Zind-Humbrecht 2003 - Vintage notes

The 2003 Vintage at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht
(text from Olivier Humbrecht)

2003 was an extreme year, and couldn’t be more different from 2002. Winter was actually cold and the vineyard land enjoyed lots of snow until the first week of February. The weather changed middle February and the temperatures didn’t stop rising until the end of the harvest. This snow represented also the last decent amount of water that entered the soils.

Budbreak was very early. The first leaves were out early April for the gewürztraminer grape variety. This was sadly too precocious. The 11th April frost (- 4°C) did a lot of damage and explains the low yields of this grape variety. All the other grape varieties in Alsace were slightly less precocious, and this saved them from that frost. As early as April, all the growers were conscious that water would be a crucial element in 2003. Flowering started late May and was finished middle of June for the later ripening vineyards. The change of colour of the grapes started also extremely early (around 20th July). At that time, we were expecting to start harvest middle of August !

Water stress is by far more a problem in the semi-continental climate of Alsace than excessive rainfall. Between February and October (when the harvest was over), there was only occasional rainfall, often causing lots of damage, because they were almost always storms with hail. There were some serious losses in some parts of Alsace due to hail storms, mostly in the south part of the Alsace region. In all the other areas of Alsace, the vines started to feel the lack of water at the time of budbreak. In July and August, abnormal and record breaking temperatures increased the stress on the vines.

Other vintages in Alsace that enjoyed more total rainfall did in fact present more severe hydric stress symptoms (like 1994 for example). Overall, the vines did resist relatively well to the drought in 2003. Especially when the growers did adapt the farming techniques (destroying cover crops, covering the soils with mulch, hoeing the soils to preserve humidity, reducing the yields….). The fact that the drought started at budbreak must have set the vines in a water saving mode early enough, regulating the growth, keeping small sized berries… In 2003, we are much more concerned by the damage of heat and extreme temperatures (over 35°C) on aromatic varietals than the effect of drought.

The lack of water did in fact slow down the ripening process in August. The harvest started middle August for sparkling wines (crémants d’Alsace) and 1st September for the AOC Alsace. A lot of vineyards were harvested before September, especially Pinot-Noirs or Pinot Gris, unfortunately, even if the grapes had very high sugar levels, they were not yet physiologically ripe. The sugar levels increased very slowly in September, so it was possible to wait until the middle of September to start picking the grapes. Acidities were very low already end of August and didn’t change afterwards (it sometimes actually increased very slightly). Acidification was exceptionally (I hope) allowed in 2003 (2.5g/l tartaric acid maximum) and chaptalization was reduced from +2.5% alc to +1% alcohol.

On our Domaine, we harvested our Muscats early September, the rest of the harvest was done between the 15th and 30th September. The early start is in fact less exceptional than the early finish. All the grapes were picked in absolutely perfect health condition. Early October the rains started again, but the soils were still very dry until middle of January 2004.

At the exception of a few young vines in Riesling, the sugar concentration was normal to good. We tried to avoid over ripeness in order to help the wines ferment as dry as possible. The high temperatures at harvest time and the lack of rain certainly favoured fast fermentations, which was actually very good in this vintage, most wines having medium to low acidity and higher pH. Most 2003 show relatively high finished alcohol, at the exception of the Rieslings, and quite astonishing tannin levels (small grapes and healthy skins) that should give some extra ageing potential. The great vineyards do show complexity and character. No wine was either chaptalized or acidified in 2003 and we harvested an average of 29hl/ha.

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: totally dry (<2 to 6g/l RS),
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.
 
