I am in Fermoselle, a lovely village in Zamora province, Castilla y León. This is the heartland of Arribes del Duero, an exciting wine district bordering Portugal. One of the leading small, terroir-focused wineries is El Hato y el Garabato, José Manuel Beneitez López and his wife Liliana Fernández Pérez. The restaurant of my hotel, Posada Doña Urraca, has plenty of good local wines, and my choice is their Sin Blanca.
José and Liliana work with very old vineyards, between 80 and 120 years old, planted in bush style. These are all managed organically, out of conviction and because the structure of the vines, their age and the weather will protect them. In total they work 8 hectares divided into more than 20 plots.
Arribes is a small territory with only 272 hectares. Still the soils are diverse. El Hato y el Garabato take advantage of this as they have vineyards in clayey soils near the river, granite on the plains and schist and slate in the canyon – with altitudes ranging from 300 to almost 800 meters.
Sin Blanca (meaning: broke) is made from the oldest vines in which all the varieties in the vineyard are included. Juan garcía usually counts for 80% accompanied by bruñal (alfrocheiro in Portuguese), bastardillo (also known as bastardo, merenzao and trousseau) and rufete. It spent 9 months in French oak. Like all their wines it’s not filtered nor clarified, and the sulfuring is very low.
Sin Blanca 2017(El Hato y el Garabato)
Dark cherry red. Red and dark fruits (cherry, blackberry), plum, herbs, stony minerals. Good volume, with an earthy touch and fruit all the way.
Gota is a relatively new wine bar in Madrid, in the Chueca district. It’s quite hidden, with no signposts. You simply have to know where it is and look for the doorbell, that is the only place you can find the name. I popped in a couple of hours ago. I have booked my first visit to Les Mouvais Garçons, a few blocks away, tonight. But the talk of the town said that I should pay Gota a visit, so there was no time left, as I leave tomorrow.
Manager is Fede Graciano from Argentina. He opened Acid Café near Atocha some years ago, which is recommended for coffee freaks, and Acid Bakehouse (I think it was later). Nahuel is his sommelier, when he’s not making his own natural wine in El Tiemblo, Gredos.
At Gota they specialize in natural wines and homemade kombuchas. They offer a sharing menu that works well with their wine list. They specialize in music of various types, that can be as “acid” as the wines and reflecting the name of the original bar. But don’t think of it as a noisy place, it’s a haven, relaxed and perfect for wine lovers who want to disconnect after a hard day at work.
I had two wines at this first try.
Verbena 2022(Uva de Vida), a pét nat from Santa Olalla in the Toledo province, based on graciano and tempranillo made with direct press, malolactic, three months on lees and no additions.
Ruby red, with bubbles. Smells of cherries and flowers. Rounded in the mouth, no sharp acidity, but still fresh and saline. The wine is simple, but Herbie Hancock’s music is complex, says Nahuel, referring to what plays in the background.
1301 2021(Samuel Párraga), an orange wine vijiriega from the Málaga province partly made under flor.
Amber colour. On the nose, oxidized notes, like almonds and nuts, and flowers. Full and savoury, with a salty finish.
The pét nat went with an oyster, and the orange wine with rugbrød (I recognized the Norwegian/Danish spelling there), sourdough bread with butter and anchovies.
What started in the old synagogue of Ponferrada in the 1940’s is now carried on by 3rd generation. Manuel Benito Otero runs the family business with his wife Merche and their daughters Encina and Marina, whose initial syllables gave the winery its name. It was in 2013 that the need to have production facilities near the vineyards made them move to the beautiful village of Molinaseca outside Ponferrada.
The Otero family’s vines are planted between an altitude of 600 and 650 m in soils with a mix of slate and clay. The 10 hectares of vineyards, with up to 120 years old vines, are all worked completely organic.
Un Botón is a village wine in the Bierzo classification hierarchy, from Ponferrada. It’s made from 100% godello, dry-farmed in aluvial soils. The grapes are destemmed and cold-macerated cold for a few hours (by dry ice). Then goes into a pneumatic press. Once the fermentation with yeasts has started, the must is racked into oak barrels and foudres and a small stainless steel tank where it ferments at controlled temperatures. The wine remains in contact with its lees, with batônnage, for a minimum of 6 months.
