaire or Gueberschwihr in the past, this wine will benefit of some cellaring.

Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 12.6°alc; Residual sweetness: 4.4 g/l; 3.8 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.1; Yields: 60 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2016-2027; Average age of the vines:  47 years; Terroir: gravely soil/silt; Indice 1.
The Herrenweg is located on a very well drained, warm and dry alluvial soil at the exit of the Munster valley. The very dry end of summer emphasised the difference between the older (40 years plus) and younger vines. The deeper root systems explain a more consistent growth, the slightly richer grapes and a more interesting and mineral structure. Only the oldest vines were used for the Herrenweg wine. Healthy grapes and a steady consistent fermentation allowed for the wine to finish dry.
2/2014: light bright yellow colour. The nose is still discreet for this vineyard, probably still under the influence of the long lees contact. With time, the nose develops subtil fruity aromas, fresh almonds and the classic Riesling minerals. There is a strong sense of origin on the nose, confirmed on the palate by a sapid acidity on the attack. The wine feels really dry, balanced by a delicate texture. This is serious Herrenweg Riesling. The old vines really had a positive effect in this vintage.

Riesling Clos Häuserer 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling: 2/2014; Alcohol:  12.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 4.5 g/l; 3.9 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.1, Yields: 55 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2032+; Vineyard planted in 1973; Terroir: Calcareous Marl (Oligocene period). Very gentle slope. Indice 1.
The climate in 2012 couldn’t have been more favourable to the Clos Häuserer. A dry September prevented early botrytis development and ensured a slow increase in sugar ripeness allowing for later harvest without gaining too much sugar richness. Because of its location at the foot of the Hengst hillside, on a deep rich marl soil, vigour and excessive growth were problems encountered in this parcel when the vines were younger, yet with age these vines have attained a remarkable balance. Attaining proper physiological ripeness is crucial in this vineyard as the acids can remain green if harvested too early. A perfect slow fermentation allowed the wine to finish dry.
2/2014: intense yellow green colour. The nose conveys a sensation of vibrant and precise minerals, clear cut stones, a real class apart. Fabulously austere, it is easy to see through the iodine and tight nose how classic this wine will be. The mouth is delicate, like a racing car, there is no excess weight, but everything on the palate shows vibrancy and energy. The acidity, not technically very high, is well present and cuts through the finish. Elegant structure, the natural concentration of this wine creates richness in this lower alcohol wine.

Riesling Heimbourg 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 14° alc; Residual sweetness: 15 g/l; 3.9 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.2; Yields: 46 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2032; Planted in 1994; Terroir: Oligocene calcareous, facing south, southwest, steep slope. Indice 2
Only the Riesling grapes are planted on the small south, south-west part of the Heimbourg, where the slope is the steepest and the soil shallow. This part of the vineyard enjoys a slightly warmer and more precocious climate, hence the choice for Riesling. The consequence is also that some vintages, like 2012, the grapes can be harvested slightly richer, even with some noble rot. The marl/limestone soil is effectively capable to bring the necessary humidity for the botrytis to develop. Due to the high sugar ripeness, it is to be expected that the fermentation stopped with some residual sweetness.
2/2014: deep yellow colour. The nose is intense and almost like a complex perfume, keeps developing more and more as the wine breathes. It shows obvious ripeness with fruity aromas (peach, citrus) and could be mistaken for a richer late harvest style on the nose. The light sweetness doesn’t come as a surprise, as it is enhanced by the aromatic intensity, but the acidity firming up the finish, leaving a drier mouth feel, is a real surprise. This Riesling shows an unusual ripeness in 2012.
 
Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: ?/2014; Alcohol: ?° alc; Residual sweetness: ? g/l; ? g/l H2SO4, pH: ?; Yields: 50 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2016-2037+; Average age of the vines: 38 years; Terroir: Muschelkalk calcareous (Jurassic), facing southeast, medium/steep slope. Indice ?
Faithfull to its status of late ripening vineyard, the Clos Windsbuhl was the last harvested Riesling in 2012. The proximity of the forest, the higher altitude and cooler Muschelkalk soil explains why every important phenolic stage is about 2 weeks later than Turckheim. The 2012 harvest was mostly healthy but some noble rot was present on the grapes in a small quantity (less than 10%). It certainly explains for the very lazy fermentation of this wine. The very high acidity in this vintage also created a more difficult environment for the yeasts. As much as this kind of fermentation can be dangerous for grapes like Gewurztraminer or Pinot-Gris, it seems that Riesling has no problem at all.
2/2014: this wine is still a work in progress, and probably will not be bottled before September 2014 or later. The nose shows intense fermentation aromas, just like it was harvested a few weeks ago. However, it also clearly shows now super mineral intensity and purity, typical of the Windsbuhl vineyard. The palate tastes almost dry (11g/l RS left at the moment) but the yeasts still have some work to do. Great potential.

Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 13 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 11 g/l; 3.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.2; Yields: 36 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2032+; Average age of vines: 62 years; Terroir: Biotite granite, facing south. Steep slope. Indice 2.
2012 showed great differences between the various ages of the vineyards in the Brand. Old winegrowers say that it takes 30 years for a vine to produce real Brand! This was definitely the case in 2012. The poor, warm and well drained granitic soil did put the younger vines (having less deep roots) under stress during the dry and warm month of September. This is the main reason (and some yield differences) that explain why we only kept the old vines of the Steinglitz and Schnekelsbourg area in the Brand Grand Cru to produce this wine. A little extra richness is explained by a long, slow fermentation that kept a discreet sweetness in the wine.
2/2014: the slightly more yellow intense colour already shows a richer potential. The nose is powerful but still very tight. It feels like the nose is still encased in a solid rock, only allowing for occasional fruity aromas to escape, after some time. The lees have made the Brand stricter, but also have increased the mineral character of this granitic vineyard in 2012. The palate starts with a smooth gentle touch, and then gradually builds up power and intensity. There is a mouthwatering saline finish and a light softness which is quickly forgotten. This wine will need some time!

Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2014; Alcohol: 14.1° alc; Residual sweetness: 5.8 g/l; acidity 4.5 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.3; Yields: 23 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2017-2037+; Average age of the vines: 50 years; Terroir: Sedimentary volcanic rocks, facing south, very steep slope. Indice 1.
The Rangen is located at the exit of a deep valley and is very close to high mountains. It explains a higher rainfall than Turckheim for example, which is more than welcomed because the steep south facing volcanic soils drain the water very quickly and drought can be a problem. Storms can also be more violent in Thann and that was clearly the case in early August when this vineyard was hit by an intense hailstorm. We lost between 20 to 50% of the crop, depending on the location within the Clos-Saint-Urbain. Fortunately, being very early in the season, the storm removed parts of clusters, and in some sectors the entire cluster, but did not affect the grapes left on the vine. The crop reduction also explains the richness of this wine, which, amazingly, was able to ferment dry.
2/2014: intense yellow colour. The nose almost has a tactile touch such are the flinty, mineral/stones and smoke aromas dense and intense. The volcanic soil isn’t alone in this wine, there is a vibrancy that conveys emotions. The palate is long, rich, powerful with amazing character and depth, right through the finish which is surprisingly tight and dry. However, at the end, the palate keeps in memory a delicate wine, no excess weight, everything is necessary in this wine and there is nothing missing. This vineyard had a hard time in 2012 and it was capable to fight back superbly, producing an emotional wine.
 
Pinot-Gris 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2013; Alcohol: 14.0° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; 3.4 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.4; Yields: 55 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2013-2019; Average age of the vines: 22 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor. Indice 1.
Just like in 2011, we didn’t produce any Herrenweg or Vieilles Vignes Pinot-Gris in 2012, as both were blended into this wine. The grapes ripened physiologically very quickly, to our great satisfaction, so it was possible to harvest them early and expect a dry wine. The Herrenweg is an early ripening vineyard because it gets less shadow from the mountains, the gravelly soil warms up quickly and it is also at the lowest altitude. If we are not careful, the grapes are quickly over-ripe and acids drop dramatically. In a vintage like 2012, we definitely do not want these grapes to reach high potential, in order to avoid unnecessary sweetness.
2/2012: rich nutty nose, exotic fruits but still dominated by some lees. It will take a few months after bottling to really show all its potential. The palate is concentrated but harmonious and smooth. Almost hard to believe it is bone dry. Good length, very youthful, this will be an easy to like wine.

