Zind-Humbrecht 2004 - Vintage notes

This is the information provided by Zind-Humbrecht regarding the 2004 vintage.

Thierry Meyer

LE MILLESIME 2004

Everybody remembers how dry and precocious 2003 was, but I am sure that nobody knows the weather we had after the harvest! Well, it rained a lot. In Alsace, we are used to finish the harvest well into November, which doesn’t leave much time to prepare the soils for winter, spread the compost, replacing the dead vines… The vines also do not have much time to recreate their reserves, as usually, they start to turn yellow or loose their leaves before the end of the harvest. This was not the case in  autumn 2003: the vines stayed green for two full months after the harvest, enjoying a lot of water, enabling them to create abundant reserves in the roots. This is an important factor that will influence a lot the following vintage, 2004. Another important characteristic of 2003 influenced the crop of 2004: the drought was responsible for the very small crop. It was also a great stress to the vines. The vines react to this kind of stress in raising its fertility, thus increasing the crop size the following year. Understanding those two mechanisms would allow a careful winegrower to react in time and foresee a huge crop. 2004 is indeed the largest harvest Alsace enjoyed since 1992.

The vintage started quietly, after a rainy/medium cold winter, with a mid-April budbreak. Good spring weather allowed the flowering to start and finish relatively early: 9th June in the Herrenweg vineyard and 20th June in the Rangen. There was no climatic problems in June, so the flowering was perfect and the grapes started to grow very quickly. Summer of 2004 was very similar to 2002. Warm July, followed by colder weather and lots of rain the first 3 weeks of August. End of August and the whole of September were spectacular: dry, sunny, not too warm, cold nights… again very similar to 2002. It was without surprise to analyse, end of  September, perfectly healthy grapes, already very ripe with a fabulous acidity, sometimes higher than 2002, which is a textbook year for us.

We started the harvest the first week of October. The crop was going to be larger than the past two vintages, but the grapes were perfectly ripe with excellent acidity balance. Unfortunately, the weather changed from the mid-October and rainfalls intensified, obliging us to pick up the grapes before they would develop noble rot. (There is no need for us to produce VTs and SGNs every year, but if it had been possible to do so in 2004, it would have been a historic vintage for sweet wines).

Most of the grapes were harvested in the first 2 weeks of October, but some vineyards were harvested up to early November. Special viticultural efforts, like forcing the roots to grow deeper and allowing cover crops to grow in September would help to make the vine less influenced by the climate during the harvest. Without excessive ripeness (VT like), most of the wines fermented dry or very close to dryness (indice 2). About 1/3 of the cellar is still fermenting today (September 2005). All the wines have a great acidity balance. There was only three VTs produced in 2004 and no SGN. The average yield on our estate was 49hl/ha, and again, no wine was chaptalized.

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 2004

Bottling date: Feb 2006; Alcohol: 13.1 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 4.7 g/l; Yields: 70 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period:2006/2012; Average age of the vines : 23 years; Surface : 2 ha; Indice 1.

We were often tempted to vinify the Auxerrois (30%) and the Chardonnay (70%) from the Clos Windsbuhl separately. In 2004 we were able to take this opportunity as the other Pinots vineyards didn’t need the extra acidity and structure from the Clos Windsbuhl. The pure calcareous soil (muchelkalk) show in this wine: fabulous dry palate and great acidity. It fermented for almost 12 months in a large ancient oak cask (foudre), so there is a big influence of the lees, but no new oak.

1/2006: Fabulous nose of ripe Chardonnay, associated to the Windsbuhl character, still restraint, very dry, with classic wet stone minerals. The Chardonnay may be identified on the nose (almonds, nuts, light butter), but without the usual heavier toasty character. It is still on its fine lees, perfectly clear and showing a long, dry and crisp palate. This is a very easy wine to use with a large variety of foods.

 

Muscat Herrenweg de Turckheim 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005, Alcohol: 13.2° alc, Residual sweetness: 3 g/l; Yields: 75 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2010; Average age of the vines :  49 years; Surface :  0.36 ha; Terroir : Gravely/silt;30% Muscat d’Alsace, 70% Ottonel. Indice 1.