Zind 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: sept 2005; Alcohol: 12.2 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 30 g/l; Yields: 37 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period:; Average age of the vines : 22 years; Surface : 4 ha; Indice 2
This wine is made from the now classic blend of 50% auxerrois (from Rotenberg, Herrenweg and Clos Windsbuhl vineyards), 35% chardonnay (Clos Windsbuhl) and 15% pinot blanc (Herrenweg). There is no doubt that those grapes were harvested very ripe in 2003. The choice of grape varieties and vineyard was carefully made in the late 80s in order to bring structure and ageing potential to this wine formerly called Pinot d’Alsace. This decision proved to be very useful in 2003. The cooler calcareous soils of the Windsbuhl and Rotenberg helped to keep enough freshness in this very rich wine. Like every past vintage, this wine fermented very slowly.
Early tasting note (6/2004): This wine is still fermenting today and will need another 4 to 5 months to finish. The potential is much higher than 01 and 02. I expect this wine to finish in the style of the 1991 or 1995 (approx 13.5/14% alc and 10-15g/l sugar, indice 2 or 3). Very aromatic and quite elegant, it will be a powerful Zind. Doesn’t taste like there is a lower acidity, even now, with lots of sugar left in the wine.  (10/2004) : still fermenting ! (7/2005) : at last ! the fermentation was over this spring and the wine racked off its lees. The wine is rich, quite dense but very harmonious, thanks to a surprising acidity (100% natural !), which makes me decide for an ‘indice’ 2 instead of 3. The nose is intense and shows lots of fresh aromatics: limetree, exotic fruits, mandarine…

Muscat Herrenweg de Turckheim 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004,Alcohol: 14.1° alc, Residual sweetness: 2 g/l; Yields: 27 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2008; Average age of the vines :  48 years; Surface :  0.36 ha; Terroir : Gravely/silt;30% Muscat d’Alsace, 70% Ottonel. Indice 1.
The gravely light soils of the Herrenweg accumulated the heat like no other vineyard on our estate. Ottonel is very fragile and not really designed to be growing under extreme heat. We had to be very selective and drop a lot of fruits at harvest time. Muscat d’Alsace comes from the south (Muscat de Frontignan) and likes heat and sun. This grape matured beautifully and quite quickly in 2003. Unfortunately, we produced only half of our usual crop in this wine.
Early tasting note (6/2004): Rich, ripe but very dry wine. The fact that the acidity is lower than the past years makes the wine taste less dry. More nutty and fruity than the usual flowery aromas. Clear and ready to be enjoyed now. (10/2004): The bottling has really improved the structure and allowed the floral character to show up: classic Herrenweg, very aromatic. Powerful palate.

Muscat Grand Cru Goldert 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol: 15 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 15 g/l; Yields: 55 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2013; Average age of the vines : 25 years; Surface : 0.23 ha; Terroir : Oolithic calcareous, facing East, gentle slope.;90 % Muscat d’Alsace, 10 % Ottonel. Indice 3
The Goldert is usually harvested a week after the Herrenweg. In 2003, we harvested both the same day and very early (sept 6th). It is astonishing to see that the Goldert is riper than the Herrenweg, but I suspect that the richer cooler calcareous soils of the Goldert allowed the grapes to ripen more evenly with no hydric stress (the Muscat d’Alsace varietal is also more suited to warmer weather). It is good that the vines suffer a little, but not too much. This is being illustrated between those two wines. Fermentation was quick also but this wine didn’t managed to go through all the sugars.
Early tasting note (6/2004): Much richer and powerful than most Muscat Goldert made in the past. Quite intense long finish. This wine finds its harmony between the fruit and the ripe tannins. Closer to a gewürztraminer balance. There is less floral notes than usual, but very strong minerality from the terroir. (10/2004): this wine shows now a balance which is almost VT like, except that the nose is still dominated by strong mineral notes. The palate is powerful for Muscat.

Riesling 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: feb 2005 ; Alcohol:11.8° alc; Residual sweetness: 12 g/l; Yields: 45 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :  2005-2008; Average age of the vines : 17 years; Surface : 2.3 ha; Terroir : gravely/silt on valley floor and limestone/calcareous/silicium, facing East and South; Indice 2
This wine is made from a blend of our young vines from Herrenweg (that suffered the most in 2003) and also the Riesling from Gueberschwihr. Although we analysed the potential alcohol almost every day in some vineyard, we underestimated the ripeness in the Rieslings from Gueberschwihr. Perhaps the sugar in the grapes was difficult to extract during the analysis (this happened also in Clos Häuserer and Brand). In 2003, we didn’t really look for over-ripeness, but aimed more for a classic balance, allowing us to produce drier style wines. We decided to produce this blend because the leaner style of the Herrenweg balanced very well the over-ripeness of the Gueberschwihr. Very slow fermentation.
Early tasting note (6/2004): this wine is finishing to ferment and on its way to finish dry (Indice 1, approx 13% alc). Surprisingly aromatic and fresh. Very satisfying on the palate with good length. Shows nice minerality, thanks to the calcareous soils of Gueberschwihr. (10/2004) : still fermenting today, it is becoming more and more precise. (3/2005): nice fresh floral aromatics just after the bottling. Amazing acidity coming from the Gueberschwihr vineyards.

