The Zind Humbrecht 2010’s Great wines from the finest Domaine in Alsace!
Domain Zind-Humbrecht produces some of the world’s greatest white wines. The family estate has been producing wine since 1658 under the Humbrecht name, and merged with the Zind family estate in 1959. The entire estate is fully biodynamic, with Olivier Humbrecht even raising his own organically-fed rabbits to ensure control over the rabbit manure used as fertilizer in the vineyards. ZH owns many of the finest sites in Alsace, producing a range of wines from Pinots Blanc and Gris to Riesling, Gewurz and Muscat, to amazing Vendange Tardive and Selections des Grains Nobles dessert wines. Olivier Humbrecht believes absolutely in letting each wine “speak for itself,” achieving the perfect expression of the site, the soil, the fruit and that year’s growing conditions. Because of this, he produces an extensive range of wines of varying character, and especially of varying sweetness. In fact, Olivier has developed a proprietary “Indice” system to carefully grade each wine to its apparent sweetness. The bone-dry wines are some of the very finest matches for summer fish, while the mid-dry wines are perfect for cheese, rich chicken/pork dishes, or Thai. I’ll let Olivier speak for himself in the notes below, but suffice to say, these are the greatest wines produced in Alsace, and some of the world’s very finest whites. If you’re not familiar with ZH, it’s an experience not to be missed. If you already know his wines, then you know they belong in every well-stocked wine cellar.
2010 Vintage Notes (Olivier Humbrecht, March 2012)
2010 will probably considered as one of the most extreme vintage in recent years, as we went from -26°C before Christmas to an extremely hot July. 2010 will also be remembered as one of the smallest crop in Alsace for many years, with yields sometimes up to 70% smaller in some areas.
December 19th 2009, temperatures were so low that even Christmas trees were frozen! The sad thing is that many vineyards suffered bud loss if not sometimes whole vines in frost sensitive areas (valley floors around Colmar). Winter lasted up to April, so bud-break was quite late. Some favourable periods in May helped most vineyards to start flowering early June, but most were in full flower middle June while the temperatures dropped. This cold weather caused some serious grape loss through coulure (flowers aborting), and that was the second climatic effect explaining the small 2010 crop. Millerandage and coulure were exceptionally high, even in grape varieties that are usually more resistant like Riesling. Later flowering vineyards like Rangen and Clos Windsbuhl were proportionally less affected, because the weather turned very hot and dry the last week of June.
July was extremely hot with important rainfalls (storms). August was very wet, almost double the average with around 125mm in Turckheim, and also cold. Curiously, Oïdium was more of a problem than Mildew. From November 2009 to October 2010, we had the following amount of rainfall: Thann: 698mm, Windsbuhl: 612mm, Turckheim: 615mm, which is above the average 525mm. Overall, the vines looked beautiful and the soils were covered by a lot of greenery in August. Despite the higher amount of rain, the grapes remained very healthy because of the colder temperatures and later ripening season.
End of August saw the return of exceptional weather, gradually getting cooler towards October and very dry with many days of north wind blowing. Rot was not a problem in 2010 as the weather conditions favoured healthy grapes and very late noble rot development. The harvest started the 20th September and finished the 18th October with the Rangen Riesling, actually much earlier than anticipated.
All wines from 2010 are characterized by a very high acidity, low pH and good to very high ripeness. Fermentations were very slow and many wines fermented for over a year, in a very similar way to 2008. Yields are extremely low. The average of the estate is 29hl/ha with many gewürztraminer vineyards below 20hl/ha. All grapes performed very well and most vineyards eventually developed noble rot towards October. To avoid making too many sweet wines, especially for the Riesling, like in 2007 and 2008, we were able to start harvesting end of September.
Like many previous year, bio-dynamic farming helped us to obtain perfect physiological ripeness before the development of noble rot. As usual, the two last vineyards harvested were the Riesling Rangen and Clos Windsbuhl, which were still very healthy and produced exceptional dry mineral wines. Two SGN were made in Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal and Clos Windsbuhl, and two Vendanges Tardives in Brand and old vines Herrenweg.