Para Muestra Un Botón Godello 2019(Encima Wines)
Yellow colour. Aroma of yellow tomatoes, hints of lemon, stony minerality. Full in the mouth, glyceric, creamy, with integrated acidity. It’s not oaky; the wood in a way enhances the fruitiness.
Food: Light meat, cheese, rice dishes, fish and shellfish. Best served at room temperature.
Raw Wine is ever expanding and has finally come to Scandinavia. Last Sunday some 180 artisans from all over the world was gathered in the conference center The Plant in Amager Øst, Copenhagen. There were three seminars, of which I participated in one (about wines from Castilla y León, read a note here). In the days leading up to the festival there were also tastings and other events collected under #rawwineweek, of which I also participated in the biggest of the additional tastings (see a report from Café Josephine here).
With 180 producers it’s obvious that I couldn’t taste everything. This time I rambled around with no special plan, except I wanted to talk to some that I didn’t know before, some that I knew a little, and of course say hello to some good friends.
My readers might not know that I have a history in Peru. But I have, and my daughter is half Peruvian. Some years ago I visited the region of Ica. It was exciting to know that there is now a natural wine producer right in the desert. The people of Peru knows that it’s their country, not neighbouring Chile, that is the cradle of pisco. The old harbour of Pisco is located right there, only 75 kilometers from Ica, and both are located south of Lima.
Pepe Moquillaza is also a pisco maker and has done a great job recuperating quebranta grapes for pisco production. Now he is rescuing Peruvian clay vessels (also called piscos, or botijas) for natural wine making. In Copenhagen I tasted two of his maritime desert wines. The first one was Mimo Italia Quebranta 2020 (italia, local name for moscatel de alejandría, and quebranta in equal proportions), organically and biodynamically farmed, with two years of skin-contact, not sulphured, aged in old oak, unfined and unfiltered. It’s a light amber coloured wine with good volume, a grapey character and also good acidity. Albita de Ihuanco 2019 is a blend of albilla (local name for palomino) and italia. It combines the minerality of albilla with the flowery scent of moscatel. It’s yellow in colour, and has good volume in the mouth, with some tannin and a lot of fruit. Like the previous wine it has almost zero sugar and a moderate 12% alcohol. The length of the skin-contact is here two months.
Lanfranco Fossà was there on behalf of Davide Spillare, who lends his name to the labels. I met them both when I visited the important village of Gambellara in Veneto five years ago, and it was nice to catch up. (Here you can read about that visit, with more background.) The wines are fresh and lively, and quite light in body. As if some extra freshness is needed, the L1 Frizzante 2021 sparkler has a small percentage of durella to give an extra boost. Bianco Rugoli 2016 comes from an 85 year old vineyard with volcanic soil, with bushes trained in pergola. The nose is complex with mature apples, wax and aromatic herbs, good acidity and a salty mineral finish.
A relatively new discovery is Bianka und Daniel Schmitt of Rheinhessen. During the last couple of years I have tasted several impressive wines, from the entry-level 1 litre bottles of Frei. Körper. Kultur. and upwards. It was then lovely to be able to meet Bianka in Copenhagen. These wines are fresh, tasty and truly inspiring. Here we tasted rieslings, like the flowery, red appley, quince and honey scented Riesling M 2018 and the flor-aged Voodoo Doll 2020. There’s no evil behind the appropriate black label; it is floral on the nose, with almonds, herbs and a touch of tropical fruit. Of the reds I will mention two; first the elegant Spätburgunder2018, with its generous raspberry, complemented with flowers, green peppers and an interesting hint of coffee. Kékfrankos is the Hungarian name for blaufränkisch, that the Schmitt family brought over from there. Now in its 2021 vintage it’s medium-bodied and in a way light, but it’s also wonderfully complex, smells of blueberry, morello, herbs and a touch of coffee, it’s luscious in the mouth with soft tannins, an agreeable acidity and a pleasant bitterness in the finish.
Philippe Lancelot is a natural wine classic within Champagne. The estate was created by his parents who both inherited some vineyards, then bought new ones together. Philippe had introduced biodynamic practise for all vineyards by 2012. He wants to express the individuality of each cru and village, almost always completely dry and in most cases without any added sulphur. He showed five magnificent wines, among them Le Fond du Bâteau 2018, from the lieu-dit (named vineyard) of the same name in the surroundings of Choully, a grand cru village in Côte des Blancs. 100% chardonnay, no dosageand zero added sulphites. Light golden, aroma of green apples, citrus, chalk and brioche, concentrated, mineral, long, pure. The oldest wine he presented was Les Bas des Saran 2014, also pure chardonnay, with no additions. This one comes from four lieux-dits in the grand cru villages, among them Cramant (his home village). It’s vinified in oak barrels and vats, and spent 5 years in the cellars before launch. It has a discreet floral nose, more expressive citrus, brioche, in the mouth it has a dry and tense attack but develops both creamy and fruity.