2004 is an ideal vintage for these grape varieties (Ottonel and Alsace Muscats). The cool summer allowed the grapes to keep a good acidity and more importantly, preserve all the aromatic potential. The warmer month of September eventually permitted a good sugar ripeness, without excess. The crop, higher than usual, shaped a slightly more elegant wine, with a little less alcohol compared to previous vintages. This wine was able to ferment all its sugar to finish completely dry, without the bitterness often seen in Muscats.

1/2006: The nose is already very grapey, showing all the potential of the precocious gravely soil of the Herrenweg. The palate is elegant, perfumed, with a crisp acidity, again unusual for Muscats, but typical of most 2004s. The dryness of the palate doesn’t stop it to be a very easy drinking wine…

 

Muscat Goldert 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 12.9 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 10 g/l; Yields: 55 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2008-2016; Average age of the vines : 26 years; Surface : 0.23 ha; Terroir : Oolithic calcareous, facing East, gentle slope.;90 % Muscat d’Alsace, 10 % Ottonel. Indice 2

As long as we can remember, Muscat was part of the Goldert history. This pure calcareous vineyard (oolithic calcareous) is facing full East, on a gentle slope. The cooler climate of the village of Gueberschwihr, enhanced also by the high clay content of the Goldert), favours a slower ripeness and therefore more acidity and soil influence in its wines. The Goldert Muscat was harvested at a similar ripeness as the Herrenweg Muscat, but at a higher acidity level. This made it harder for the natural yeast to complete the fermentation, which explains why there is more residual sweetness.

1/2006: The nose is yet to open, as often with this wine: still restraint, mineral, almost Riesling like. Some air (decanting is strongly recommended when drinking a young wine like this) will reveal more the grapey Muscat aromatics. The palate shows a wonderful balance between a very discreet roundness and a rich long finish, again balanced with the 2004 crisp acidity.

 

Riesling Gueberschwihr 2004

Bottling: Feb/2006;Alcohol:14 °alc; Residual sweetness: 8.6 g/l; Yields: 72 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period 2007-2016; Average age of  vines : 30 years; Surface : .1.2 ha; Terroir : Limestone/calcareous/silicium, facing East and South. Gentle slope.; Indice 1

Of all the grape varieties in 2004, the Riesling was certainly the lucky one. A slow ripening kept a brilliant acidity in most vineyards, while the September sunshine allowed a great ripeness and a harvest before the weather deteriorated middle of October. This wine is our usual blend of 8 different small vineyards, with east and south facings, in the cool village of Gueberschwihr. All 8 pieces share the same soil characteristic: rich, deep, marl limestone, always giving strong mineral aromatics and a high acidity to the Riesling.

1/2006: Only a few months ago, we were wondering how and when this wine would finish fermenting. Today, it’s all done: the result is a rich, intense, dry Riesling, showing lots of minerals on the nose. The structure is powerful. Very similar to the 2001!

 

Riesling Turckheim 2004

Bottling date: 9/2005; Alcohol:14°alc; Residual sweetness: 8.4 g/l; Yields:70 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2016;Average age of the vines :  21 years; Surface : 1 ha ; Terroir : gravely soil/silt; granite and marl; Indice 1

Riesling Turckheim used to be made solely from the ‘young’ vines from the Brand vineyard (Granite soils). In 2004, a new vineyard, located just beneath the Clos Jebsal in turckheim, has been added to this wine. It is a richer marl/gravely/granitic combination of soils. Despite the young age of those vines, the Riesling Turckheim gained in structure and length with this new addition. The 2004 is harvested at a great ripeness level, but the yeasts managed to ferment relatively quickly (2 months) all the sugars.

1/2006: The nose is already very mineral, almost like dry herbs and wet stones. Perhaps lean, but a small aeration quickly reveals all the classic fruit from this vineyard. The palate is rich, long, quite unusually powerful for the Turckheim Riesling, balanced with a subtle acidity.