Without any doubt, 2010 is a great vintage that produced wines capable of long ageing.
Indice: level of sweetness on the palate. This note combines the sweetness, acidity, alcohol and overall structure of the wine. It ranges from 1 to 5.
1: technically dry or tasting dry.
2: not technically dry, but sweetness not apparent on the palate. Some tasters might find some roundness on the finish.
3: medium sweetness, especially present when the wine is young and might gradually disappear with the ageing.
4: Sweet wine
5: High sweetness, VT in richness without the usual botrytis
Alc/Alcohol: finished alcohol level at end of fermentation, RS/Residua Sweetness: sugars in g/l naturally left in the wine at the end of the alcoholic fermentation. H2SO4: total acidity in g/l expressed in sulphuric acid (in France).
Gewurztraminer Calcaire 2010 $45.00
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alcohol: 14.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 13.4 g/l; 4.6 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 18 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2013-2025+; Average age of vines: 27 years. Terroir: Oligocene calcareous, facing west, severe slope and Oolithic calcareous facing East. Gentle slope. Indice 2. In 2010, the harvest of both our Gewurztraminer from the 30 years old vines from Hengst and the entire Goldert was so small following the bad flowering (and hail in Hengst) that we decided to blend the two together into this label. Both vineyards are located on calcareous soils and are capable of producing very interesting wines. The limestone effect is recognizable on the nose (less floral, rose/geranium scents) and on the palate (more acidity and spicy character). The 2010 Calcaire fermented over a year and eventually finished almost dry. The Calcaire label will be used in the future for the Gueberschwihr wines and any declassified limestone vineyard on the estate. 3/2012: the nose is already quite intense, showing complex floral aromas (old English roses) and lots of spices (nutmeg, saffron, cloves…). There is still a slight reductive fermentation character due to the long lees contact this wine had. The nose announces a wine that can be quite sweet, but the palate actually comes as a surprise because it feels drier than expected. Despite the rich structure, it is a wine that has a delicate and elegant mouth-feel. This wine will be excellent with medium spicy food dishes.
Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim 2010 $49.00
Bottling date: 9/2011; Alcohol: 12.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 69 g/l; 4.2 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 32 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2012-2025; Average age of the vines: 37 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor; Indice 5 For once, being located in one the most precocious area of Alsace didn’t serve the gravelly Herrenweg vineyard. The flowering started early June and the vines were in the middle of flowering when the weather changed and became dramatically colder with some rain. The immediate effect, especially on the fragile Gewurztraminer, was a very bad fruit set and many flowers aborted and fell (coulure) or had no or just one pep provoking millerandage. The consequence was a reduced yield that made an extraordinary rich wine. Due to the richness, the fermentation stopped earlier and this wine kept a large amount residual sweetness. We are here very close to the Vendanges tardive style. 3/2012: there was mostly passerillage than botrytis, so the nose is very floral and expressive, showing intense exotic and rose aromas. The small yields prevent the flavours to be too simple and there is a nice overall typical varietal expression. Having stopped with a ‘lower’ alcohol’, the palate shows a nice delicacy and elegant sweetness. In keeping with the 2010 style, there is no extra weight in this wine. Of course, it is a typical ‘end of the meal’ wine, ideal with cheese or desserts.
Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turkheim Vieilles Vignes 2010 $55.00
Bottling date: 9/2011; Alcohol: 12.8° alc; Residual sweetness: 72 g/l; 4.0 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 18 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2012-2030+; Average age of the vines: 64 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor; Indice 5. Just like the regular Herrenweg vines, the very old vines suffered from a difficult flowering and the yields were even lower. Both wines have a similar analysis, and one could wonder why these two wines were not assembled together. The Herrenweg is a valley floor vineyard, on a poor gravely/sandy soil whose main default is a lower mineral content, because water can drain them quickly. To express some complexity and find a more regular nutrition, the roots have to penetrate deeper, but these soils are usually quite compact and it is actually very difficult for the roots to explore the soil deeper. Proper farming will allow to preserve the minerals and bring them back closer to the surface (allowing plants to grow through the year), but nothing will replace the effect of an older vineyard. The 2010 is a rich wine that kept a balance which is close to a late harvest style. 3/2012: the influence of the old vines shows on the nose and palate. There are much less floral expression here and more complex spicy ripe fruits aromas. The palate has a great structure. Of course, the mouth-feel is rich and dense, but with this typical Gewurztraminer richness. Here, there is some noble rot influence, as the wine also develops some ‘roti’ character (phenolic) and chocolate aromas.