Château Meylet is another natural wine venture from a classic place. They are also biodynamic since 1987. David Favard runs the family estate, that due to its location in St. Emilion has a high percentage of merlot plants, but also cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot. Cuvée Baiser d’Ange 2021 is an interesting orange wine from semillon, made with 15 days skin-contact in amphora. Yellow colour, rich with a sweetish sensation. Château Meylet 2019 showed that the reds have some oakiness at an early stage. Luckily there are aged wines then. The 2003, made by David’s father, has stood the test of time. Red with brick rim; red and dark fruits, some tobacco and spice; fine tannins and well-balanced, a raisiny touch also.
Mas de la Lune is located in the Agly valley, Côtes du Roussillon. In schist and granite soils grow varieties also known from the Spanish side, all of them 70-90 years old. Vanessa Courtay showed me a handful of wines in several colours. I am not sure which vintage I tasted of Le Second Souffle; I think it might be 2022, although it then would barely have the time to stay the 9 months with skin-contact that Vanessa told me it had. Anyway it had also little colour for that amount of time. It’s made of macabeu and tastes of wax, flowers and yellow apples, with a structure that more than the colour tells about the prolonged time on skins.
I will soon go on a trip to Bobal country in mid-south-east Spain. A perfect introduction was then to visit the table of Altolandon, from the Cuenca part of DO Manchuela. The property lies up to 1.100 meters, that makes a slow maturation and a fresh acidity possible. Carmen Sebastián and winemaker Rosalía Molina showed me several wines as proof of this. Milhistorias Bobal 2020 has a bright red-blueish colour; red and black fruits on the nose with flowers and herbs; it’s fresh and fruity, very much alive and with a super acidity.
When I was about to call it a day and leave I stumbled upon Nacho León of Demencia Wine. He is located in Villafranca del Bierzo, and the name points to mencía, the most important grape in the area. The wines come in an expressive style, with good fruit and firm tannins. Fuente de San Lázaro 2019 comes from 115 year old vines in a variety of soils and is made in old wood. It shows red and black fruits, herbs and am earthy touch; in the mouth it has the firm tannins, and also a lot of freshness. Villegas 2019 comes from sandy and clayey soils and is also made in old wood. Ripe red and black fruits, herbs, a toasted note; the tannins are firm and there is some coffee and a touch bitterness in the end.
A highlight was indeed the veggie pita served by Jakobsen’s Pita. Not least because I met Ismael Gozalo, that gave me a sip of his magnificent Frágil 2021, a glass-raised verdejo, just in time to enjoy it with the pita. And of course, interviewing Isabelle Légeron MW for Vinforum magazine, in a story about the Raw Fair itself. When it’s published I may port a short version of it here.
El Holgazán is a charming wine from the highlands of Ribera del Duero. With 7 months of oak it would have qualified for the “roble” category. But traditional oakiness is not Marta Castrillo and Cesar Maté’s objective, and the oak is used for a controlled microoxidation, thus adding complexity to the finished wine.
The wine originates from a vineyard in Tubilla del Lago (Burgos province) at 920. It’s a varietal tnto fino (tempranillo), hand-harvested from a special plot of 25 year old vines called “El Holgazán” (the lazybones), that sits on clay/limestone soils.
The grapes are carefully selected by hand before the pumping process. The best quality grapes are crushed naturally by gravity and fermented in conical tanks to concentrate the natural flavours. The malolactic fermentation takes place in barrels of various ages and sizes. The juice is kept on the skins for about 8 days, then after fermentation is complete the wine is aged in oak and concrete.
El Holgazán 2019 (Bod. Marta Maté)
Deep cherry with purple tinges. Intense aromas and flavours of dark and red fruits (blackberry, cherry, raspberry), with licorice and a mineral touch. Medium-bodied, with velvety tannins, a nicely fresh yet integrated acidity and a quite long fruity finish. Nothing in excess, everything in harmony.
