In part 2 of the Alsace New and Recent Releases article, Ian describes another eight estates and over seventy-five wines. On Tuesday, in a special edition of the Terroir Wine Review (the only day of the week we do not publish), we will make the next Alsace article segment available, the final third and final part of this huge article devoted to the wines of this utterly gorgeous French wine region. Since we follow a roughly alphabetical order to the estates in our articles, it is in part 3 where you will find many of Alsace’s better-known famous estates, such as Trimbach, Domaine Weinbach and Zind Humbrecht. In part 2, you have the opportunity to get to know mostly up and coming wine estates run by a new generation of young, passionate and energetic individuals just starting to take over their family wineries.
As usual, the wines in this article were tasted during winery visits that were not arranged with any association or government consortium and all expenses were paid for directly by Ian D’Agata. Differently from some others, all you read in the TerroirSense Wine review is not sponsored or paid for by producers or producer associations and other marketing bodies. We might make mistakes and you may not always agree with our comments, wine descriptors and scores, but at the very least you can take comfort in that those expressed are independent opinions of one of the three or four most prepared English-language Alsace wine experts who has been visiting Alsace annually up to five times a year since 2000. As was the case for the wines in part 1 of our Alsace report, all the wines in part 2 of this report were tasted by Ian D’Agata either directly in Alsace during three different visits last summer and/or as samples sent to China where he lives in the first six-seven months of this year or wine he bought outright here.
My long love affair with Alsace dates back to 1976, when as a teenager, I first visited this beautiful land with my mother and my maternal grandmother during a family summer vacation. Already at that young age, I fell in love with the pretty town of Eguisheim and remember liking basically every single wine made from the Eichberg, one of Alsace’s grand crus and that struck me for its rather unique Gewurztraminer wines. And so it was not by chance that I made Eguisheim the first stop, many years later, during my first ever “professional wine writer” trip. And much like that first trip to Eguisheim in which the wines of the Eichberg had stood out, my second time around there was marked by another discovery, the wines of Albert Hertz. I was undoubtedly lucky as it was at a time when it was easy to find, buy, and drink, the wines of 1989 and 1990, two of top ten Alsace vintages of all time. And so while it is true that great wines were literally everywhere to be found, it is also true that the wines of Albert Hertz impressed me more than most. Today it is Albert’s son Frédéric who mostly runs the show (still with the help of his father, clearly), tending to the estate’s ten hectares that boast many choice plots in some of the area’s best sites, the Eichberg first and foremost among them. The estate is completely organically farmed and is especially adept at making late harvest wines, so make sure you try the SGN wines from this estate at one (or ideally many more) point(s) in your life.
2019 Pinot Noir Eguisheim Alsace 89
Bright medium-dark ruby-red. Pungent floral aromas dominate on the nose, but also candied red fruit and smoke. Then fresh and linear on the palate, with good juiciness to the red and blue fruit flavours that are nicely extended on the long close thanks to bright, harmonious acidity. Despite my impression based on the wine’s aromatics, Fréderic told me that no whole bunch fermentation was used here; had I tsted this blind I would have sworn that whole bunches, at least in part, had been used. This spent nine months in used and new oak barrels (about 20% new) for nine months. For Alsace, these are fairly old Pinot Noir vines (35-45 years old on average) and are planted on soils that are mostly marl and limestone, with not much clay. Drinking window: 2022-2026
2019 Pinot Noir Hohrain Alsace 90
Dark ruby-red: this is darker than the entry-level Pinot Noir from Hertz. Cool, quite spicy and lively on the nose and in the mouth, with citrussy acidity nicely framing the juicy raspberry and black cherry aromas and flavours. Smooth and long on the back end, that features a touch of potpourri mixed in with the persistent nuances of fruit. Drinking window: 2023-2027
2018 Pinot Noir Eguisheim Alsace 88+
Good full ruby. Slightly austere in the middle and on the finish, but also nicely dense. Not as ready to drink as the 2019 Eguisheim Pinot Noir, this needs another year in the cellar to fully come around. Drinking window: 2023-2026
2018 Pinot Noir Marianne Alsace 87
Medium-deep ruby. Copious red fruit in the mouth on entry, then a little taut in the middle and finishes just a tad a drying. This is a cuvée of grapes picked from three different terroirs. Drinking window: 2022-2024
2019 Pinot Blanc Alsace 89
Bright yellow colour. Aromas of peach, herbs and fresh citrus. Juicy and fairly generous in the middle, with obvious spicy and honeyed fruit flavours, yet finishes with more grip than I would have expected given its relatively soft mouthfeel. Closes fresh and with good length. A blend of 70% Auxerrois and 30% Pinot Blanc, you might not get the Auxerrois presence so much on the nose but you certainly do on the palate. Drinking window: now-2025
2019 Riesling Alsace 90
Pale, bright yellow. Forward aromas of lime, wild fennel and crushed stone. Juicy and classicall dry, with a flavour of bitter lemon and a distinct citric edge on the finish nicely buffered by good fruit ripeness. Bright, long and concentrated for a basic Riesling, this offers early accessibility but plenty of stuffing. Drinking window: now-2026
2019 Riesling Eichberg Alsace 93+
Lively straw-green. The very fresh nose offers lemon curd, lime and lychee in spades. Then really lovely on the palate, with a delicate nuance to the floral and fruity flavours that finish clean and with a hint of bittersweet elements. Boasts excellent balance and very good length, not to mention rising complexity. Hertz’s piece of Eichberg planted to Riesling is at the end of the slope with a gentle gradient, characterized by a bit of loess amongst the marl and Oligocene limestone. Very porous from a geological perspective, the quality of this special part of the slope is such that the vines never suffer from drought even in hot years (the roots can easily dig down and find water). I have walked the Eichberg I don’t know how many times since my teens and never tire of its beauty or of its uniqueness. Drinking window: 2024-2036
2019 Riesling Pfersiberg Alsace 90+
Medium dark straw yellow. Aromas and flavours of tropical fruit and sweet spices. Bigger and riper than Hertz’s 2019 Riesling Eichberg, but less complex and also seems a little short and even a tad dilute to me right now, but maybe I caught this at an awkward time. Try cellaring for about three years before pulling a cork and seeing what has happened. But differently from Hertz’s Eichberg vines, this plot of forty years old vines on the Pfersigsberg does suffer from drought (the Pfersigberg is one of the drier sites in Alsace), and therein lies the difference between a true grand cru and one that carries that name. Drinking window: 2023-2033