Zind Humbrecht Gewurztaminer Hengst 2010 $83.50
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alc: 14.35° alc; Residual sweetness: 37 g/l; 4.5 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.6; Yields: 16 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2040+; Average age of the vines: 59 years; Terroir: Marl-Oligocene calcareous. South-south-east facing, medium to steep slope. Indice 3. The Hengst Grand Cru enjoys an old reputation for being the place to grow Gewurztraminer. The combination of a high lime content calcareous soil, some marl, a warm and dry setting, but not too precocious, provide the best conditions possible for this difficult grape variety. It was very saddening to see these old vines being hailed early July and in consequence, loose about half the crop. Perhaps the very small crop also allowed producing this wine? Who knows, but the result was a beautiful crop of dense, bright orange coloured grapes (modern clones are dark pink/red but less interesting). Interestingly, this wine fermented in two times, only finishing at the end of the 2011 harvest with a medium off dry sweetness. 3/2012: the nose is extremely complex and associate some faint residual floral aromas, more exotic fruits like litchi/mango and lots of spicy, bacon, toasted flavours. It is at the same time discreet and intense, and far from the dull perfumed Gewurztraminers. The palate is concentrated, shows great acidity balance and the residual sweetness is more than welcome to create a harmonious finish. This vineyard is capable to make wines that hide their richness very well and make Gewurztraminer a complex grape.
Bottling date: 9/2011; Alcohol: 10.7° alc; Residual sweetness: 131 g/l; 4.2 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.7; Yields: 14 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014-2035+; Average age of the vines: 65 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor. This wine is made from grapes originating from the Wintzenheim old vines and some of the Herrenweg old vines. In both areas, the crop was very small. Both vineyards also have very similar soil type (gravelly alluvial soils) and were harvested the same day. Assembling these two wines allowed us to produce a decent volume. The noble rot had spread a lot over most clusters and it was not a surprise to see that this Vendange Tardive is in fact very close to a Sélection de Grains Nobles in style, ripeness and yields. T wasn’t possible to make any selection at harvest as the crop was already very small! The fermentation was slow and stopped early, keeping a large amount of residual sweetness. 3/2012: the nose is very expressive and aromatic, showing strong ripe exotic fruits and noble rot character (chocolate, roasted aromas, honey). Usually these vineyards do not produce very mineral style wines, but here, concentration and old vines helping, this wine shows a very interesting complex saline finish. The sweetness takes over the palate in a gentle way because the alcohol is quite low and the sensation of acidity leaves a fresh touch. Stilton, Roquefort or a light fruit pie please!
Muscat Goldert Grand Cru 2010 $59.00
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alc: 12.5 ° alc; RS: 9.8 g/l; 4.3 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.3; Yields: 45 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014-2025+; Average age of the vines: 23 years; Terroir: Oolithic calcareous, facing East, gentle slope. 90 % Muscat d’Alsace, 10 % Ottonel. Indice 2. The Muscat d’Alsace is now famous on the Goldert for many years. The ideal combination of a late ripening climate and limestone soil stops this grape to become overly rich and perfumed while retaining great structure. Muscat Goldert is also a wine that will be able to age and develop an interesting minerality. In 2010 the Muscat d’Alsace was picked very healthy, slightly later than usual but without any over-ripeness character, developing an ideal phenolic ripeness. The fermentation lasted a full year and the wine finished almost dry and kept a great acidity. This vineyard contains very little Ottonel grape, so the crop was totally normal in a year of generally small yields. 3/2012: the nose is still going from full floral notes to mineral stony aromas. Full lees contact has also made the wine less developed. The palate shows a discreet sweetness and very nice Riesling-like texture. The acidity, well present on the middle palate, and the lower alcohol make it extremely elegant. The flavours are long lasting and that little sweetness is almost not perceptible. There is no doubt that this Goldert will age for a very long time.