The local heroes this time are six winemakers from Castilla y León who all participated with their stand at the Raw Wine Fair in Copenhagen. They were Elisa de Frutos (Vinos Malaparte), Ismael Gozalo (Microbio), Jorge Vega (Puerta del Viento), Ricardo López (Vinos al Margen), Alfredo Maestro and Kiko Calvo (Bodegas Bigardo).
Together with Raw Wine’s founder Isabelle Legeron, they talked loosely around today’s theme, based around the six wines offered by the producers. The focus was on local grape varieties. Why do they matter? What happen to the grape varieties when the climate changes? Should we climb higher, pick earlier, or do we need to replace the variety with another?
We got to taste Jorge Vega’s Extinto made by the nearly extinct panycarne variety. We experienced verdejos in a white version made from centennial vineyards by Ismael Gozalo – and as a skin-contact orange wine from Malaparte. There was a delicate light-extraction rufete from Vinos al Margen and a fresh, fruity tinta de toro from Bodegas Bigastro, obviously a Toro wine, but not as much marked by its 16° alcohol as one could expect. Alfredo Maestro brought a wonderful tempranillo-based blend; one part tempranillo and the rest a veritable “de toda la vida” blend. [These wine descriptions will be updated.]
Castilla y León is a huge region with all the wine styles that one can imagine. I never get tired of it, and there is always something new to discover.
Raw Wine brings a lot of activity also outside the fair itself. The day before Raw Wine I had the pleasure to attend a tasting at Café Josephine in the Amager neighborhood of København. It was organized by importer Christopher Melin of Melin Vin, who has an impressive portfolio. Here follow just a few highlights among the many magnificent wines and makers.
What could be more appropriate than to start, like I did last Saturday, at the table of two Danish brothers. Poppelvej is Uffe (winemaker) and Jens Deichman who run their estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia. From organically and biodynamically tended vineyards there and in the neighbouring Adelaide Hills, they produce wines in a natural way, with little or no use of sulphur. Poppelvej is the name of the street in Denmark where the brothers grew up. SommerNat Pét Nat from mourvèdre came in two vintages; the 2022 had a light peach colour and was very fresh, berry fruity and with herbs, while the 2021, with longer time in concrete eggs resulted a bit creamier and fatter in texture. Irresistible Impulse 2022 is a sauvignon blanc fermented in barrel and aged on lees for 10 months. It’s light and turbid in appearance, with notes of apples, passionfruit and herbs, good volume, textured, with crisp acidity, and with a slight bitterness in the finish. Lastly, Lille 2022 is based on the northern Italian grape teroldego. It’s quite dark with a blueish hint, dark and wild fruits, some spice and earth, with a light sparkle.
There were three Italian producers in the “garden party” of Café Josephine organised by Melin Vin (see previous post). Ampeleia is located in the Maremma region of Toscana, specifically in the medieval town Roccatederighi. Under manager Marco Tait they converted to organic and then biodynamic. Francesco Pascucci brought to this tasting a personal trebbiano-dominated blend (with ansonica and malvasia) simply called Bianco di Ampelaia 2022. It’s a light orange wine with a nice dried fruit character that adds complexity to the fresh fruits and orange peel aromas, and with a light structure in the mouth. He also presented a delicious blend in one litre bottle aptly called Unlitro 2022, easy to drink with fresh fruits, herbs and some balsamic. Alicante Nero 2017 is a wine with personality and depth; light and fresh red fruits, but underneath a layer of herbs and earth, and with a delicate structure. Their emblematic cabernet franc wines were offered at the fair itself, if I got it right.
There were two producers from Veneto. Alex Della Vecchia is winemaker for Costadilà in prosecco-land north of Venezia, but he also has his own project called Ombretta. Simone Ambrosini’s Indomiti is found in Colli Berici, Vicenza.
Alex Della Vecchia sources grapes from the family’s vineyards in two municipalities. For his Grinton label he also uses organic grapes from friends elsewhere in Italy. Here in the current vintage Alex showed an easy-drinking, delicate pinot bianco and a more structured, reddish skin-contact pinot grigio. A wine with a tremendous personality was a cabernet franc pét nat. (I must ask Alex about the name, so stay tuned!). The colour was light red with fine bubbles, an aroma of flowers, peel and a sweetish hint, and in the mouth it was tasty, concentrated with a raisiny touch. The wine had been made from passito (dried) grape juice, Alex informs.