2019 Pinot Gris Altengarten Alsace 92
Luminous deep straw-yellow. Smoke and peanut butter dominate the smooth palate on entry, then fresher in the middle, with long, building notes of peach, orange and herbs on the long finish. Made all from the Altengarten, Hertz could actually label this as Eichberg if he wanted, but as he feels that he makes almost too much Eichberg as it is he prefers to highlight the specific qualities of this section of the grand cru (a soil of mostly marl and limestone, like the rest of the Eichberg, but this section is at the bottom of the hillside, with a richer loamy component, ultimately leading to a different wine being made). Drinking window: 2022-2030
2019 Pinot Gris Zinnkoepflé Grand Cru Alsace 93
Bright yellow color. High-toned aromas of pineapple syrup, smoke and sweet herbs. Then suave and pliant in texture, with flavours similar to the aromas and very good length. Aged in 18 hL casks for about ten months, this lovely Pinot Gris showcases the Zinnnkoepflé’s more Mediterranean climate (it’s a warm place but the temperatures are buffered by it also being one of the highest of all Alsatian grand crus). Hertz doesn’t own much land in the Zinnkoepflé, but given how good this wine is wine lovers could only wish he had more to play with. Drinking window: 2023-2032
2019 Gewurztraminer Eichberg Grand Cru Alsace 89+
An oaked Gewurztraminer? That’s right, I couldn’t believe it either. Pale bright yellow gold in colour, this boasts aromas and flavours of sawdust, white pepper, roses, tangerine oil, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Long, rich and dense, with an incredible spiciness even for Gewurz (and so you realize that’s quite something) finishing long with notes of coriander and lychee. Very saline and classically dry, but to me the oaking is just too much here. Fred (Fréderic) tells me the oaking regimen for this has not changed at the estate since the early 2000s when I started coming here annually, but I felt there was something amiss here, with too much of an oaky presence that has the frther negative effect, besides that of muting the grape variety, of also muting the Eichberg (in that you can hardly tell this wine is from that grand cru, something that basically never happens to a true Alsace wine expert when he or she is confronted blind with Gewurztraminer wines from this grand cru). Drinking window: 2024-2031
2018 Alsace 89
A blend dominated by Gewurz, this is quite good by these field blend standards (most of these wines are oh-so-cool nowadays, but the truth is most really aren’t very good, despite all the hype) showcasing pungent menthol and sweeter balsamic mint nuances on the nsoe and in the mouth. Surprisingly fruity too, with an almost jammy quality to the fruit flavours on the mouthcoating finish. This was made by co-fermenting a mix of about 40% Sylvaner, 25% Muscat, 25% Pinot Gris and 10% Gewurztraminer. Drinking window: now-2025
2018 Muscat d’Alsace 87
Straw green. Herbal and minty nuances to the simple aromas and flavours of grapefruit. I’d say it’s fair to say this is not Hertz’s best wine. 100% Muscat Ottonell from 35 years old vines and aged ten months in stainless steel. Drinking window: now-2024
2018 Sylvaner Eguisheim Alsace 92
Lily of the valley, marzipan, and quince explode on the nose and on the palate. This is very nice indeed, long and very fresh. Try with oysters and get ready to be happy. Made from 35 years old vines (which are in fact the youngest of the old vines the estate owns). Drinking window: now-2026
2018 Gewurztraminer Eguisheim Alsace 90
Straw yellow with golden highlights. Fresh, precise aromas and flavours of lime, grapefruit, rose petals and smoked meat. North-facing 30-35 years old vines that give a big but not shouty wine that is beautifully perfumed and flavoured, boasting a range of lemon curd, apple gelatin and spicy nuances that linger impressively for an entry-level wine. Maybe not the last word in concentration, but I really liked the fresh, tactile but nuanced finish. Drinking window: now-2026
2018 Gewurztraminer Eichberg Grand Cru Alsace 93
Bright yellow. Perfumed aromas of lime, mango, grapefruit and sweet spices. Similar yet different to the Albert Hertz 2019 Gewurztraminer Eichberg Alsace wine, this is in my view the much better wine, showcasing an enviable sugar-fruit-tannin balance. The close is long and hints at a touch of residual sugar, with lovely nuances of bitter orange peel and tangerine jelly. Drinking window: 2022-2030
2017 Gewurztraminer Eichberg Grand Cru Alsace 94
Golden-tinged yellow. White peach, green lime and glazed pineapple dominate the explosive aroma and flavour profiles, with a strong nuance of pomelo on the long aftertaste that is further complicated by a welcome honeyed note that toes ot all together. To me, and my idea of what great Gewurztraminer wines are all about (incredibly spicy and fruity but very well balanced) this is the best of the three Gewurz Eichebergs (the 19, 18 and 17) I tried from Hertz this year. Drinking window: 2022-2030
2019 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg Alsace 90+
Bright yellow. Pure, perfumed nose offers yellow fruits, flowers, smoked meat and a hint of banana: if you cannot recognize this as Gewurztraminer when tasting blind, you need to change jobs. Then supple, broad and ripe, with very clean, rich yellow fruit and sweet spice flavours that are nicely persistent. These grapes are picked in the Ortel and Sundelberg sections of the Pfersigberg. Finishes long but a little too broad and too easy for my taste, showcasing less character and personality than the Eichberg Gewurzes. That said, this is a very good wine indeed, and so I have no doubts people will love its easygoing fruity charms, and I can see why that would be. Maybe I’m just being difficult, so I’ll shut up now. Drinking window: 2022-2028
2018 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg Alsace 91
Bright yellow. Rich aromas of flowers, butter, lichee, and spices. Then also rich in the mouth, with an almost fat quality to the sweet and soft, with varietally accurate flavors of yellow fruits and spices. Bigger, broader and riper still than the 2019 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg Alsace from Hertz, this finishes smooth with caramel and bitter orange jam reminders and more obvious residual sweetness than the 2019. Drinking window: 2022-2028
2018 Gewurztraminer Eichberg Vendanges Tardives Alsace 95
Bright yellow. Exotic aromas of grilled mango, grapefruit oil, honey, sweet pipe tobacco and nutmeg, with saline and candied lemon peel notes on the concentrated nose. Sweet, glyceral and suave, but with bracing acidity giving lift to the wine’s juicy tropical and orchard fruit flavors. The very long, fresh finish coats the palate with extract and viscosity. These grapes were picked appropriately late (in early October) so that it is a true VT, the grapes were only passerilé (air-dried directly on the vine) but is just splendid nonetheless. Drinking window: 2023-2035.