Pinot-Gris Calcaire 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 13° alc; Residual sweetness: 10.6 g/l; 3.9 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.2; Yields: 57 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2024; Average age of the vines: 27 years; Terroir: marl-calcareous, facing west. Indice 2.
All the limestone vineyards on our estate are located on good to excellent single vineyards. This Calcaire 2012 is made solely from grapes that originate from the Heimbourg vineyard which has clearly strongly influenced this wine. The Pinot-Gris planted higher up on the slope is at a higher altitude and has shallower soils. The lack of top soil makes it more aggressive for the vines (very high pH at root level: 9.5) and help this grape to retain a great structure. The grapes were harvested without noble rot and relatively early. The fermentation was very regular and this wine kept little residual sweetness.
2/2012: the nose shows interesting smoky mineral aromas despite a light reductive lees influence. It feels very elegant and will probably take a long time to develop the more classic Heimbourg white fruit flavours. The palate tastes dry due to the positive influence of the acidity. It is hard to believe that there is any sweetness such is the finish fresh and zesty. The poor limestone soil and precise choice of harvest date have permitted to produce a Pinot Gris that has achieved a structure very close to a Riesling.

Pinot-Gris Réserve 2012 (lot L151) – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 9/2013; Alcohol: 13° alc; Residual sweetness: 21.6 g/l; 2.9 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.5, Yields: 50 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2024; Average age of the vines: 22 years; Terroir: Muschelkalk calcareous, south/southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 3.
There was no initial plan to produce two different Calcaire wines. However, different richness, different vineyards, different harvest dates and a completely different fermentation profile have made it impossible to assemble the two wines together. The lot 151 comes entirely from the Clos Windsbuhl young vines (planted 1988 – 1992). There was a little presence of noble rot explaining some residual sweetness and a much slower fermentation. The Windsbuhl was also harvested much later due to a later flowering in 2012.
2/2012: the nose is still closed, almost yeasty, fresh bread and it takes a long time exposed to oxygen for the wine to develop its complexity. Shaking, decanting, opening the bottle days in advance is necessary, then the palate shows complex stony flavours and a nice tannic/acid combination that hides the sweetness. The palate is elegant with a velvety but firm finish.

Pinot-Gris Rotenberg 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 13.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 4 g/l; 4.3 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3,2; Yields: 26 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2016-2028; Average age of vines: 31 years; Terroir: Oligocene calcareous. West to northwest facing. Steep slope. Indice 1.
The Rotenberg vineyard is located on the top of the Hengst hillside, facing west to north-west, on a red thin limestone soil. Usually the grapes ripen slowly on this steep hillside, and it isn’t unusual to reach very high level of ripeness with strong noble rot development. However, in 2012, mostly due to the very dry month of September, the grapes stayed healthy and were harvested at a level of ripeness allowing for the wine to finish dry, showing great acidity.
2/2012: pale bright yellow colour. The nose is tight and firm and announces that this is serious dry Rotenberg Pinot Gris, yet with a delicate smoky expression. The limestone soils combined with a healthy harvest are responsible for the discreet nose. Usually Rotenberg develops early white fruit aromas (quince, pears) but not in 2012, it may take some time. The palate confirms the nose: this is a dry wine with great acidity and a tight structure. Low yields bring minerality and fullness, so the finish shows real intensity.
 
Pinot-Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 13.1° alc; Residual sweetness: 36.5 g/l; 3.4 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.5, Yields: 27 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2016-2032; Average age of the vines: 43 years; Terroir: Muschelkalk calcareous, south/southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 4.
The limestone soil and cooler climate combination mean that it takes longer to ripen the grapes in the Windsbuhl. However, the low vigour and small yield helped by the fact that the vines enjoy a great sun exposure on a steep slope means that we are often surprised by the level of ripeness we can achieve in this wonderful Clos. The Muschelkalk (sea shells) limestone also produces high surface clay, capable to store the minerality of the soil. We tried as much as possible to prevent noble rot, but the natural ripeness of the grapes made it impossible to avoid residual sweetness in 2012.
2/2012: like many 2012s, the nose is tight and shut at first, but long aeration for days or weeks allows the nose to show beautiful fruity aromas of pears, quince and citrus. It is easy here to detect a higher ripeness, despite the pale fresh colour. The natural elegance of the Windsbuhl and the vintage is obvious in this wine. The sweetness is delicate, the acidity is fresh and the power is elegant. More than any other Pinot Gris in this vintage, it is the saline acidity that makes the finish so long and will guarantee a long life to this wine.