Simone Ambrosini tells a story about him as a young man travelling to Australia, in search for harmony and the good things in life, more or less at random. Among other things he learns to love wine. Back in Italy he embarks on studies in enology and viticulture. After working with several wineries he decided to set up his own, with “a wallet full of ambition”, as he puts it. This was as recently as 2018. Now he rents old vineyards that he has restored in Colli Berici, his homeland. These vines, now brought back to life, are the “indomiti”, the indomitable ones that gave name to his project. Mistica was a lovely garganega 9 month skin-contact wine with good structure to the primary fruit. I tasted two wines with tai rosso. The varietal Osai2021 rosé shows delicate raspberry aromas, and in the mouth there is a cool acidity running through an otherwise round and fleshy body. Opplà 2021 is an uplifting pét nat rosé, where the tai rosso is accompanied by garganega, pinot bianco and sauvignon blanc. It’s light orange, aromas of white flowers, peach and a touch of orange peel, and in its lightness it’s full of flavours and with a refreshing integrated acidity.
Two German producers were present. It’s always a pleasure to taste the outstanding wines of Brand Bros of Bockenheim, Pfalz. These are made in full respect of the terroir, without additives, unfiltered, and always full of freshness and energy. This is the first time that I have met one of the brothers, Jonas Brand, who guided the guests through part of their portfolio.
I have had their charming Wilder Satz in many wine bars throughout Europe. The 2022 is different though, as 18 hours of skin-contact gives it more colour and structure than before. It also has good volume and appears quite grapey, and with lovely scents of citrus (clementine), flowers and some balsamic. Jonas brought two magnificent magnums, a non vintage Riesling (with that name) and Monastery 2016. The latter was light yellow in colour, with concentrated aromas of yellow fruits, some balsamic, and on the palate good acidity and wonderful balance. Add to this super pét nats, reds, among them a brilliant Cabernet Franc 2015, and you get the picture of a great producer.
Unknown to me was Glow Glow of Nahe. Pauline Baumberger runs it with her brother. Pauline showed various fresh, lovely uncomplicated whites from riesling and gelber muskateller, a relatively dark dorenfelder/regent, and more. Here we focus on the Spätburgunder 2022, that has all the young virtues of the white wines under a coloured cover. Made partly with carbonic maceration and short skin-contact it appears as a light rosé-ish wine with red fruits on the nose, and with a delicious natural acidity wrapped in a rounded body.
It seems to be no end to the list of interesting producers coming out of the ancient and historic wine country of Georgia. Andria’s Gvino I had never heard of, but now it’s not easy to forget. The winery is located in the Kakheti region, not far from the capital Tbilisi. They make their wines in the traditional and natural way, in qvevri, without additives and without filtration.
Winemaker George Wolski and his wife Tako showed me their main line and also the wines that come with the Château Khashmi label. There was a number of beautiful amber and red wines, of which I will only mention two. Their Mtsvane had lots of character. The colour was light amber, with aromas of mature citrus, orange peel and a touch of marzipan, and in the mouth it was rich and structured with a touch of raisins. George tells that the must spent five days with full skin-contact in qvevris. The Saperavi Khashmi 2020 comes from a 40 years old pre-phylloxera vineyard. Saperavi is fascinating grape that often has an impressively dark colour, but is still highly drinkable. This one is not among the darkest and has a blueish hue. I find it quite flowery with dark fruits (boysenberries), plums, some earthiness, and in the mouth it’s fresh and juicy, with some tannin, and overall it’s very appealing.
I am preparing for a trip to Spain and Bobal country. Bobal is native to Utiel-Requena (where it accounts for 80% of the red grapes) and surroundings in the comunidad of València. It is also very much at home in La Mancha, such as the Cuenca and Albacete provinces. But it can be found far beyond these boundaries. It is the third most grown red grape in Spain, having lost second place recently to garnacha.
The must is normally high in colorants and tannins and is suitable both for aging and for blending with other varieties. The wines tend to be fruity, low in alcohol content and high in acidity.
I ordered four wines present in my home market. I intend to visit all of the producers, so here I will only give a short presentation of each.
Aurelio García and his wife Micaela Rubio run the first project. They have both worked and consulted in various companies locally and nationally. Here they focus on their roots, their personal taste and local grape varieties and sites.