Denis Hebinger had just bottled the 2019’s at the time of my visit so there was not much point in tasting them at the time, though of course had we known then that Covid would last and last we might have acted differently. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20. Denis told me he is labeling more and more by villages, lieux dits and grand cru names. All his wines do a malo and stay for a long time on the lees. Readers might wat to take note that this was the best set of wines I have ever tried from Hebinger, an estate that has benefited greatly from the arrival of Denis on the scene as the quality of the wines has done nothing but go from strength to strength every year.
2018 Sylvaner Alsace 90
Crystalline straw-green. Mint and chamomile on the nose, then a stronger hint of almond in the mouth, but the orchard fruit and quince nets are pushed far into the background. Not bad, but I was left wishing for a little more complexity and concentration, though I can certainly appreciate this lovely wine’s easygoing charms. This will make for an uncomplicated aperitif and ideal summertime porch-side sipping. Planted in 1982 at the bottom of the Eichberg, the wine has a huge local following; only 1000 bottles/year are made, and it is all sold out every year very quickly. I cannot wait to try a Hebinger Sylvaner from another year soon, because I think there is a hugely promising wine. Drinking window: now-2023
2018 Muscat Alsace 94
Bright pale straw-green. Lovely fresh floral and minty nuances on both nose and palate. This is great: long, light and lively, this will prove absolutely perfect as a “by the glass” number in restaurants and bistros everywhere. A blend of 80% Muscat Ottonel and 20% Muscat d’Alsace that was slightly macerated (for 10 hours) but happily does not atste like a white wine that spent too much time on its lees. Drinking window: 2022-2028
2018 Riesling Herrlisheim Alsace 91
Bright straw-green. Very fresh mint, anise and chamomile nuances colour the lime and sweeter fig aromas and flavours. The close is long and lively. A lovely easygoing wine that benefits from the calcaire soil and the north-west exposure that allows for great freshness and lift (the citrussy acidity at the back speaks of the calcaire presence). The vines were planted in 2008, this spent seven months on the lees. Lots of wine for the money here. Drinking window: 2022-2026
2017 Riesling Hengst Alsace 93+
Luminous medium yellow. Ripe and fairly sweet, with mouthcoating lemon, vanilla and tropical fruit aromas and flavours. Rich, round and with plenty of chewy extract, but does not lack elegance while providing the usual big, rich mouthful of Hengst wine. The calcaire in the soil gives this a lemony acidity and real staying power, so forget about this in the cellar for at least five years. Drinking window: 2026-2035
2017 Riesling Sommerberg Alsace 92
Good full pale yellow. Bright aromas and flavours of orchard fruit, herbs and white flowers. Less massive and more chiseled than Hebinger’s 2017 Riesling Hengst, the Sommerberg has a completely different soil (granite) but yields there need to be kept very low (because sections of it are so draining that they go into metabollic block right away). Readers should take note that Hebinger’s vines are located in what is the original Sommerberg (which is by the way the second most steep grand cru vineyard in Alsace). Drinking window: 2023-2028
2018 Pensée Sauvage 87
Medium dark yellow. Aromas and flavours of candied fruit, baked apple and sweet herbs. Tactile and chewy, this finishes medium-long, caramelly and a little flat. No sulfur added, this “natural wine” is made with 100% Sommerberg grapes (it will be only 50% in 2019). Drinking window: now-2023.