Riesling Thann 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:12.3 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 3 g/l; Yields: 34 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2004-2011; Average age of the vines : 25  years; Surface : 0.9 ha; Terroir : Sedimentary volcanic rocks, facing south, very steep slope.Indice 1
The south steep volcanic rocks of the Rangen put the vines (and the people working there) under amazing conditions. Again, there is a huge difference in growth and maturity with sometimes a little difference in age of the vines. We separated the older vines and decided to label the younger vines under ‘Thann’. (vines planted between 1978 and 1984). The fermentation was very fast and powerful, leaving no residual sweetness in the wine.
Early tasting note (6/2004): there is little varietal characteristic in this wine, so the volcanic smoky/flinty aromas dominate this wine. The palate is lean, dry and very pure. People who say that we do not make wines that you can drink in large quantities should buy this wine by the case ! Unfortunately, there is a clear difference with the Rangen Riesling. (10/2004) : very pleasurable wine, the palate is dry but not aggressive. The hint of smoke and flint confirm the volcanic origin.

Riesling Turckheim 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 9/2004; Alcohol:13.5°alc; Residual sweetness: 5 g/l; Yields:33 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2011;Average age of the vines :  20 years; Surface : 1.4 ha ; Terroir : gravely soil/silt; granite and marl; Indice 1
This wine is classicaly made from the young vines from the granitic Brand vineyard (planted 1978/1986). In 2003, we added in this wine a young vineyard located on a marl/calcareous soil just under the Clos Jebsal, This new addition gives more power and structure, especially in a year like 2003. The fermentation was quite quick and transformed all the sugars.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the nose is elegant and aromatic. The palate shows the classic Riesling character in a dry style, but without the usual sharp acidity. This wine is very enjoyable now. Ready for bottling. (10/2004) : Even more aromatic after the bottling. This is going to be a successful combination of vineyards. Great structure, the dry palate suits this wine very well.

Riesling Gueberschwihr 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling: feb 2005;Alcohol:13.9 °alc; Residual sweetness: 16 g/l; Yields: 37 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period 2005-2011; Average age of  vines : 29 years; Surface : 0.1 ha; Terroir : Limestone/calcareous/silicium, facing East and South. Gentle slope.; Indice 2
Most of the Gueberschwihr Rieslings were blended in our generic Riesling 2003. This is a very small volume that we kept aside in order to see how this vineyard performed in this vintage (we usually have 1.2ha). The grapes were harvested at very high ripeness potential (15%) against our will (we underestimated the maturity) but with surprising good acidity. The fermentation is very slow. (only 40cs made)
Early tasting note (6/2004): fermentation is very slow and not finished yet, but going very well. The finished wine should be almost dry (indice 2) with a good acid balance. Classic calcareous minerality. (10/2004) : just finished to ferment. There is still some residual sweetness, but well balanced by a good acidity and powerful structure. (very small production).

Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date: 9/2004; Alcohol:13.5°alc; Residual sweetness: 8 g/l; Yields: 21.5 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2011;Average age of the vines :  28  years; Surface : 1.63 ha ; Terroir : gravely soil/silt ; Indice 2
Three quarters of our Herrenweg Rieslings went into our generic Riesling in 2003. No need to say that we only kept the oldest vines to produce this wine (28 years is the average of the entire Herrenweg). The grapes were harvested ripe and healthy from vines that never suffered from the drought. Unfortunately we only made 400  cases of this wine. The last time we vinified these old vines separately was in 1995 and they produced a VT.
Early tasting note (6/2004): One of the most aromatic riesling in this vintage. It really has a surprising freshness and lively mouth. I was completely unaware that the fermentation stopped with 8g/l residual sweetness, because I thought that it was much drier. Much enjoyable today. (10/2004) : very aromatic and floral. It shows a good acidity for the vintage. The mouth is very well balanced. Almost hard to guess that it is the 2003 Herrenweg.