 

Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim 2004

Bottling date: Feb/2006; Alcohol:13.3°alc; Residual sweetness: 9 g/l; Yields: 64 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2016;Average age of the vines :  29  years; Surface : 2.12 ha ; Terroir : gravely soil/silt ; Indice 1

Most Riesling planted in the Herrenweg vineyard are located on the richer, deeper soils, where the fine sands and loamy structure dominates (in contrast the Gewürztraminers are located on more gravely soils). This type of soil does benefit from a balanced vintage and doesn’t perform as well under excessive heat or cold weather. 2004 was the ideal style of vintage to produce a classic aromatic and dry Riesling. The vines were not stressed, the acidity stayed very high, and warm temperatures in September helped to reach high ripeness. The average age of the vine is actually slightly older as many of the Herrenweg vines were declassified into the basic Riesling.

1/2006: The fermentation finished only in September 2005 and was racked in October. The lees influence is therefore still very strong (this is something we like to have, as they protect the wine from oxidation, we use less sulfites and more importantly, bring stability and complex flavours), but the nose is already very aromatic (fruits, peach, pears, lime tree). The palate is dry, underlined with a vibrant acidity and has a long concentrated finish. Minerals are only present on the palate at this stage.

 

Riesling Clos Häuserer 2004

Bottling : Feb 2006; Alcohol:13.9 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 6 g/l; Yields: 49 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2008-2020+; Average age of  vines : 31 years; Surface : 1.2 ha; Terroir : Calcareous Marl from the Oligocen period. Very gentle slope.; Indice 1

The Clos Häuserer is located right at the bottom of the Hengst vineyard. Naturally its soil is made of lots of different sediments, resulting from erosion of the hill right above it. This explains why the soil is so deep and rich in this vineyard. With age and proper cultivation, the roots have reached deeper levels, less fertile, and more calcareous. The mother rock is between 1 to 1.5m deep in this vineyard. This vineyard enjoys a dry and warm climate, enhanced by the fact that it is well protected from winds. It is traditionally harvested early, but fully ripe, as e try to avoid botrytis in most vintages. Like most Rieslings 2004, the fermentation lasted 12 months.

1/2006: this Riesling is perhaps one of the most austere and lean on the nose in 2004. It shows a typical mineral, stony, almost petroly nose. The palate reveals all the power of this vineyard: almost explosive, intense, rich, very long with a nice ripe acidity, that makes the palate less aggressive. Classic dry style Riesling, showing a great ripeness. Fabulous food wine also.

 

Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:14.2 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 6.2 g/l; Yields: 36 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2008-2020+; Average age of the vines : 42 years; Surface : 2.1 ha; Terroir : Sedimentary volcanic rocks, facing south, very steep slope.Indice 1

The Clos-Saint-Urbain Rangen vineyard is located in the most southern village in Alsace on the wine road. The climate is in fact much cooler, due to the proximity of the Vosges mountains and a higher altitude (this was the last vineyard to complete flowering in 2004). The very steep (90% average) slope and the dark volcanic rocks help to warm up the soil of this incredible vineyard. In September and October, the Rangen is then able to catch up with the other vineyards and sometimes even overtake them. The natural low yields, even in 2004, also explain some of the power often reached in the wines from this vineyard. The 2004 was harvested very ripe, but unlike most other Rieslings, it managed to ferment quickly all its sugars.

1/2006: the nose is a true signature of the volcanic soil: strong powerful earthy, flinty and mineral aromatics. It is impossible to confuse it with any other Riesling. The palate is intense, long, showing perhaps more warmth due to the alcohol, but again, well balanced with a nice ripe acidity, that leaves the palate dry and steely.

 

Riesling Heimbourg 2004

Bottling date: Feb/2006; Alcohol: 13.35 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 19.4g/l; Yields: 46 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2009-2019; Average age of the vines : 10 years; Surface : 1.06 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous, facing south, southwest,  steep slope. Indice 2

The Riesling was planted on the steepest part of the Heimbourg vineyard, facing south and south west). This warmer and quite precocious site allows the Riesling to ripen perfectly. The winds coming down from the Munster valley regularly swept the grapes, avoiding the development of most fungus, especially botrytis. The Riesling Heimbourg is often a very rich wine (this is the sweetest non VT Riesling in 2004), quite aromatic and elegant, from a deep marl/limestone soil. The fermentation was one of the slowest of the entire crop and lasted until November 2005!

1/2006: even though it was only racked a few weeks ago, this wine already shows plenty of floral aromas, mixed with delicate petroly Riesling character (yes, mineral/petrol can be delicate!). The palate is rich, almost unctuous, with a delicate roundness, well balanced with the telltale 2004 acidity.