2018 Hengst Persephone Alsace 91
Orange yellow colour. Orange oil, grapefruit jelly, sweet herbs and quinine on the nose and in the mouth. Textured and saline on the medium-long, sharp finish. An orange wine made by assembling roughly 30% Pinot Gris, 30% Riesling, 30% Gewurztraminer plus other local grapes, this finishes long saline, mouthcoating and a little chunky, but as far as many orange wines go (some of the most undrinkable wines you’ll ever have the misfortune of tasting), this is a work of art. Drinking window: now-2025
2018 Saint-Jacques Alsace 88
Bright full yellow. Aromas of beeswax, toffee, baked apple and fresh citrus. Not bad, but closes a little short. Made from Pinot Gris grapes grown just below the Eichberg grand cru and with a northwest exposure, on decomposed sandstone soils aged in used barriques for 12 months. He only other Alsace grower to make wine from Saint-Jacques grapes and albels it as such is Emile Beyer (but his is Riesling). Drinking window: now-2025
2017 Pinot Gris Pfersigberg Grand Cru Alsace 89
Good full yellow. Aromas and flavors of baked apple, pear and sweet herbs. Tactile and soft. Made with grapes picked from Mushelkalk calcaire soils, this clocks in at 4 g/L r.s., but closes classically dry and ample, if just a little warm from alcohol-derived heat. Aged in very old (“at least 10 years” tells me Hebinger) 300 liter tonneaux for at least two years but this wne’s balance is such that nobody will ever be able to tell this was aged in oak, albeit old oak. Drinking window: 2022-2027
2019 Pinot Noir Nature Alsace 90
Good full ruby. Very fresh aromas and flavours of smoke with juicy fruity nuances of strawberry and flint. The long aftertaste is bright and pure. The 2019 is characterized by super-concentrated acidity and it shows here to full effect. This is a very good entry level wine aged in 30 hL barrels for ten months. Drinking window: 2022-2026
2017 Pinot Noir Wintzenheim 645-164 section parcellaire Alsace 91
Good full ruby. The lovely nose boasts spicy red fruit and herbal notes. The similarly flavoured, with very good texture and length. Made with grapes from the Hengst grand cru, one of the best Pnot Noir sites in all lsace (and one of the two or three best for Gewurztraminer, the wines of which can be absolutely magical). Drinking window: 2022-2028
2017 Riesling Vendanges Tardives Alsace 95
Bright limpid yellow. Aromas of lemon, apple and minerals are lifted by violet and jasmine topnotes on the beautifully fresh, delicate nose. Then also delicate in the mouth, with a repeating floral touch to the juicy, sweet but light and lively flavours of bright citrus fruit and honey. The calcaire soil of this plot really translates into citrussy acidity nicely extending the flavours on the back end. Made from very old plot of vines on the Frohenberg, the secret to this great wine is the presence of noble rot (about 20% of the grapes were hit by Botrytis cinerea). At Hebinger, they choose not to do VTs with passerillage, a great thing in my view as noble rot-affected grapes are invariably more complex than those hit by air-drying (and anyways, botrytized grapes have some air-drying to them by definition anyways, so these grapes get the best of both worlds, hence one of the reasons explaining their superiority in making memorable sweet wines). Drinking window: 2022-2032
This estate owns 8 hectares half of which around the pretty town of Zellenberg, with other more or less one hectare sized plots in and around Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Beblenheim, and Mittelwihr, and just for good emasure, a little smattering of vines at Bennwihr. Antoine Huttard id making the wines and follows the viticultural part too, while his sister Helene follows the commercial and marketing parts of the business. This is another estate that is betting on the appellations villages meaning they want to label wines increasingly with the name of the town, but as Helene told me not all vignerons are quite so into making the jump to this new approach. Though perhaps a little less famous today, Huttard was quite the famous estate at the turn of the twentieth century, with Jean-Jacques amongst the first to plant Chardonnay in the region (which in and of itself is hardly a note of merit, in my books) but rather more importantly (much more importantly) was the first to make Crémant in Alsace, which is what made him and the estate famous. But the estate should also be recognized for being one of the pioneers in site-labeling their wines: the Huttard family was placing the names of lieux-dits on their labels already at the end of the 1970s, when it wasn’t as common a practice as it is today. For example, Helene Huttard told me they first bottled a Lerchenberg lieu-dit wine back in 1979 or 1980 (she couldn’t remember exactly), and later moved on to do so with the grand crus as well. The estate owns plots in some very fine sites, including the Schoenenbourg, Mandelberg and Sonnenglanz. Unfortunately, their grand cru holdings are small and so they only make about they only make about 600 bottles/year of the grand crus save for the Mandelberg, of which they make 1200 bottles/year. Half of the estate’s vineyards are planted to Gewurztraminer and Riesling, with plots of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sylvaner, the Muscats and Pinot Gris.
2019 Vin de France L’Effronté 88
Bright straw colour. Sneaky concentration to the yellow apple and pear aromas and flavours, with hints of caramel and sweet spices. Closes medium-long and bright. This is made from 60 years old vines of Chardonnay that they wished to bottle on its own. Frankly, with the whole world literally drowning in an ocean of Chardonnay wine (and often very bad Chardonnay wine at that) I fail to see the necessity for Chardonnay in Alsace, but it’s a free world and there’s always a place for creativity, and so be it. 100% Chardonnay that spent 10 months on the lees. Drinking window: now-2025
2019 Sylvaner Zellenberg Alsace 92
Vivid straw-green. Quince, crab apple, lime, herbs, and minerals on the penetrating, perfumed nose. Lovely, juicy and suave, with precise, clean orchard fruit and balsamic oil flavours. Yet another Huttard wine with sneaky concentration, this is long, clean and crisp on the dense, seamless finish. You can really tell this is old vines stuff! Jean-Claude Huttard loves Sylvaner and so he never uprooted his vines; this means that his kids taking over the estate were lucky to find very old vines of Sylvaner (60 years old and more) planted on high quality on clay-calcareous soils with limestone inclusions. There’s a lot of wine for the money here. Unfortunately, only 5000 bottles a year are made. Drinking window: now-2026
2016 Sylvaner Zellenberg Alsace 91
Golden-tinged pale straw yellow. Very typical aromas and flavours of aged Sylvaner that are immediately recognizable for an experienced taster: nuances of honey, ripe quince, Golden delicious apples and raisins, plus dabs of chamomile extract and peach. How can anyone not like this stuff? So good! The 2016 Sylvaner that is on sale now at the Jean Huttard winery, as they didn’t make any 2017 due to extremely low yields and the 2018 is being held back because still tight and austere (in fact they will be selling the 2019 before the 2018). Drinking window: now-2024
2017 Muscat Zellenberg Alsace 89