Riesling Clos Häuserer 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling : sept 2005; Alcohol:13.7 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 25 g/l; Yields: 36 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2013+; Average age of  vines : 30 years; Surface : 1.2 ha; Terroir : Calcareous Marl from the Oligocen period. Very gentle slope.; Indice 3
The Clos Häuserer is located at the bottom of the Grand Cru Hengst, on rich layers of limestones and marl. The grapes ripen very slowly and always keep one of the highest acidity of the cellar. There is no exception in 2003, but like the Brand and Gueberschwihr Riesling, we completely under-estimated the potential ripeness. Every day we did thorough analysis that would always show around 12.5% potential alc. After one week of harvest (sept 22nd) we decided that this is not possible and harvested this vineyard. The result was quite unbelievable, because without any trace of botrytis, the grapes achieved 15.5% potential. Where was the sugar hiding ? perhaps in the ultra thick skins…?
Early tasting note (6/2004): very slow fermentation due to the initial richness. I expect that this wine will transform more sugar into alcohol, but will eventually finish at an indice 2 or 3 by the end of the year. Even the feb 2005 bottling date isn’t sure yet. Very aromatic and intense, the Clos Hauserer will be a powerful Riesling. (10/2004) : Still fermenting today, very slowly. Great richness, but far from the end of the fermentation. (7/2005):  this wine only finished its fermentation in April 2005, so the bottling will done next September. Amazing acidity, so typical for this vineyard. The wine shows a strong minerality on the nose associated to intense exotic fruits and flowers, certainly the influence of the very long fermentation. The strong acidity (100% natural) makes it a light 3 indice!

Riesling Heimbourg 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling : 9/2004 ; Alcohol: 13.5 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 3g/l; Yields: 43.5 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2004-2011; Average age of the vines : 9 years; Surface : 1.06 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous, facing south, southwest,  steep slope. Indice 1
The Heimbourg vineyard mostly faces west, but our Rieslings are planted on a small steep south/southwest facing. This vineyard enjoys a warm climate in a normal year, so in 2003 it was really warm. We were concerned about severe water stress, because the vines are not old, but the marl/calcareous soil did have enough water retention to allow proper maturation. The grapes were also harvested extremely healthy and a normal ripeness. The fermentation was fast.
Early tasting note (6/2004): This wine shows good minerality. The palate is pleasantly dry, showing mineral flavours mixed with some acacia/nutty flavours. Very classic balance, interesting tannins. Like any other 2003, it is still on the total lees, but completely clear. (10/2004) : the bottling revealed classic riesling aromas, more mineral than fragrant. The palate is round, quite delicate, finishing dry with no sweetness at all. Elegant balance.

Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol: 13° alc; Residual sweetness: 12 g/l; Yields: 47 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2013+; Average age of the vines : 29 years; Surface : 0.9 ha; Terroir : Muschelkalk calcareous (Jurassic), facing southeast, medium/steep slope. Indice2
The Clos Windsbuhl enjoyed perhaps the coolest conditions of all our vineyards: higher altitude, cooler area, slow to warm calcareous soil, proximity of the forest and more humidity…. The Clos Windsbuhl was the last Riesling to be harvested in 2003, and still it wasn’t the one with the highest ripeness. The grapes tasted very fruity and balance with a good acidity, which certainly explains why the residual sweetness of this wine is so little noticeable.
Early tasting note (6/2004): in January, when the rieslings 02s were still in cask, I tasted all the 2003 with some customers. When we had this wine, they told me that I made a mistake and served them the 2002. I thought that myself, as both 2003 and 2002 were side by side in the cellar. I had to go back to the cask, taking the customers with me, in order to see that I wasn’t taking the 2002! The nose is fresh and fruity, with already good minerals. The palate shows great acidity and freshness, unbelievable for this vintage. (we did NOT use any tartaric acid on any wine). This is potentially the Riesling with the highest ageing potential in this vintage. (10/2004) : even more aromatic after the bottling. Nice structure, capable of balancing the residual sweetness, with the help of a better acidity and good tannins.

Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:13.5 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 3 g/l; Yields: 25 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2005-2013+; Average age of the vines : 41 years; Surface : 1.2 ha; Terroir : Sedimentary volcanic rocks, facing south, very steep slope.Indice 1
Only the oldest vines were selected to produce this wine. Yields were very small but the grapes stayed very healthy to the end. Unlike most vintages, we didn’t need to wait too late for the harvest. The result is a wine that fermented very quickly, which is a good thing in such a vintage, and transformed all the sugars to finish very dry.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the volcanic soil left his classic print in this wine: lots of smoke and gunflint in a very tight, dry structure, mostly based on the high tannins. I do not remember any vintage in the Rangen where the riesling had this style. This is not a wine for fruit bomb lovers, but a demonstration of how the soil can replace missing varietal characteristics. (10/2004) : this wine gained significant volume and richness, also becoming more aromatic. The palate remains strict, dry with this 2003 roundness. Very flinty on the finish.

Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:13.5 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 19g/l; Yields: 20 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2005-2015+; Average age of the vines : 53 years; Surface :  1.5 ha; Terroir : Biotite granite, facing south. Strong slope. Indice 3
We experienced the same phenomenon in Brand than we did in the Clos Häuserer: the maturity of the grapes was largely under-estimated. This is quite common in presence of noble rot, but not when the grapes are perfectly healthy. In fact, the Brand 2003 was harvested at the same potential as the 2002 and finished to ferment with almost the same balance. The granitic soil and south exposure were hard on the young vines, but the older vines in this vineyard were never stressed at any point.
Early tasting note (6/2004): very aromatic and fruity. The palate is powerful and long. The slightly lower acidity (compared to the 02) makes it taste fuller and more broad. This is a very generous Brand, very close to the 1989. Since the end of the fermentation, the wines are firming up. This was clearly an indice 4 earlier, now I might consider it only 3. (10/2004) : I confirm a level 3 for the sweetness. This wine has become incredibly aromatic. The ‘Brand’ intense classic floral notes would make one think that this wine is much sweeter. The palate is round, but firm. In another few years, this would go well with most food.

Pinot Gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  14.5° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; Yields: 30 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2011; Average age of the vines : 12 years; Surface : 1.66 ha; Terroir : gravely soil on valley floor. Indice 1
The Pinot Gris located in the gravely alluvial soil of the Herrenweg usually develop lots of noble rot. In 2003, we were able to harvest those relatively young vines very healthy at a potential maturity that allowed the yeasts to ferment this wine completely dry. The maturity of the pinot gris skins was so high in 2003, that the skins were dark red, sometimes giving light salmon colour to the fresh must.
Early tasting note (6/2004): very dry, but completely different of the 02 and 01. The lower acidity actually makes the wine very enjoyable now. I feel that all pinot gris will age relatively well thanks to an excellent tannic structure. The nose shows nice nutty, dry herbs, ginger character. (10/2004) : The nose has developed towards intense nutty, biscuit flavours. The toasty character comes from the long lees contact and has given additional structure to the palate. Dry finish, but feels elegant and harmonious.

Pinot Gris Rotenberg 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:15.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 3g/l; Yields: 25 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2005-2013; Average age of vines : 22 years; Surface : 1.21 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous. West to Northwest facing. Strong slope. Indice 1
The Rotenberg northwest facing was actually very beneficial in 2003. The climate was cooler and the vines suffered much less. The grapes ripened quicker, even if the calcareous soil of the Rotenberg should slow down the ripeness process. The grapes were harvested very healthy, almost black and certainly packed with active yeasts, because this wine fermented like I never saw a Rotenberg ferment. This is the only wine of 2003 that I had to rack a the end of the fermentation, such were the lees important.
Early tasting note (6/2004): The nose still shows strong lees character with important nutty, smoky toasted aromas. The palate is powerful, very dry, totally influenced by the calcareous soil. There is no botrytis to soften the palate and bring exotic flavours here, only terroir ! (10/2004) : the contact with oxygen during the bottling really opened up this wine. Still very mineral, it now shows more almonds/hazelnuts flavours. The palate is powerful, dry, long and quite strict with good tannins. 