 

Pinot-Gris 2004 (L157)

Bottling date: Febt 2006; Alcohol:14.4° alc; Residual sweetness: 9 g/l; Yields: 59 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2007-2012; Average age of the vines : 19 years; Terroir :calcareous  and marl; Indice 2

In the past 15 years, the Domaine has remained at 40ha. We did sell/exchange/purchase about 5ha, in order to raise the quality of our vineyards. So, there is not such ‘generic’ vineyards left in our portfolio. If we want to make generic wines, we have to take it from better vineyards. This wines comes exclusively from the Heimbourg vineyard (half of it). The fermentation on this wine was very slow and it was the last wine racked in December 2005. Of course, it is easy to recognise the calcareous structure of this vineyard in this wine, but I felt that the ripeness and overall style of the wine do not represent well enough this vineyard. So we decided to sell it has our straight Pinot Gris.

1/2006: The grapes were partially botrytised, but unfortunately not enough to push the wine towards a late harvest has we were not able to keep the grapes on the vines any longer. This wine shows intense earthy, roasted, nutty flavours and some hint of botrytis. The palate is quite surprising, as the high alcohol and some sweetness is completely dominated today by the very strong acidity, typical of this vineyard.

 

Pinot-gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:  15° alc; Residual sweetness: 7.3 g/l; Yields: 65 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2012; Average age of the vines : 13 years; Surface : 1.2 ha; Terroir : gravely soil on valley floor. Indice 1

The Herrenweg vineyard enjoys long sunshine hours and has a warm, well drained gravely soil. The only drawback of such  a combination is the fact that it can suffer from excessive dry periods that would stress too much the vines and stop the ripeness cycle. 2004 had a balanced climate, allowing these vines to ripen their grapes perfectly, but also keeping a good acid balance. The harvest was early, before the rains (another advantage of this vineyard) and the healthy grapes were eventually able to ferment quickly (well, in two months) almost all the sugars.

1/2006: the nose is quite mineral for the Herrenweg (usually very fruity/toasty), almost lean, but this is before tasting it! The palate is really powerful, long, intense, very pure and unusually structured for the Herrenweg vineyard. Again, the acidity makes a good balance to the powerful palate and the wine finish is fresh and clean. Another perfect food wine (poultry, game, …).

 

Pinot-Gris Rotenberg 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:14.7° alc; Residual sweetness: 14.6g/l; Yields: 45 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2006-2016; Average age of vines : 23 years; Surface :0.9 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous. West to Northwest facing. Strong slope. Indice 2

The Rotenberg hill is slightly detached from the Vosges mountains, and therefore offers a small West-Northwest facing (theHengst is on the South part). The climate is cooler, as the vineyard is in relative altitude (300-350m) and the vineyard enjoys mostly afternoon and evening sunshine. The soil is extremely rocky (calcareous), with a very thin topsoil, extremely red, because rich in iron. The roots do struggle to find their ways in the soil and as a result, the vines grow very slowly, carrying a very small crop. Noble rot is often a characteristic of this vineyard, but not in 2004. The grapes were harvested healthy and the fermentation was very steady.

1/2006: the Rotenberg shows strong toasty, nutty, almost earthy flavours at the moment. The white fruit aromas so typical of this vineyard are still overpowered by the lees character and strong calcareous influence. The palate is rich, showing some roundness, easily balanced with a good acidity and quite powerful finish. I expect this wine to open a lot in the near future.

 

Pinot-Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2004

Bottling date : Feb/2004; Alcohol: 14.1° alc; Residual sweetness: 28 g/l; Yields: 35 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2008-2020+; Average age of the vines : 27 years; Surface : 1.6 ha; Terroir : Muschelkalk calcareous, south to southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 2.

In 2004, only the oldest vines from the Windsbuhl were used to produce this wine. The youngest ones were declassified in the Pinot Gris (Lot 150). The Clos Windsbuhl is an old calcareous (Muschelkalk= sea calcareous) hill of 6ha, located in the village of Hunawihr. It enjoys a very cool climate and late ripening season, always responsible for great acidity and a unique fruity character. Just like the Rotenberg, the top soil is very thin on the top part of the vineyard (where the Riesling and some of the Pinot Gris is planted is planted) and richer on the bottom part (Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris older vines). The grapes ripened perfectly in 2004, but without noble rot. It was very tempting to expect noble rot in 2004, as the grapes were wonderfully healthy and ripe early October, with great acidity potential. Sadly, the change of weather made us harvest before. The wine fermented very slowly for 12 months and was only racked during the 2005 harvest!