Pinot-Gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 2010 $45.00
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alcohol: 14.3° alc; Residual sweetness: 26 g/l; 4.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.4; Yields: 37 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2012-2020; Average age of the vines: 19 years; Terroir: gravely soil on valley floor. Indice 3. The Herrenweg is located on the gravely alluvial soil between Turckheim and Wintzenheim. These soils struggle to keep minerals and often suffer from drought, but, because they are well drained, they warm up quickly and it is always there that we start the harvest. In 2010, the crop was much smaller than usual and the grapes were harvested very ripe. The wine has a higher than normal acidity, and this probably is the main reason explaining an exceptionally slow fermentation. At one stage, we really thought that this wine would keep much more sweetness, but eventually, around October 2011, the yeasts finally finished their work. 3/2012: at this early stage, the wine still has attractive post-fermentation characteristics, with an expressive nose, showing toasty aromas, almonds, wax and some smoke. The palate should feel sweeter, but the acidity plays its role in the harmony of the wine, so the finish is clean and doesn’t leave a sweet impression. This is a particularly well balanced Herrenweg!
Pinot-Gris Heimbourg 2010 $52.00
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alcohol: 14.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 16.5 g/l; 4.7 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.4; Yields: 21 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2012-2028+; Average age of the vines: 25 years; Terroir: marl-calcareous, facing west. Indice 2. We chose to plant Pinot-Gris on the top part of the Heimbourg vineyard. There, the soil is much poorer and thinner and the effect of the active lime is stronger (pH of the soil 3 feet deep is around 9/9.5). It is also more windy and exposed to colder temperatures, which is actually interesting for this grape as it stops them to botrytise to early and also keeps better acids in the grapes. As the botrytis was slow to start and the grapes showed excellent phenolic ripeness, we decided to harvest them before sugar content would soar too much. In 2010, we were also concerned by the very small crop that would even be more reduced if harvested too late. The fermentation was excruciatingly slow and we wondered if this wine would ever stop fermenting! Finally, around October 2011, it was finished and we were surprised to see how far it went. The Heimbourg is still a relatively young vineyard, but year after year, it shows its potential to become one day a top vineyard in Turckheim. 3/2012: the Heimbourg vineyard is recognisable for its very aromatic, fruity style, often mixed with candied or dry fruits. In 2010, there is also a strong fermentation character on the nose: lots of nutty, vanilla, crème brulée aromas. These are purely the effect of long lees contact, there is no new oak! The palate is slightly round or gentle. The finish is long, quite aromatic and expressive. The small residual is well integrated and participates to the velvety touch.
Pinot-Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2010 $75.00
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alcohol: 15.6° alc; Residual sweetness: 15 g/l; 4.2 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.5, Yields: 32 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2014-2035+; Average age of the vines: 41 years; Terroir: Muschelkalk calcareous, south/southeast facing. Medium slope. Indice 2. The old vines of Pinot-Gris in the Clos Windsbuhl were planted by the previous owner in the 50’s and 60’s. In these days, the choice of root stock and massal selections were orientated towards quality and vines were planted in higher density. The Windsbuhl is located in a cooler part of Alsace and quite high in altitude (300 to 380m), which explains the late ripening character of this site, despite the solar facing and good slope. Like any late ripening vineyard, the Windsbuhl has the capacity to keep good acidity and also will allow the development of noble rot, mostly on the Pinot-Gris grape. In 2010, it was quite phenomenal and we were able to separate the noble on these vines. We finally produced this drier wine but also a richer Selection de Grains Noble. Despite the relative richness of this wine, the fermentation was powerful and we were glad when it stopped. 3/2012: the nose shows all the delicacy of this vineyard. There is a harmonious sensation between ripe fruity nose (noble rot influence) and strong minerals. The palate is intense, feels quite dry with a balanced finish. This wine also has the ability to hide its power (which is quite a common quality for a lot of 2010s). It only needs a few more years of ageing now!