Pinot Gris Heimbourg 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:16° alc; Residual sweetness: 5 g/l; Yields: 31 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2013; Average age of the vines : 18 years; Surface : 1.61 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous, facing west, northwest, strong slope. Indice 1
If someone told me years ago that pinot gris skins could look completely black in Alsace, I would never have believed him ! Heimbourg isn’t the warmest of our vineyard, but the grapes were so dark, that I am sure I could have fooled anyone saying that it was pinot-noir. Like the Rotenberg, the north west facing and calcareous soil helped to keep excellent balance in this wine and no water stress. The grapes were very healthy.
Early tasting note (6/2004): this wine is completely clear now (but still on the total lees) but still show a light salmon colour. The nose is almost to be mistaken with a red wine: berries, fruit. The palate confirms this sensation: dry, good acidity but mostly marked by wonderful ripe tannins. Generous and long, it is a surprising Heimbourg, completely different from previous vintages. (10/2004) : The light pink colour mostly disappeared with the bottling, but if one pours a large amount in a big glass, it is clearly noticeable. Nutty flavours, quite intense now, with strong spices. Great dry wine.

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol: 16° alc; Residual sweetness: 5 g/l; Yields: 37 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2015+; Average age of the vines : 26 years; Surface : 3 ha; Terroir : Muschelkalk calcareous, south to southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 1
The Clos Windsbuhl enjoyed some of the ‘coolest’ climatic condition in 2003. The grapes were harvested very healthy and ripe. Like most other vineyard, it was important to wait well after the 15th September to harvest those grapes, in order to achieve good physiological ripeness. The Windsbuhl fermented quite fast, producing an unusual amount of lees, giving this wine a serious concentration and impressive palate.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the nose shows strong lees contact today, with smoky, nutty and toasty aromas. The palate is powerful and quite strict, showing good concentration. This wine is almost lean today, but I expect it to develop in the next few months, especially after summer. (10/2004) : the bottling brought the right amount of oxygen to allow this wine to open up from its strong lees character. Very mineral palate, dry, and powerful finish.

Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  14.8° alc; Residual sweetness: <2 g/l; Yields: 34 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2015+; Average age of the vines : 34 years; Surface : 2.91 ha; Terroir : Sedimentary volcanic rocks. South facing, very steep slope. Indice 1
Vines were the only thing capable of growing in the warm and sun exposed volcanic hillside of the Rangen in 2003 ! Even the most ferocious weeds gave up in July and August. Just like with the Riesling, we didn’t feel that the grapes needed to be picked too late and were happy to harvest them very healthy at the same moment as other vineyards on our estate. The grapes were also very dark in colour.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the fermentation was ultra powerful, leaving no chance to any sugar to hide in this wine. The nose is totally dominated by the volcanic character: smoke, flint, still quite lean and closed today. The palate is impressive and dry, showing ripe tannins and delicate minerality. Again, this wine doesn’t show at all the heat of the vintage. The power is all hidden behind a very straight structure. (10/2004) : very classic dry Rangen. So different from previous vintages where the sweetness was higher. The smoky/flinty character marries perfectly with this grape variety. The Rangen can handle the powerful palate better than any other vineyard. The finish is long, but seems almost delicate. Careful, it this wine from the Rangen that made Hercules collapse.

Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:15.8° alc; Residual sweetness: 29 g/l; Yields: 39 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2005-2018+; Average age of the vines: 20  years; Surface : 1.3 ha; Terroir : Grey marls and gypsum. South facing, very steep slope. Indice 4
The Clos Jebsal is located in one of the warmest spot in Alsace, so you can imagine what it means in 2003. Luckily, the rich, deep marl soil wold still have enough water to allow the vine to develop normally after a period of 12 months without any rainfall ! We are so used to see massive botrytis development in this vineyard, that it was almost a chock to us to see zero botrytis in 2003. But, Jebsal was created to produce sweet wines, and if we had no noble rot in 2003, we saw the grapes drying out (passerillage) at the end of September.  We selected those shrivelled grapes and produced an SGN. The grapes left after this selection produced this wine, still very rich.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the fermentation was also powerful for this wine, but the yeast weren’t capable of transforming all the sugar. The nose shows classic overripe exotic aromas, intensified by the passerillage effect. The palate is powerful and intense, the sugar is nicely balanced by the structure of this wine. (10/2004) : much more aromatic than a classic Jebsal. There is plenty of minerality in this wine, but also strong exotic/ripe fruit on the nose. The palate shows lots of roundness, balance with good tannins and a powerful finish. Doesn’t feel heavy at all.

Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  14.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 2 g/l; Yields: 16 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2011; Average age of the vines : 50 years; Surface : 5.5 ha; Terroir : gravely soil on valley floor; Indice 1
Due to the extremely low yields in this vintage (early frost), we could just fill one cask with all the gewürztraminer grapes from this vineyard. Gravely soils do warm up very quickly in spring, often pushing the vine to budbreak much earlier than any other area in Alsace. This increases the risk of late frost damage, especially for the gewürztraminer grape variety that tends to grow earlier also. The grapes were harvested middle of September. Thankfully the sugar ripeness didn’t increase much between the end of August and the harvest. This allowed the skins to further ripen without being over ripe. Very fast fermentation.
Early tasting note (6/2004): this wine really decided to finish dry, and it is a good thing. It shows now very fresh rose and intense spicy aromas. Even though there is no residual sweetness, the palate taste smooth, without the usual gewürztraminer bitterness. The fact that the skins were fully ripe gives a nice structure. The tannins are there, but not dry at all. (10/2004) : the gewurztraminer is the grape that surprised me the most after the bottling. All the bottlings gained so much in fruit, spiciness and general aromatic intensity. This wine has now all the intense rose, litchi flavours one can expect from this vineyard. The palate is intense, spicy and feels balanced with a good acidity, when in fact it is very low !

Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  14.2° alc; Residual sweetness: 8 g/l; Yields: 25 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2011; Average age of the vines : 46 years; Surface : 1.8 ha; Terroir : gravely soil and calcareous marls; Indice 2
This wine is made from the usual blend of the young vines from the Hengst vineyard (planted 1979 and 1985) and an old vineyard located near the Herrenweg (planted 1947), that also enjoys very gravely light soils. In 2003, the calcareous part is much more important, because it didn’t suffered from the Easter frost.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the Wintzenheim is slightly tighter and less floral than usual. The nose shows more minerality and is still restraint compared to the Herrenweg. The palate feels more voluminous but less elegantly aromatic. The little extra sweetness makes the palate less austere and more enjoyable today. (10/2004) : much more open today : strong spicy peppery flavours. Nice harmony between a light sweetness and great tannins.

Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Goldert 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  17° alc; Residual sweetness: 4.5 g/l; Yields: 34 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2015; Average age of the vines : 20 years; Surface : 0.6 ha; Terroir : Oolithic calcareous facing East. Gentle slope; Indice 1
The Goldert Grand Cru vineyard, in the village of Gueberschwihr, is located on a rich and deep calcareous soil, in a slightly cooler climate. Those vines didn’t suffer from the drought at all. The only consequence of this very dry vintage is that the botrytis couldn’t develop, and we are used to see a lot of noble rot in this vineyard. The grapes were harvested very ripe, and the yeast fermented very vigorously through all the sugar.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the nose shows intense spicy/mineral aromas, still characterized by the total lees contact. Difficult to imagine on the nose that this wine is fully dry ! The palate is powerful and long, balanced with ripe tannins and intense aromatics. (10/2004) : much more open on the nose now, but still dominated with earthy/spicy aromas. Very powerful mouth. The alcohol level is frightening, but is in fact needed by the wine. Feels harmonious, with great ripe tannins.

Gewurztraminer Heimbourg 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  16° alc; Residual sweetness: 22 g/l; Yields: 23 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2015; Average age of vines : planted in 1983; Surface : 1 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous, facing west, medium to strong slope. Indice 3
2003 will be the vintage for all the west facing vineyards in Alsace: less direct sunshine and more regular growth, especially for the marl/calcareous soils. The gewürztraminer was harvested at an amazing ripeness, given that there was no botrytis. This vineyard didn’t suffer from frosts, the yields are very low because the grapes stayed very small with thick skins.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the nose is a mixture of lees influence and spicy minerals. The palate is today much more interesting, showing intense concentration and richness. Very long and round on the finish, without being really sweet. (10/2004) : definitely, this vineyard has come out of adolescence, and the quality is more and more surprising vintages after vintages. The bottling has revealed intense floral/spicy character, with a glorious intense and long palate. How could I doubt of this varietal last year ?

Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol: 14.3° alc; Residual sweetness: 43 g/l; Yields: 18.5 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2015+; Average age of the vines : 52 years; Surface : 1.42 ha; Terroir : Marl-oligocen calcareous. South-south-east facing, medium to strong slope. Indice 4
We only take our two oldest vineyard in the Hengst to produce this wine. The Hengst enjoys a relatively warm and dry climate in a normal year, stopping the development of any rot. Needless to say that in 2003, the grapes were harvested extremely healthy, and it was a very easy work for the harvest team, because all  the grapes were good to take. The high pH calcareous/marl combination really helped to give this vineyard a strong resistance to the heat and drought. Gewurztraminer likes heat, it is even necessary for the skins to properly ripen, but the soil should stay cool, so the wine can develop an interesting structure. The ripeness was also exceptionally high, given the total absence of noble rot.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the nose is perhaps the most intense spicy of all the cellar, but still quite lean and austere. The palate, just like the Heimbourg, shows all the future potential of this wine: big, round, very flavourful and spicy, almost earthy at this early stage. Very similar in style to the 1998. (10/2004) : same evolution as the heimbourg : it is turning into a very aromatic complex spicy gewurztraminer. This grape variety never has high acidities (except in 2002) and perfectly manage without it, if the grapes are harvested ripe with good tannins. The Hengst 2003 shows all the personality of his vineyard in a rich, intense wine.

Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2003 – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol:  14° alc; Residual sweetness: 62 g/l; Yields: 28 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2005-2015; Average age : 33 years; Surface : 0.9 ha; Terroir : : Muschelkalk calcareous, south to southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 5
What was true for the Riesling and the pinot gris in this vineyard is also true for the gewürztraminer: the Windsbuhl allowed the grapes to ripen without any stress and helped to keep a good acidity balance. There is no surprise to see that this was the richest gewürztraminer harvested on the estate. Amazing, because there was no noble rot either.
Early tasting note (6/2004): the nose is the most intense of all gewürztraminers: very earthy, leather, cocoa. Most people would think there is intense noble rot ! The palate is unctuous, round and rich. The good alcohol level and tannins give a lift to the wine helping it to finish with a good energy. (10/2004) : decadent, intense, SGN like nose. Round, with a long ‘liquoreux’ character (botrytis sweetness). Fantastic length.

Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal 2003 Sélection de Grains Nobles – Zind-Humbrecht
Bottling date : 9/2004; Alcohol: 10.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 232 g/l; Yields: 5 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2013-2023; Average age of the vines : 20  years; Surface : 1.3 ha; Terroir : Grey marls and gypsum. South facing, very steep slope
This vineyard is so predictable. If the climatic conditions do not allow a strong development of noble rot, it doesn’t matter, because the Jebsal finds its way to let the grapes literally dry out like raisins. The rich marl/gypsum soil prevented the vines to suffer from any drought (the day the Jebsal will suffer from drought, the Rhine river will be dry). The full south facing and steep terraced exposition allowed the berries to shrivel only once fully ripe, concentrating sugar, acidity and aromatics very different from the usual noble rot. The potential alcohol was very high (188° Oechslés). This wine fermented until April 2004.
Early tasting note (6/2004): this wine fermented until recently but still kept a huge sweetness. The colour is dark gold, giving no false indication on its richness. It has the classic balance of an SGN, but with different aromatics: much more fruity and exotic, strong waxy flavours. The acidity is really amazing, especially considering the vintage. The fact that there was intense ‘passerillage’ helped to concentrate the acidity and balance the sweetness. The minerality of the Clos Jebsal shows strongly in this wine. It really need more ageing before bottling. (10/2004) : Still extremely aromatic and intense. Clearly the highest acidity in this vintage (and higher than SGN from 2000 for example). Delicate sweetness, bee wax, quince and pear flavours. Crisp acidity. Intense finish.

(Olivier Humbrecht)