1/2006: the nose shows wonderful complex aromas (cocoa, nuts, almonds, minerals, burnt bread crust), even if it seems already open, I expect even more flavours in the future, as the wine is still on its lees and therefore reductive. The palate is round (this is the sweetest non VT Pinot-Gris), but the sweetness isn’t quite obvious, as there is enough acidity and structure to make the wine taste very harmonious and luscious.

 

Pinot-Gris Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:  15.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 7.8 g/l; Yields: 31 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2008-2025+; Average age of the vines : 35 years; Surface : 2.91 ha; Terroir : Sedimentary volcanic rocks. South facing, very steep slope. Indice 1

It seems that the Rangen de Thann Pinot-Gris goes from one extreme to the other: it is either the sweetest or the driest of the wines in this grape variety! This can be explained perhaps by the presence of botrytis. The steep slope, dark coloured volcanic stoned and river at the bottom would definitely help for great late season ripeness, but also for an intense botrytis development when the climate is favourable. Like any other wine in this vintage, late botrytis wasn’t a good option, so these grapes were harvested before. The ripeness was very high, and with the action of the Rangen yeasts, the fementation went through quite quickly, in a really powerful way, living little sweetness at the end. I always say that dry PG are the most difficult wines to produce, as high ripeness often ends up in a sweet style. This is not the case of the 2004 Rangen!

1/2006: the nose says it all: restraint, lean, smoky, earthy, flinty, almost peaty flavours dominate all other aromas and shout loud the vineyard volcanic origin. There is no chance for any fruity flavours to come through at the moment! The palate is rich, powerful, intense and again is a display of wet stones, flinty flavours. There is a definite warmth but nicely balanced with the vibrant acidity and rich structure of this wine. Long finish. This wine is just a mirror of the Rangen.

 

Gewurztraminer 2004

Bottling date : sept 2005; Alcohol: 14.5° alc; Residual sweetness: 5.4 g/l; Yields: 61 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2004-2010; Average age of the vines : 25 years; Terroir : gravely soil on valley floor, marl limestone; Indice 1

This gewürztraminer is made from grapes from various vineyards, but mostly from the younger vines from the Herrenweg vineyard. To spice it up (literally), we added half of our gewürztraminer young vines from the Hengst and half the production of the Heimbourg. Yes! The fermentation was fast (6 weeks!), leaving no chance for much sweetness left in the wine. The gewürztraminer grapes took much longer to ripen in 2004 as any other grape variety, but it was worth waiting, in order to achieve this typical red/orange colour of the skins, which indicates that the grapes are ripe (sugar and phenols).

Early tasting note (9/2005): The nose is showing great spices and rose scent. Again, it is a mix of aromatic Herrenweg style and more austere/mineral calcareous Hengst/Heimbourg style. The fact that the wine is very dry doesn’t really show on the palate. Good acidity and dry extract give an harmonious palate. Like most 2004s, it is a very easy wine to enjoy and drink! 1/2006: This wine is now completely open and shows intense aromatics. The palate feels more into balance and it is now a very easy to appreciate. Surprising fresh finish.

 

Gewurztraminer Gueberschwihr 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 14.3° alc; Residual sweetness: 3.5 g/l; Yields: 60 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2012; Average age of the vines : 21 years; Surface :0.2 ha; Terroir :calcareous limestone; Indice 1

Since 2002, we only have one little vineyard left planted in Gewurztraminer in the village of Gueberschwihr (all the other ones were exchanged with a piece of Goldert, that we planted in Muscat in 2005). Most years, this little vineyard ends up being blended in a non village wine, but in 2004, the very dry, yet elegant style of this wine, convinced us to keep it apart and bottle it separately. The vines are located a short distance from the Goldert, on a richer, deeper limestone. The fermentation was fast and steady, transforming all the sugars.