El Reflejo de Mikaela is in a way an entry-level wine. It is fermented with 30% whole bunches in stainless steel tanks, then aged in moderately porous French vessels made from clay and silica and barrels.
Casa lo Alto is a hamlet outside Venta del Moro, València, where the winery is located. Víctor Marqués is winemaker. The wine Manzán comes from three plots planted with bobal in bush-style between 1940 and 1965. The soil is calcareous clay, poor in organic matter. Use of chemical products is avoided and biodynamic preparations are used. In the winery the grapes are destemmed but not pressed. They undergo a spontaneous fermentation with native yeasts. After pressing, it is decanted into barrels with its lees for approximately 10 months.
Bruno Murciano is a trained sommelier. In 2005 he started his project to make his own wine. He bought 8 ha of old vineyards with bobal in his hometown of Caudete de las Fuentes. In 2010 the first wine was made together with friends, and most of all his brother José Luís, who brought with him experience on how to work biodynamically, among other things.
L’Alegría is made with grapes from the Las Brunas vineyard located at 900 m above sea level. The vines are 85 years old, grown in clay soil. The wine is made in steel tanks.
Bodegas Mustiguillo of Utiel is one of the farms that have their own DO Vino de Pago. Owner Antonio Sarrión is also currently resigning after his period as president for the group Grandes Pago de España. The pago is El Terrerazo, a 160 ha property in Utiel. When Sarrión took over, and after having purchased nearby plots from local farmers, he planned to launch equal parts of bobal, tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon. But soon he realized the potential for the local grape, and bobal is now by far the leading grape in Mustiguillo’s reds.
Finca Terrerazo is a monovarietal bobal from wine from vineyards 800 meters above sea level, on very poor soils with limestone with a sandy-loam texture, from old vines planted between 1945 and 1970. Each plot was vinified separately. Fermentation in oak vats with native yeasts for 8-10 days, with gentle pump-overs and pigéage. Aged for 14 months in French oak. Bottled without stabilizing or filtering.
El Reflejo de Mikaela 2018(Micaela Rubio & Aurelio García)
dark, blueish hint. Mature fruit, blueberry, cherry, herbs. Good acidity, dryness of strong earl grey tea, or maybe crushed stone.
L’Alegría 2019(Bruno & J.L. Murciano)
Dark, quite dense. Mature black and red fruits (blackberry, cherry), eucalyptus, coffee. Good volume, abundant tannins, spice, quite big but also with some elegance. A couple of years cellaring is recommended.
Finca Terrerazo 2019(Bodega Mustiguillo)
Dark cherry. Dark and red fruits (blackberry, raspberry), spice, some toast. Good volume, firm tannins, good fruit and acidity, and a mineral touch. Bears 14,5° alcohol well. A couple of years further ageing recommended here too.
Clos des Vignes du Mayne in the Mâconnais (southern Bourgogne) has been owned by the Guillot family since 1952. The land has been used for farming for more thousand years, and no chemical products have ever been used. Now Julien Guillot makes the wines in the most natural way possible, and according to a biodynamic philosophy.
The Bourgogne Rouge Les Crays comes from a small plot of vines aged around 40 years old in calcareous soil. Certified by Demeter, Guillot uses natural treatments and preparations. The harvest is manual and the grapes are selected in the vineyard itself.
The pinot noir grapes are macerated in whole bunches for about 8 days. Following spontaneous fermentation with native yeasts, the wine ages in wooden barrels for 12 months. It is finally bottled without being filtered, clarified or any sulphur added.
Bourgogne Rouge Les Crays 2020 (Julien Guillot/ Clos des Vignes du Maynes)
Cherry red. Dark and red fruits (dark cherry, raspberry), tart plum and tea against a mineral background, and a hint of acetone. Good volume, meaty, lovely texture and good length.
In my local wine club we had recently a tasting of nine riesling grand crus from Alsace, and one blend. The wines showed a generally very high quality. The prices are high, but considering the quality I find them competitive compared to many other areas.
None of the three so-called “conventional” wines excelled. Of these the Brand grand cru from the Turckheim cooperative was the most interesting, not least because of the price. Trimbach‘s wine from the same vineyard was way too expensive, and the Schlumberger southern Saering uninteresting. Among the natural and organic producers I found Gustave Lorenz‘ wine okay. Kreydenweiss‘ wine from the northern Wiebelsberg cru sadly had a touch of mousiness. But even so it was not difficult to tell that it is a fabulous wine.