Pale starw green. Delicate nose hints at white flowers, ginger and lime, but this can hardly be described as a aromatically explosive set of Muscat-like aromas. Then picks up on the palate with lively flavours of lime and grapefruit, complemented by a dash of spices. Closes medium-long and fresh. 100% Muscat Ottonel, because Jean-Jacques Huttard believed that it was Muscat Ottonel and not Muscat d’Alsace that gave much more refined wines on the soils their vineyards are planted on. About 2000 bottles/year made. Drinking window: now-2024
2019 Riesling Zellenberg Alsace 91
One sip of this and you can tell that Riesling is a truly noble grape variety: even at the entry level of quality, this wine is deep, clean and precise with drop-dead gorgeous aromas and flavours of lemon, lime, and white flowers. A very pretty wine of subtle concentration and real density: a part of the vines used to make this wine are 40 years old (planted on marly clays that drain well and that are later-ripening than the soils where the estate’s other Riesling vines are planted) and that old vine concentration sure does come through, despite the relative affordability of this wine. Well done. Drinking window: 2022-2027
2017 Riesling Zellenberg Alsace 91
Bright straw-green. Nice depth to the aromas and flavours of ripe peach and herbs (chamomile, mint, tarragon) nicely complemented by hints of petrol and balsamic oils. Finishes gingery and peppery with a subtle mouthfeel and excellent length. A year characterized by very small yields, this is a real success. Drinking window: now-2026
2017 Gewurztraminer Zellenberg Alsace 87
Brght yellow hue. Rose and grapefruit on the nose and in the mouth. Then sweet but lively on entry, then increasingly dry in the middle, closing downright bitter with some alcohol-derived heat. Drinking window: now-2025
2018 Ribeauvillé Alsace 88
An assemblage of Pinot Gris and Auxerrois from a very hot year so Hélène told me they had to harvest these grapes particularly fast. Still, this clocks in at 14.5% with notes of baked apple, custard cream and lemon curd. Spent nine months in old barriques. Not my favourite wine from Huttard but I’ll be the first to say it’s perfectly fine and it will undoubtedly have many fans. Drinking window: now-2025
2015 Riesling Lerchenberg Alsace 92
Golden-tinged yellow. Very delicate, almost reticent nose, then rich and ripe with honeyed sweet tropical and ripe orchard fruit. The finish is long, clean and nicely focused. The 2015 was another very hot vintage in Alsace requiring to harvest quickly and there was some noble rot besides passerillage present on the vines. Despite the estate using the nobly rotten grapes for their Vendanges Tardives wines, Hélène tells me that some noble rot-affected grapes ended up in the classically dry wines such as this one too. The Lerchenberg (or the “hill of the singing birds”) is a difficult site to work and perhaps for this reason, only two estates make a Lerchenberg wine (Jean Becker is the other one). Drinking window: now-2028
2016 Riesling Lerchenberg Alsace 89
Bright straw colour. Aromas and flavours of apple and pear with a whisper of crushed stones. Quite saline on the finish, with some balsamic notes merging on the back end. Not exactly the most complex wine in the world, with some finishing chewiness but with nice lemony-accented round honeyed quality that adds interest. Overall, a vibrant Riesling with good acidity and decent length. Drinking window: now-2025
2017 Riesling Mandelberg Alsace 90
Golden-tinged straw yellow. White flowers and almonds on both the nose and the mouth complement very ripe citrus fruit nuances. Almost fat and quite round, with a glyceral mouthfeel and a hint of finishing sweetness on the close. Drinking window: 2022-2027
2017 Riesling Schoenenbourg Alsace 92
Very typical Schoenenbourg nose of lemon, honey, jasmine, and chamomile, then rich and dense with a hint of residual sugar (20 g/L r.s.) but your really cannot tell it is that much because of the classic Schoenenbourg acid spine and always powerful extract, though because of the hot year it was impossible to make a truly classically dry wine in 2017. Drinking window: 2022-2030
2018 Pinot Noir L’Etreinte Alsace 88
Dark ruby colour. Candied and smoky notes complement the red fruit aromas and flavours, but the oak is too dominant here, as the wine turns chewy in the middle and bitter on the medium-long finish. Drinking window: 2023-2026
2017 Pinot Noir L’Etreinte Alsace 87
Good full bright ruby. Enters big, dense, juicy and fruity, then tapers in the middle and on the medium-long finish, where it becomes a bit astringent and tight. Half of this wine ages in stainless steel and another half in old Chassin barrels. This is Pinot Noir planted on the Schoenenbourg (in 2000) and a few other areas around Zellenberg. No whole bunches used. Drinking window: 2022-2026
2016 Gewurztraminer Sonnenglanz Grand Cru Alsace 92
Bright yellow. Obvious but pure aromas of grapefruit, papaya, smoked meat and spices. Fat, spicy and sweet, with nicely opulent flavours of yellow plum, tropical fruit and smoked meat, boasting superbly intense fruit on the long close. A grand cru that can give very concentrated wines, but this is made with very young vines. The sun really hits in the Jean Huttard plot area, and so this site never makes classically dry wines but rather ones in which the effects of air-drying are typical. Given that this is what the site gives naturally, it would be wrong to try and force the wine to become something it was not meant to be; my complements to the Huttard siblings for thinking in this way. Drinking window: now-2028.
2017 Gewurztraminer Burgreben Alsace 94
Deep yellow. The complex nose smells of old vines, with very pure Gewurztraminer aromas of lychee, mango, rose and grapefruit. Boasts a lovely sweet and sour balance to the very rich and dense flavours of spicy vanilla bean, tropical fruit jellies and nectars. This is excellent, finishing long with nuances of bitter orange preserves. Drinking window: now-2029.
2018 Pinot Gris LN Alsace 88+
Pale golden-tinged yellow. Subdued aromas of soft citrus fruits, apple, caramel and spices. Sweet, rich and rather broad, with similar flavors to the aromas, but also an almost tannic backbone that calls to mind a red wine. Closes not especially sweet and with a rising bitter note. Reportedly, about 20% noble rot-affected grapes made it into the blend, but I for one really couldn’t tell, finding that the notes of passerillage were far more obvious. Called Cuvée Hélène in the past, she preferred not to have her name used ahgain so they changed the wine’s name to LN but she drew its label. Drinking window: 2024-2028.
2018 Muscat Kronenbourg Vendanges Tardives Alsace 93
Vibrant golden-tinged yellow green. Lovely Muscat Ottonnel nose of candied lime, grapefruit, sweet spices, all complicated by a boatload of lemony botrytis (about 60% of the grapes were affected by noble rot). Rich dense and suave but vibrant at the same time, with a steely core of minty limey fruit that is nicely extended on the long suave finish by harmonious acidity. These grapes were harvested around the end of October (in fact, this was the second last parcel harvested at the estate in 2018). Hélène tells me this was the first VT Muscat ever made at the estate. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
2015 Riesling Vendanges Tardives Alsace 94
Vivid golden-tinged hazy yellow. A downright lovely wine that is pure and precise, boasting very varietally accurate notes of lime and minerals complicated by flowers on both the nose and the mouth. Finishes with a whiplash of mouth-cleansing acidity that really lifts the wine and makes for an absolutely beautiful drink. They’ve got a winner here folks!. Drinking window: now-2028.