1/2006: The nose is quite discreet, showing delicate rose scents, almost perfumed flavours. The palate is very dry, but like most Gewurztraminers in 2004, doesn’t feel tannic or bitter. It is actually an easy drinking wine, with great character, even if its first approach is quite austere.

 

Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:  14.2° alc; Residual sweetness: 10 g/l; Yields: 60 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2012; Average age of the vines : 47 years; Surface :2.15 ha; Terroir : gravely soil and calcareous marls; Indice 2

This wine is made from the usual combination of some of the young vines located in the Hengst vineyard (planted 1978/1985) and a very old vineyard (planted 1947) located near the village of Wintzenheim, on a light gravely soil. Like any blend, each part brings something interesting. The oldest vine usually produces very concentrated, high sugar level grapes and the youngest ones bring old the structure and acidity from their calcareous origin. Like all Gewürztraminers in 2004, the fermentation was fast (6 weeks) and there isn’t much sweetness left in the wines.

1/2006: it is easy to see the small calcareous influence in this wine, especially if compared with the previous gewürztraminer or the Herrenweg. The nose shows more spicy aromas and slightly less floral. The palate is elegant, almost delicate, with an agreeable roundness,  but no significant sweetness. The slightly higher acid level of 2004 makes the wine finish fresh and vibrant.

 

Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:  15.25° alc; Residual sweetness: 7.6 g/l; Yields: 44 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2015; Average age of the vines : 51 years; Surface : 3.35 ha; Terroir : gravely soil on valley floor; Indice 1

We own almost 6ha of gewürztraminer in this vineyard, but only the oldest vines are used under the Herrenweg label (picture: Herrenweg vineyard just before harvest in 2004). The youngest vines(under 40 years old) are either sold as Turckheim or generic labels. The gewürztraminer is traditionally planted in the most gravely, drier part of this valley floor location, as it is a grape variety that need a certain amount of heat to be able to ripe properly. Gravely soils are well drained, warm, usually quite deep, but poor in organic matter and minerals (low clay content). In this kind of soil, the gewürztraminer will express strong varietal characters and less minerals or spicy aromas. In 2004, the grapes were harvested very ripe, a small proportion of noble rot, good acidity balance and fabulous skin ripeness.

1/2006: the nose is textbook gewürztraminer: elegant rose, litchi fruit and geranium, without being overpowering or boring. The palate is powerful, feels quite dry, with good ripe tannins and acidity that create a nice dry combination, without any dry/bitter character.

 

Gewurztraminer Hengst 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 16.2° alc; Residual sweetness: 3.9 g/l; Yields: 33 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2009-2025+; Average age of the vines : 53 years; Surface : 1.42 ha; Terroir : Marl-oligocen calcareous. South-south-east facing, medium to strong slope. Indice 1

The Hengst Grand Cru is located on the middle South South-East facing of the Rotenberg hill in the village of Wintzenheim. Only the two oldest vineyards (one planted < 1940 and the other one in 1957) are used in our Hengst bottling. The soil is made of very young calcareous limestone (Oligocen), with high pH and rich marl topsoil (about 30cm). This soil type is rich in minerals and stays actually quite cool, allowing the Gewurztraminer grapes to ripe to high levels, but quite slowly, and therefore helps to build a fabulous complex aromatic profile where spicy flavours dominate. The Hengst 2004 was harvested very healthy (Hengst rarely has high noble rot influence) and ripe. Fermented dry quite quickly, also a characteristic of this vineyard in some vintages.

1/2006: the nose shows strong spicy, leathery aromas. Again the aggressive calcareous character of this vineyard is responsible for a more austere, powerful, dry style of wine. The palate is very well structured, the fabulous acidity actually gives an elegant feel, even if the finish is powerful, dominated by an imposing minerality. Some air will slowly reveal delicate rose scent. It definitely needs more time!

 

Gewurztraminer Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 15.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 4.3 g/l; Yields: 32 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2009-2025+; Average age of the vines : 41 years; Surface : 0.5 ha; Terroir : Sedimentary volcanic rocks. South facing, very steep slope; Indice 1

There is little gewürztraminer planted in the Rangen, as this is a grape variety that struggles a lot at higher altitudes (350m-450m) during the flowering. I can only thank the Jung family (previous owners who planted this vineyard in the early 1960’s) for choosing a parcel right above the river Thur for the Gewurztraminer. Not only there is no flowering problems (the river helps to temper the climate), but the ripeness can sometimes be spectacular. The 2004 grapes were harvested very ripe, and fermented bone dry, Rangen style!