Here are five wines that really stood out, all of them from the central area near Colmar, all of them good ambassadors for their respective crus and for the region.
Zotzenberg Riesling Grand Cru 2019(L. & A. Rieffel)
Zotzenberg sits in a basin on the south side of the Mittelbergheim hillside which reaches 320 meters. It’s facing east and south, and has quite a lot of sunshine. It covers 36 hectares, is composed of marl and limestone. The cru was formerly known for its sylvaner, but now gewurztraminer, riesling and pinot gris all perform well here, with wines of both freshness and body.
The Rieffel property covers a total of 9.5 hectares and is currently run by Lucas Rieffel, third generation of winegrowers, who took over from his father André in 1996. They are based in Mittelbergheim, central Alsace, but have also vineyards in the north.
Tasting note: Light golden colour. Rich and open aroma of yellow apples, flowers, a peppery note. Good volume and structure, a touch menthol, long.
Brand Riesling Grand Cru 2021(Zind Humbrecht)
Brand is located in Turckheim, where Zind Humbrecht has their headquarters. The soil is granite and the exposure is south, southeast. The altitude is up to 380 meters, and it totals 57 hectares. Both riesling (41%) and other grapes are grown here. A structured palate and a “willowy freshness” (Vins d’Alsace) resulting in a mineral sparkle and a saline sensation is typical for this cru.
The domaine was created in 1959. It’s today run by Olivier and Margaret Humbrecht. They have 42 hectares and are co-owners of six grand crus, among them 2,4 hectares in Brand. They use biodynamic methods.
Tasting note: Light yellow. Intense aroma of flowers, citrus, aromatic herbs. Great concentration and minerality, steely acidity, dry, long. This wine is young at the moment and has a long life ahead. (Read about another vintage of the same wine here.)
Bordering the edges of the municipality of Eguisheim, the locality of Eichberg Grand Cru faces the south-east at an altitude between 220 and 340m. Here is a particularly dry and warm microclimate, as the amount of rain registered is currently the lowest in the Colmar area. The terroir of this locality is essentially composed of limestone conglomerate and marl, with clayey, stone-rich soil. The 57.62 hectares grow various varieties, noted for opulence, fruitiness, but also finesse.
The head office of the Ginglinger family is in Eguisheim, in a house dating from 1684. Pierre-Henri who lends name to the company, took over in 1976. Today it’s run by his son Mathieu, 12th generation, who manages 15 hectares his wife Stéphanie. -You grow good grapes by respecting the earth, he says. Thus, organic farming has been practised for a very long time.
Tasting note: Light golden. Aroma of mature citrus, pear, flowers. Generous and fruity, with good acidity, elegant.
Schlossberg Riesling Grand Cru 2017(Dom. Bott-Geyl)
Schlossberg is a 80 hectare cru on sandy granite with south exposure in Kientzheim. The altitude is all the way from 230 to 400 metres. Riesling is the indisputable master here with 71% and the best wines by far. With a long growing season, this terroir has ideal ripening conditions for the grape. The wines are often light and floral, and with freshness from the granite.
Jean-Christophe Bott has been responsible for Domaine Bott-Geyl since 1993 and converted to biodynamics in 2002. In the vineyards he believes in low yields and in the cellars he employs natural and minimalist methods. The domaine owns vineyards in 6 grands crus.
Tasting note: Light golden. Intense aroma of mature apple and flowers, with a touch of smoke. Concentrated, lovely structured, fresh, with a stony minerality, long. Great richness and delicacy at the same time.
Kaefferkopf Grand Cru 2015 (Christian Binner)
Kaefferkopf is the latest addition to the grand crus, from 2007. It is located in Ammerscwihr, just outside Colmar to the northwest. It’s a granite-limestone vineyard with east exposure that is distinguished for various grape varieties. This wine is based on 40% gewürztraminer, the rest riesling and pinot gris. Therefore I placed it outside all flights at the end of the tasting.
Christian Binner comes from a family of vintners that has been producing wine in Ammerschwihr since 1770. He is also noted for helping small farmers in the area with facilities and bottling their wine using his Les Vins Pirouettes label.
Tasting note: Light amber, slightly turbid. Aroma of yellow tomatoes, orange peel, dried fruits and some spice. Great structure and complexity, long.