2015 Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives Alsace 91+
Bright golden yellow. Captivating aromas of rose petal, orange, lichee, and lemon ice, with obvious notes of both noble rot and air-dried grapes. Then ample, full and smooth, but not especially refined or concentrated, though it does close with subtle persistence. Maybe I just caught this at an awkward stage (though it’s already six years old), and cellaring will likely help it develop more nuance. Drinking window: 2022-2028.
2017 Gewurztraminer Grasburg Vendanges Tardives 94
Now we’re cooking! Beautifully pale golden yellow, this is very pure and long, offering more sweet spice, mango, lychee, orange marmelade and lemon honey aromas and flavours than you know what to do with. The persistent finish is downright steamy, sultry and sexy. Aged in oak demi-muids (600 liters) for two years oak, this rich spicy wine handled it easily and came out none the worse for wear. In fact, this really should be labeled as a SGN, but because of an administrative error, it ended up being “only” a VT; but being the kind, helpful soul that I am, now you have the inside scoop on this, and can buy yourself a wine of SGN quality for a VT price. Life is good! Drinking window: 2023-2029.
2020 Pinot Blanc Mise de Printemps Alsace 90
Bright, pale yellow colour. Laid-back aromas of lime, custard and white flowers. Juicy, spicy flavors of orange, lime and sweet herbs; dry but not austere thanks to its good density and decent acid cut. Finishes brisk and sappy with a delicate honeyed spicy quality. Drinking window: now-2024.
2019 Pinot Blanc Mise de Printemps Alsace 91
Medium straw color. Pure, higher-pitched aromas than the softer Josmeyer 2020 Pinot Blanc, offering lemon, white peach and yellow flower aromas. Similar flavors in the mouth are perked up by sound balancing acidity and a honeyed apricotty verve. Hints at a concentration and light sweetness but finishes clean and classically dry. Drinking window: now-2026.
2019 Riesling Alsace 91
Good bright straw yellow. Open nose offers pineapple and wet stone, with hints of mint. Fruit-driven Riesling wine offering fresh flavours of apricot, nectarine and herbs. The wine closes neatly with a lemony mineral firmness on the long back end. Drinking window: now-2028.
2018 Alsace Complantation Protège ton soignant 90
Bright golden-tinged yellow. Vibrant aromas of whte and yellow flowers, apricot, orage and herbs. Enters chewy and saline, then also very clean and fresh in the middle, emerging ripe and smooth on the long finish featuring notes of bitter orange preserves and some alcohol–derived heat. This is a lovely wine, and it would be so even if (according to Mathieu Deiss who told me the story during my visit at the estate) 20% of the proceeds of the wine’s sales dd not go to an association that buildss sanitary equipment for the covid outbreak (in fact, this is the regular Deiss Alsace blend by another name). About four thousand bottles made from ten different varieties co-planted together. Drinking window: now-2026.
2018 Zellenberg Alsace 89
Vivid golden-tinged yellow. Penetrating aromas of peach syrup, apple, butter and mint. Succulent, fresh and dusty, with very good viscosity to the round, low acid mouthfeel. Very Zellenberg in style, and easy to drink thanks to its delicious fruit flavor that is nicely persistent. This area’s wines, despite the clay in the soil, are never especially large and chunky but refined and open up quickly in time; they are also generally less austere than those made in the township of Ribeauvillé. A blend of mostly Pinots and Riesling, but there are many other varieties co-planted in the field. Drinking window: now-2025.
2018 Ribeauvillé Alsace 91
Good full straw-green. Very clean, minerally and downright beautiful wine boasting aromas and flavours of lemon curd, jasmine, sweet orchard fruit lifted by very nice harmonious acidity and bitter orange notes on the long finish. This is much more lemony and austere than the 2018 Zellenberg from Deiss (the deep colder soils around Ribeauvillé are all important in bringing this about). Drinking window: 2022-2028.
2018 Riquewihr Alsace 90
Bright yellow with golden highlights. Rich, round, soft and insidiously sweet with clean, fresh and long orange marmalade, lemon preserves, cinnamon, and nutmeg with orchard fruit undertones that emerge slowly with aeration. Despite the wines from the Riquewihr area evolving generally slower than those of Ribeauvillé and Zellenberg, I found this wine to be more ahead in its developmental curve than the Ribeauvillé. Drinking window: now-2026.
2018 Berkhem Alsace 92
Pale straw green. Perfumed, pure aromas of apple, mango, mint and stones. Enters sweet then tannic, with peach, orange jelly, and lemon curd flavours. Closes with more tannic clout but not the greatest balance. A blend of mostly Riesling and Gewurztraminer. This is really quite good and just needs time. Drinking window: 2022-2027.
2018 Langenberg Alsace 93
Bright straw yellow. Aromas and flavours of dark berries (the Pinot wine grapes presence?), toffee, mushroom, smoke and a refreshing topnote of citrus fruits makes for a deep, satisfying drink that really grws in the galss with aeration. Closes long and serious, with really good viscosity, this is a really interesting, well-made wine that is not as immediately obvious as some other wine made at Deiss but also one of those that has the longest staying power and very good saline extract. Made mostly with three Pinot varieties (Noir, Beurot and Gris), plus a smattering of Riesling and the Muscat varieties among the other co-planted south-facing vines in St. Hippolyte planted on mostly shallow granite soils. Drinking window: 2024-2030.