Pinot-Gris Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 14.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 38 g/l; 3.4 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.7; Yields: 11 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2018-2037+; Average age of the vines: 49 years; Terroir: Sedimentary volcanic rocks. South facing, steep slope. Indice 4.
2012 was probably one of the most difficult and complicated vintages for the Rangen. Spring was late causing a very late difficult flowering. The frequent rainfalls made it difficult to spray the vineyard against diseases and treatments had to be repeated more than usual. Finally, hail struck the vines early August, when the clusters were still quite small, removing a large chunk of the potential harvest. The result was a very small crop. Of course, we are used to harvest small grapes on this steep volcanic hill, but I think that, without noble rot, 2012 must be a record. Luckily, botrytis didn’t develop (it would have decreased the crop even more) and the grapes were harvested very healthy.
2/2012: the nose shows a beautiful intensity, needs a lot of time, but eventually the glass is bursting of fruit aromas (ripe pears) and delicate flint. There is a big sense of serenity and density in this wine, it is hard to believe how difficult the vintage was. The palate shows unctuosity and length, doesn’t really feel powerful, like so many 2012s. Big saline finish. Great ageing potential. There should be no fear in opening this wine a long time before service (days!).

Gewurztraminer 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 2/2013; Alcohol: 13.8° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; 2.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 68 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2013-2019; Average age of the vines: 33 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor, marl limestone; Indice 1.
This Gewurztraminer originates mostly from the precocious gravelly soils of the Herrenweg vineyard in Turckheim as well as some vineyards that used to be in our Wintzenheim label, also on gravelly soils. This grape variety has the capacity to ripen quickly to very high level of potential alcohol, making it difficult to harvest grapes that will produce dry wines. Bio-dynamic farming does allow us to harvest earlier as physiological ripeness is achieved earlier, but in 2012 it was even easier, because the grapes remained very healthy and the sugar increase was slow. The wine eventually fermented dry in just a few weeks.
2/2012: nicely floral, gentle rose scents without any excess and nice elegant spices. It is already showing inviting aromatics, maybe letting the taster think that the wine may be a little sweet. The palate is delicate and shows good drinkability, quite unusual, especially for a Gewurztraminer that is totally dry. I cannot stress enough how we are proud to be able to produce such a wine in a rich and powerful vintage.

Gewurztraminer Calcaire 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 13.3° alc; Residual sweetness: 31 g/l; 3.2 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.5; Yields: 55 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014-2027+; Average age of vines: 31 years. Terroir: Oligocene calcareous, facing east, severe slope. Indice 4.
In 2012, we blended the ‘young’ vines from the Hengst (planted in 1985 and 1978) with a small vineyard located near the Goldert, all located on rich marl/limestone soils (Calcaire), in order to produce this wine. The grapes had the typical 2012 characteristics: healthy, they took a long time to ripen properly, decent acidity for this grape variety and strong vineyard character. The fermentation could have gone further, but the wild yeasts went for a more elegant balance, keeping some residual sweetness in the wine.
2/2012: the nose shows light citrus fruit with medium intensity but profound complex spices. After some aeration, because the lees influence is still strong on this young wine, it is possible to perceive more exotic fruit. There is an overall sense of ripeness and elegance in this wine on the palate and, gradually, the finish shows more and more complexity. The sweetness feels quite discreet and there is an interesting combination of acidity and tannins that makes this wine taste much drier. Perhaps an Indice 4 was slightly exaggerated. This wine evolved superbly days after being open, showing great ageing potential.

Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 14.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 5 g/l; 2.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.7; Yields: 45 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014-2027; Average age of the vines: 65 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor; Indice 1
The alluvial, warm and well drained gravelly soil of the Herrenweg has shown us its capacity to ripen grapes to very high levels in recent vintages. The cooler month of August 2012 did delay the ripeness of this grape variety and at the same time prevented the sugars from rocketing. The 2012 Herrenweg was harvested with traditional ripeness and therefore was able to complete the fermentation, quite quickly, in a dry style.
2/2012: elegant combination of exotic fruits, citrus and light rose aromas, very typical of this precocious vineyard. There is an agreeable false sense of sweetness, very inviting, but the palate comes a total surprise. The wine has an elegant power, tastes dry with a smooth finish. Perfect physiological ripeness explains the absence of harsh phenols, often problematic on dry Gewurztraminer. The finish is delicious. The wine keeps extremely well and can stand a long aeration.

Gewurztraminer Heimbourg 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 12.8° alc; Residual sweetness: 55g/l; 2.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 42 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2030; Average age of vines: planted in 1983; Terroir: Oligocene calcareous, facing west, steep slope. Indice 5.
We took the decision to pull out the Gewurztraminer vines in the Heimbourg a few years ago. The damage done by Esca (fungal disease that disrupts the sap flow in the vine, causing its death) was just too significant and in the recent years we had around 5 to 8% vine mortality every year. The causes of this disease are numerous and too long to expose, but we are now paying severely for the mistakes made 30 years ago. Almost as if the vines knew the end was coming, the Heimbourg produced some of its best vintages in the last few years, including this wine, the 2012, the last harvest of Heimbourg.
2/2012: It takes some time, but eventually the nose opens up to intense refined citrus flavours, citrus skins. Even more air allows for the chalk to speak with light pepper and spices. Freshly open, this wine will be marked by some CO2 and it is important, at least the first years after bottling, to decant for some time before being able to fully enjoy this wine. There is an obvious sense of weight but the finish is elegant and not heavy due to a lower alcohol level. Nice influence of the natural Gewurztraminer tannins that help to increase the acidity sensation on the palate. It is almost possible to forget that it is a sweet wine.

Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 13° alc; Residual sweetness: 50g/l; 3.1 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 35 hl/ha; Optimum drinking: 2016-2037+; Average age: 42 years; Terroir: Muschelkalk calcareous, southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 5.
Due to its late ripening environment, the Gewurztraminer in the Clos Windsbuhl was the last one to change colour and start its maturation process. A very nice month of September allowed for perfect skin ripeness and slowly this vineyard was able to catch up, and even gain extra ripeness compared to many more precocious areas. The grapes were harvested with a small percentage of noble rot. The light rocky Muschelkalk limestone has the ability to favour late ripeness while preserving the acidity. Unlike the Pinot Gris of the same vineyard, the noble rot also develops less for Gewurztraminer.
2/2012: discreet nose a first, but develops very complex spicy mineral aromas with only hints of citrus fruit. After a long time in the glass, the wine will show its noble limestone origin. Clearly less extravagant but more profound, the palate hides superbly the sweetness and offers a salivating acidity and tannic structure. With no doubt this wine will age very gracefully. Like many Gewurztraminer in 2012, the sweetness is well hidden in the structure of the wine.

Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Goldert 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 12.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 77 g/l; 2.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.9; Yields: 48 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2017-2037+; Average age/vines: 29 years; Terroir: Oolithic calcareous facing East. Gentle slope. Indice 5.
The Goldert vineyard is located in the village Gueberschwihr on a gentle east facing rich limestone soil. Usually quite late ripening, the Goldert showed an unusual capacity to ripen the grapes very quickly in 2012. This is true also for the Muscat in the same vintage. The harvest was end October, and the grapes were affected with some noble rot (about 20%) explaining the lazy fermentation and the fact it stopped with a lower alcohol, keeping a significant residual sweetness. If the weather would have kept longer, it would have been an excellent candidate for Vendange Tardive.
2/2012: the Goldert is often the richest and most floral wine which is confirmed by the 2012 vintage. The nose is intense, floral (rose, wild geranium), citrus fruits (grapefruit). Very delicate with no heavy or over insisting aromas. The palate needs some serious aeration (decanting) in order to loose its carbon dioxide, and then, eventually, it wakes up into a smooth, long caressing velvety wine, so easy to drink. The sweetness is here well present, but the low alcohol and acid/phenol influence bring a feeling of lightness on the finish. Great evolution with time, another wine that can be or should be cellared for a really long time.
 
Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alc: 14.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 41 g/l; 2.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.9; Yields: 27 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2017-2042+; Average age of the vines: 61 years; Terroir: Marl-Oligocene calcareous. South-south-east facing, medium to steep slope. Indice 4.
Only the two oldest vineyards, planted pre WW2 and in 1957, are used to produce our Hengst Grand Cru. They are also located in the middle of the Grand Cru, mid slope, enjoying a south, south-east exposure. The young aggressive Oligocene limestone is only a foot deep under a relatively thin top soil made of marl. The Hengst also enjoys a warm and dry climate, allowing the grapes to achieve perfect phenolic ripeness without fearing early rot. Nobel rot is also quite rare in this vineyard and wasn’t much present in 2012. The fermentation was quite powerful and fast, which is typical of this vineyard.
2/2012: the Hengst shows a pale gold colour, slightly darker than the other wines in this pale coloured vintage. Light citrus fruit struggle to fight the big massive spicy, limestone influenced flavours (light tar, smoke, wet stones). The nose actually becomes more refined with time as it takes a few hours in the glass to lose the reductive influence of the lees. The attack on the palate is gradual and powerful. The big structure covers the entire mouth with an intense, unctuous and dense long lasting wine. The sweetness seems to disappear; the wine is touching the palate almost like a round red wine. True Hengst. 

Gewurztraminer Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2012 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 8/2013; Alcohol: 14.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 33 g/l; 2.9 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.9; Yields: 32 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2017-2042+; Average age of the vines: 33 years; Terroir: Sedimentary volcanic rocks. South facing, steep slope; Indice 3.
The Gewurztraminer grape variety is planted on two small vineyards, right above the Thur river that runs at the bottom of the steep Grand Cru. Despite an appearance of warmth and intense sun exposure, the Rangen actually is quite high in altitude and the cold winds running down the narrow valley make it difficult for this grape to achieve perfect ripeness. The influence of the water (sun reflexion and heat storage) does help a lot. Gewurztraminer is often at its best on limestone vineyard, mostly for the structure (acidity) and more complex aromatics (less floral) achieved on richer soil, but the volcanic soil of the Rangen shows how this extravagant grape can be dominated by the vineyard.
2/2012: wet stones, light smoke, the fruity citrusy aromas so typical of 2012 are here minimized to just a brief whiff. Powerful and intense, the nose is the true signature of this forceful vineyard, capable to convey to the palate a vibrant energy. This wine should taste big and powerful with obvious sweetness, but in this late ripening vintage, there is an elegance and charm that makes this wine precociously enjoyable. The finish shows tannins and mouthwatering structure. It begs to age or at least to breathe a really long time before service.

Pinot-Gris Clos Jebsal 2012 Vendange Tardive – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date 8/2013; Alcohol: 14.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 73 g/l; 3.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.7; Yields: 32 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2018-2037+; Vineyard planted in 1983; Terroir: Grey marls and gypsum. South facing, very steep slope.
We only made one VT and no SGN in 2012! Unfortunately, the weather was perhaps perfect for drier wines (dry September), but it made the noble rot develop very late, and then some rains made it difficult to obtain proper SGN concentration. Only the rich gypsum marl of the Jebsal and the fact that this vineyard enjoys a warm precocious micro-climate made it possible to produce a Vendange Tardive. We did harvest this vineyard with a usual double selection process in order to separate the Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains noble grapes. However, at the winery, we realized that the difference between the two wines was not that important and decided to assemble the two selections together. The fermentation produced a classic balance.
2/2012: intense gold colour! Discreet nose, like many Jebsal, the heavy marl soil shut the wine down in its youth. The botrytis was quite intense, but doesn’t show, yet, on the nose. So, interestingly, the honey aromas are subtle and mixed with fresh fruity flavours. Unctuous, rich and full palate. The sweetness is not overpowering as the finish has a vibrant energy. This is a very curious vintage, because the acidity is normal, not high, but the palate really shows an incredible tight structure. It is important to allow for the CO2 to escape, so decanting the wine is necessary.

(Olivier Humbrecht)