1/2006: just like the other Rangen made in 2004, this wine is pure volcanic rock infusion. The nose is extremely flinty, earthy, toasty, with hints of caramelized sugars and spices. There is none of the classic varietal characters in this wine! The palate is very dry, powerful, intense, showing great tannins and minerals. Like most Gewurztraminers of this richness that finished dry, there is also lots of roundness from the inner structure of the wine. We rarely make Gewurztraminer Rangen as dry as this, so this is only for the people who can handle so much terroir in a dry style Gewurztraminer!

 

Gewurztraminer Goldert 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 15.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 10.6 g/l; Yields: 47 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2007-2019+; Average age of the vines : 21 years; Surface : 0.6 ha; Terroir : Oolithic calcareous facing East. Gentle slope; Indice 1

The Goldert faces full East on a gentle slope. While driving along the wine route, the traveller could wonder how this vineyard can be classified Grand Cru, when compared to much steeper neighbouring vineyards. Well, the answer is in the soil: a unique pure calcareous rock (oolithic), that brings structure and flavours to the extravagant Muscats or Gewurztraminer (traditional grapes, even if Riesling and PG is more planted today). The association of a slow ripening soil and a cooler local climate, obliges the vines to take more time in the ripening process, allowing a development of more flavours and better structure in the wines. The ripeness of the 2004 was quickly transformed into a powerful style wine by the indigenous yeasts. The crop was mostly healthy (presence of noble rot) despite being harvested at the end of the harvest.

1/2006: Usually quite flowery, the Goldert develops a much more mineral nose in 2004 (roses, spices, leather…). The palate is rich, concentrated, with a strong earthy/spicy profile. The presence of residual sweetness is well hidden behind a powerful style, quite different from the two previous wines.

 

Gewurztraminer Heimbourg 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 14.3° alc; Residual sweetness: 16 g/l; Yields: 48 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2019+; Average age of vines : planted in 1983; Surface : 1 ha; Terroir : Oligocen calcareous, facing west, medium to strong slope. Indice 2

The Heimbourg hill is divided in three different part. The thinner West facing top part is planted with Pinot-Gris, the steep South facing with Riesling, and the richer West facing bottom section with the Gewurztraminer. This wasn’t done to make things look more complicated, but is an attempt to find the best combination of grape variety and terroir. In 2004, this vineyard was harvested without any noble rot, which is quite unusual in the Heimbourg. The crop was also slightly bigger than usual, which explain why we were willing to help our straight gewürztraminer by adding some of the more structured Heimbourg into it.

1/2006: the absence of noble rot brings out the more subtle side of this vineyard: lots of fruit and floral scents (roses, geranium). The palate delicate character is enhanced with a light roundness and fresh finish. The clean acidity present in this wine gives a delicate harmony. Not frankly sweet, just gentle!,

 

Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2004

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 14.7° alc; Residual sweetness: 14.5 g/l; Yields: 36 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2006-2025+; Average age : 34 years; Surface : 0.9 ha; Terroir : : Muschelkalk calcareous, south to southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 2

The Clos Windsbuhl is located in a cooler area than Turckheim. The budbreak, flowering and harvest is usually always 10 to 15 days later than the our most precocious locations (Herrenweg for example). Combined with a calcareous soil, the result is always more elegant, delicately balanced grapes, with often higher acidity but similar ripeness. The Gewurztraminer grape variety does need a certain amount of heat, especially end of August, to help the change of colour of the grapes and increase the phenolic ripeness. There is nothing worse than an unripe Gewurztraminer that only shows a bitter pharmaceutical profile! In 2004 we were worried as we couldn’t leave the grapes hanging on the vines until the end of October. In  fact, the warmth of September proved us wrong: the ripeness was more than satisfying!

1/2006: the nose of the Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer is perhaps one of the most intense, aromatic, floral of our range. The fermentation ended with a perfect balance between some residual sweetness, a good richness and a delicate acidity. While drinking this wine, it is impossible to guess the ripeness, as the finish is so elegant and delicate. I’d never thought of saying this on a Gewurztraminer!