2018 Engelgarten Alsace 92+
Very bright, fairly pale yellow. Fragrant, spicy, nose shows an aromatic-like quality to its aromas of lime oil, curry powder and white pepper nicely complementing the tangy, piquant orchard fruit. Dense but lively, with a smooth texture despite the relatively high acid mouthfeel of the citrus and spicy flavours. Still an infant, this finishes long and clean with a thermal component that gives it extra depth. The field blend here includes a number of different varieties, including Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, the Muscats, Sylvaner and Chasselas. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
2018 Alsace Rouge 91
Dark red with a purple tinge. Polite aromas and flavours of red and black cherry and spices that have nice floral lift. Nicely concentrated and brisk, leaving an impression of gentle extraction and plenty of primary fruit showing. Finishes with very smooth, fine tannins and a lingering smoky quality, not to mention nice viscosity, salinity and succulence. Very easy to drink and sneakily complex. Well done here, this punches way above its weight (make that cost) class. Drinking window: 2022-2026.
2019 Riesling Alsace 90
Bright, pale yellow-green. Clean aromas of white peach, citrus fruits, and ginger. Juicy, fresh and classically dry; a good basic Riesling bottling in that it ahs above average intensity and more than enough focused energy for a wine of this price bracket. Will be great with steamed clams and oysters. Drinking window: now-2025.
2018 Muscat Alsace 88
Pale straw-green color. Subtle floral nose is dominated by lime blossom and herbs, but is not really very complex. Then similarly simple in the mouth, with juicy flavours of citrus fruit and flowers delivered with decent cut. Closes a little short and classically dry. Drinking window: now-2025.
2017 Riesling Altenberg de Bergbieten Cuvée Henriette Grand Cru 92
Pale straw yellow. Fairly subtle nose is very typical of this grand cru, showing more stone and white flower notes than fruit. Deep but light on its feet, offering excellent cut and clarity to its lime, herb and talc flavours. Comes across as less massive than many other grand cru Riesling wines but finishes very focused, chewy and persistent. The Altenberg de Bergbieten is a mostly marly-limestone-gypsum site with vines grown from 210 to 265 meters above sea level that is known for giving wines of lively acid touch and refinement, and this is certainly the case here. Nicely done. Drinking window: now-2028.
2018 Pinot Noir Alsace 89
Good medium red-ruby. Red cherry and a spicy character on the nose. Then juicy, spicy and stylish, with fresh red fruit aromas lifted by slightly spiky acidity. Finishes with broad but supple tannins and a lingering perfumed character. Not the world’s most complex or concentrated Pinot Nor wine but approachable and good for uncomplicated drinking. Drinking window: now-2025.
The Rieflé family bought the Seppi Landmann estate in 2011 as they rightly believed his eight hectares scattered in the Zinnkoepflé grand cru (one of Alsace’s best) and lieux-dits like the Steinstuck and Strangenberg (of which they didn’t own any, as their historical vineyards were those of the town of Pfaffenheim) were worth the investment. The estate has new many new projects in store and is now being run by the 6th generation, siblings Paul (who follows the commercial and marketing side) and Thomas who follows the vineyards, but clearly dad Jean-Claude, one of Alsace’s most knowledgeable vignerons who has held important official posts, is always around for help. I think this is the strongest ever lineup of wines I have tasted in many years from this estate. Well done!
2013 Crémant d’Alsace Brut Alpha 90
Pale straw colour. Expressive aromas of yellow fruits, lichee and spices, with hints of violet and lily of the valley. Juicy, fruity and fresh, with citrus and flower blossom notes. A nicely sappy style for enjoying next summer. This blend of Pinot Blanc (33%), Chardonnay (25%), Pinot Noir (25%), and Auxerrois (17%) finishes long and powerful (the Pinot Noir) but also quite fresh and lemony (the Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay) but with a hint of honeyed richness in the background (the Auxerrois). The wine’s name derives from the fact this is the first wine in this lineup (hence alpha, the first letetr of the Greek alphabet) and was aged six years on the lees. In fact, though the label says Brut, this is an Extra Brut (it has 0 g/L r.s., so I guess it’s a Nature too). Drinking window: now-2024.
2019 Alsace 91
Bright straw hue. Aromas and flavours of fresh citrus fruit and flowers are complicated by minty herbs and dry spices. Then rich and round on the palate but lifted by fresh citrusy acidity that nicely extends the flavours on the long, slightly sweet (11 g/L r.s. and 6 g/l total acidity), juicy but suave back end. This is a fifty-fifty blend of Muscat Ottonel and Muscat d’Alsace. About 10% of the wine was macerated on the skins because Paul and Thomas felt this small addition helped increase texture and depth in the finished wine. Drinking window: now-2026.
2018 Alsace L’Eclat 92+
Lively straw green. Green apple and chamomile, lime, quince and lemon ice, the Sylvaner is really quite present here and speaks of the old vines (more than 50 years of age) and its provenance around Westhalten ( where Sylvaner grows especially well and reaches qualitative zeniths in many places). A blend of Riesling (80%) and Sylvaner (20%), this clocks in at 4 g/L r.s. and 6.6 g/L total acidity and only 12% alcohol, this is really outstanding that showcases just how well Riesling and Sylvaner blend together. Chapeau! Drinking window: now-2028.
2018 Alsace l’Aplomb 91
Good full straw colour. Richer than the l’Eclat with aromas and flavors of honey and ripe orchard fruit, with a sweet-sour-saline element that carries the flavours on the long, juicy pure finish. A blend of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, and Riesling sporting 6.8 g/L r.s. and 6.7 g/L total acidity and only 12% alcohol that is aged in used barriques for twelve months. Drinking window: now-2026.
2018 Alsace l’Arabesque 91
A 50-50 blend of Gewurztraminer and Muscat, this clocks in at 12% alcohol but is rather flavourful and its freshness (5 g/L total acidity which really isn’t that much) helps lift the ripe aromatic nuances. By contrast, its 7 g/L r.s is really not evident and the wine tastes as a classically dry or very barely off-dry wine. Drinking window: now-2025.