Riesling Gueberschwihr 2010 $39.50
Bottling: 3/2012; Alcohol: 12.5 °alc; Residual sweetness: 9 g/l; 5.6 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.0; Yields: 45 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period 2014-2025; Average age of vines: 36 years; Terroir: Limestone/calcareous/siliceous, facing East and South. Gentle slope; Indice 1. This is probably the last time we will label this wine as ‘Gueberschwihr’. Not because it is almost impossible to write for the non-residents, but because we were the only one to use this village designation and under Alsace new wine laws, we won’t be allowed to continue. I am not debating whether it is fair or not, but it obliges us to use the designation ‘Calcaire’ for any future vintage (Calcaire means limestone). If 2010 is a high acidity vintage, it is probably in limestone soils where the acidity is the sharpest and makes the most vivacious styles. The grapes were very healthy and with the very small crop, they produced an intense wine with an enormous ageing potential after a very long fermentation. 3/2012: the wine is still on its lees so the nose is very mineral. A little aeration will help the development of fruity aromas (citrus) and show more the potential of this wine. The palate starts very sharp, but the light sweetness eventually helps to hide the crisp structure and makes the finish very interesting and almost smooth. The balance of acidity also brings a mouthwatering saltiness.
Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim 2010 $49.50
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alcohol: 13.3°alc; Residual sweetness: 7.5 g/l; 5.6 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.0; Yields: 30 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2012-2030; Average age of the vines: 45 years; Terroir: gravely soil/silt; Indice 1. The cellars of domaine Zind-Humbrecht are located in the middle of the Herrenweg vineyard. Herrenweg means the ‘soldiers road’ in reference to the old romaine road that linked Colmar to the other side of the Vosges. The Herrenweg is our most precocious vineyard because it benefits from the Colmar specific climate (driest and warmest in Alsace) and also the soil, made of pebbles and fine sands, drains easily and therefore warms up very quickly. As temperatures at roots level are more influential on precocity than temperatures at leaves level, it explains why any grape variety on the estate is always harvested first in the Herrenweg. Specific canopy management and the use of some bio-dynamic preparations also help the vines to mature physiologically quicker. This is very important in vintages where alcohol levels can be too high, as we can harvest earlier with better acids. This is exactly what happened in 2010 with this Riesling. The grapes were fully ripe and we could harvest them at a moment where the acidity was still important. It seems like a contradiction but the numbers are there! 3/2012: the nose shows a surprising nice minerality for the Herrenweg, usually fruitier and simpler. The selection was stricter in 2010 and the proportion of older vines is more important. Yields are also very small! The palate has the structure of a tight limestone Riesling, with a crisp saline acidity. Low RS, so the finish is quite dry and long. Pity that this is a small cask as it is probably our best Herrenweg to date!
Riesling Brand Vieilles Vignes 2010 $97.50
Bottling date: 3/2012; Alcohol: 12.9° alc; Residual sweetness: 33.5 g/l; 5.8 g/l H2SO4, pH: 3.1; Yields: 17 hl/ha; Optimum drinking period: 2015-2035+; Average age of vines: 60 years; Terroir: Biotite granite, facing south. Steep slope. Indice 3. The Brand vineyard is located in one of the most precocious and warm vineyard area in Alsace. The combination of well drained warm granite and a climate that brought enough humidity in August explains why this vineyard developed so much noble rot so early. Most years we have the possibility to separate the noble rot affected grapes from the healthy ones, but this wasn’t possible in 2010. In fact, the clusters with the highest proportion of noble rot produced a Vendanges Tardive, and, the rest produced this wine which still reached high level of concentration. The fermentation was the slowest of any Riesling in 2010, probably due to the very high acidity, really amazing for this kind of vineyard, and sugar ripeness. 3/2012: being one of the last Riesling to finish fermenting, this wine still shows strong fermentation character (lees, slight reduction) and the more pure fruity aromas will take some time to come out. Usually Brand is one of our most aromatic wines and this one will not be an exception. It just requires more time. The palate is model of harmony between a relatively high sweetness and great sharp acidity. This wine tastes much drier than what one can expect in seeing the RS. The finish is long and delicate, with complex citrus and minerals notes. Amazing aging potential.
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