 

Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 2004 Vendange Tardive

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol: 9° alc; Residual sweetness: 93 g/l; Yields: 35 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period : 2010-2030+; Average age of the vines : 30 years; Surface : 0.9 ha; Terroir : Muschelkalk calcareous (Jurassic), facing southeast, medium/steep slope.

Riesling is the king of the grapes if planted in the right vineyard with the right weather, and this is exactly what happened in the Clos Windsbuhl in 2004. It is easy to understand why this grape variety performed so well in 2004 (cool summer: high acid; warm and dry September: high ripeness), but I never imagined that these grapes would reach such a high ripeness and high acidity. This is potentially the highest acidity reached in a Riesling on our estate (with this kind of ripeness of course). There was noble rot, in fact 100% of the grapes were affected by noble rot and we were lucky enough to be able to harvest them just before the rain started. The fermentation struggled for months, and the yeasts weren’t able to go above 9% alc, due to the extreme acidity and structure of this wine. Needless to say that it will require long cellaring.

1/2006: the nose is pure Riesling minerals, not the fruity waxy botrytis type, but the intense wet stones, mineral style. The calcareous character completely dominates this wine. The palate is intense, rich, shows sweetness, but is kept in a solid frame, where the biting acidity doesn’t allow any extravagance at the moment. I personally feel that this is a magic balance, but some years of proper cellaring will be required to unlock this wine.

 

Riesling Brand 2004 Vendange Tardive

Bottling date : 9/2005; Alcohol:11.3 ° alc; Residual sweetness: 74g/l; Yields: 30 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2008-2030+; Average age of the vines : 54 years; Surface :  1.5 ha; Terroir : Biotite granite, facing south. Strong slope

Only the two oldest parcels we own in the Brand are used to produce the Grand Cru (horse ploughing is required to avoid damaging the vines). In 2004, just like the Clos Windsbuhl, the grapes were 100% botrytis affected at harvest time, and we were able to pick them up just before the rainfalls started. The Brand is made of a special old rotten granite rock, capable of releasing interesting minerals that eventually get trapped in the deeper cracks of the soil. This is why it is important to have older vines in this vineyard. Just like the Clos Windsbuhl, the Brand reached a very high level of ripeness and high acidity (slightly lower than the Clos Windsbuhl though). The fermentation was more steady and the wild yeasts managed to reach 11.3% alc.

1/2006: the granitic soil of the Brand produces very aromatic Rieslings in all vintages, but I was never prepared to the explosion of fruit of the 2004! The nose is a bouquet of flowers and fruit, with fabulous underlying minerality. Completely different from the Windsbuhl, in total respect of the vineyard character. The wine is also very aromatic on the palate, feels very rich, with a beautiful sweetness and great acidity. This is a potential contender to the 1990VT or 1995VT.

 

Pinot-Gris Clos Jebsal 2004 Vendange Tardive

Bottling date 9/2005; Alcohol:14° alc; Residual sweetness:68 g/l; Yields: 38 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period :2009-2025+; Average age of the vines :21  years; Surface : 1.3 ha; Terroir : Grey marls and gypsum. South facing, very steep slope.

The Clos Jebsal vineyard is certainly located in the warmest, most precocious location that we own on our estate (and perhaps of Alsace!). These grapes are always amongst the first to flower and change of colour, but it is often one of the last vineyard to be harvested. This seems odd, but can be explained by the cool, rich, deep marl calcareous soil, that literally cools the roots down, forcing the grapes to take their time and also, bringing ideal climate condition for intense botrytis development. Unfortunately, in 2004, we were not able to wait until the grapes reached the dry botrytis stage, breaking 11 years in a row of SGN made in this vineyards. The result is still very interesting, proving that this vineyard has a strong potential for producing botrytis affected grapes.

1/2006: this is the only wine in 2004 that shows obvious classic noble rot aromatics on the nose: rich, intense cocoa, honey aromas share the flavour profile with more earthy mineral tones. The palate is rich, dense, concentrated. The sweetness brings a satisfying roundness on the palate. This is a very classic late harvest, with a great ageing potential.

Olivier Humbrecht