2018 Alsace lieu-dit Strangenberg 90+
Pretty medium-pale red colour. Nervous aromas and flavours of sour red berries and dark cherries with complicating nuances of herbs and underbrush. Aged in mostly used Chassin barriques (20% new) for 18 months. Very promising 100% Pinot Noir wine. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
2018 Alsace lieu-dit Bihl 91
Good full straw yellow. Herbs and and citrus fruit jellies complement juicy orchard fruit and spices on the nose and in the mouth where an element of air-dried berries is obvious. Finishes long and citrusy with hints of ginger and white flowers with a suave if zingy mouthfeel. This needs to be caraffed one hour ahead; despite the passerillage, it doesn’t taste that round or rich, with the creamy texture seemingly coming more from the sugar than any real depth of fruit. 100% Riesling that really carries the stamp of the vintage due to the Bihl being a little hill that is both very sunny and dry, which clearly led to early-onset passerillage in the vineyard (so contrary to the 2016 Bihl this is not a completely dry wine, boasting in fact 10 g/L r.s and 7 g/L total acidity) Thanks to the strog limestone presence in the soil here, they have actually planted some Pinot Noir in the vineyard and therefore will soon be making a Bihl red wine. Drinking window: now-2028.
2018 Alsace lieu-dit Steinstuck 89+
Bright straw-green. Aromas and flavours of minerals, lime and white flowers. Clean creamy and fresh notes of tarragon, herbs, lime. Long and suave but no real complexity currently and comes across as chunky and monolithic. Obviously, this needs timein a good cellar. A 100% Riesling born off sandstone soil (grès) that carries noteworthy residual sugar (18 g/L) buffered well by th 6 g/L total acidity such that the wine seems on the lower end of off-dry. Drinking window: 2024-2028.
2018 Alsace lieu-dit Bergweingarten 92+
Luminous straw-gold. Fascinating nose that speaks of the Gewurztraminer in the blend. Then sweet, rich and round, with a long, juicy and lovely mouthfeel, but not the last word in complexity (at least, not yet: a few years in the cellar will no doubt do this plenty of good, and I do think this will blossom in time). For this reason, Paul was telling me that he may add a small percentage of macerated Gewurz to increase texture ad complexity. 100% Gewurztraminer with 18 g/L of residual sugar and 4.5 g/L total acidity; the vineyard area has s deep soil that is mostly marl with a little limestone and pink sandstione and is blessed with a fresh mesocliamte. It’s an area that has historically always planted to Gewurztraminer and still is today, as the area really is suited to the variety where it is never stressed (water stress is rare here) and gives a very refined wine. Drinking window: 2024-2029.
2018 Alsace Steinert Grand Cru 92
Good full straw colour. Ripe aromas of apple, butter and pear. Round and tactile in the mouth, with very good juicy acidity cutting through the inherent spiciness and oiliness of the Pinot Gris. Finishes long with notes of ginger, lime and sweet spices. 100% Pinot Gris with 10 g/L residual sugar and 7.7 g/L total acidity, so this is actually very well balanced. Barrel fermented and aged in used barriques for one year. The first vintage of this style of Steinert wine at Rieflé was the 2014 vintage. This wine is far more approachable and easy to drink when young than others in the Rieflé-Landmann portfolio which tend to be quite closed in their youth and benefit from decanting ahead (at least one hour). Drinking window: 2022-2028.
2018 Alsace (Riesling) Zinnkoeflé Grand Cru 93
Bright pale golden yellow. Big on both the nose and in the mouth, with a spicy ginger note that dominates throughout and especially so on the long clean finish. Very Zinnkoepflé in style neatly combining the power the site is capable of with elegance. I warn my readers to take note of the fact that when I write “power” I mean a fleshy wine not powerful in the Hengst sort of way but not a pansy either: think heavy middleweight, not heavyweight. 100% Riesling (8.6 g/L residual sugar and 6 g/L total acidity) that boasts 14% alcohol but it doesn’t taste hot at all, a sure-fire sign of good balance. This basically has the same name as another Rieflé wine made with 100% Gewurztraminer so I am including the wine grape name in brackets above, though you find it on the front label. Isn’t wine (and producers) just so much head-shaking fun? Drinking window: 2024-2030.
2018 Alsace (Gewurztraminer) Zinnkoepflé Grand Cru 94
Good full vibrant golden yellow. Ripe, balanced and very spicy, offering boatloads of custard cream and tropical fruit nuances on the nose and on the palate. Magnificent wine and a real testimony to the meaning of grand cru (anybody with a little experience can recognize this as a Zinnkoepflé wine). 100% Gewurztraminer that is marvellously balanced (34 g/L residual sugar and 7.5 g/L total acidity) and long. This basically has the same name as another Rieflé wine made with 100% Gewurztraminer so I am including the wine grape name in brackets above, though you find it on the front label. Isn’t wine (and producers) just so much head-shaking fun? Drinking window: 2023-2028.
2018 Vin de France Sacré Loustic 90
A 100% Gewurztraminer orange wine that is not for the faint of heart, with its strongly orange personality and 15% alcohol, not to mention the usual array of orange marmelade, lemon peel, earth and faded violet aromas and flavours. Thick and viscous, with a clean fresh long mouthfeel, its is far more successful than many orange wines made today. One reason fr this, besides the talent of the family making it, is that Gewurztraminer is a variety that tales to maceration very well (and if producers used their brans instead of macerating anything that grows in a vineyard, maybe we’d all have more orange wines to get truly excited about). Drinking window: now-2025.
2018 Riesling Schlossberg Grand Cru 90+
Bright, pale yellow-green. Slightly subdued but clean aromas of crystallized lemon, apple and fresh herbs. Juicy and fresh, with good intensity to the mineral and stone fruit flavours, buoyed by a suggestion of banana and a touch of cream. Finishes fairly dry, with a rising fresh citrus note but I would have liked a little more concentration. Drinking window: now-2026.
2017 Pinot Gris Brand Grand Cru 89
Medium-dark bright yellow. Rather open on the nose with aromas of apple, toffee, flowers and truffley underbrush. Ripe, soft and sweet, with almost syrupy orchard fruit flavors and a hint of spice. Good concentration and weight and makes an ideal sipping wine at present. But not showing much flavour definition, and a little low in acid cut, so I’d drink this up sooner rather than later. Drinking window: now-2024.