Last week, the HDH team gathered together to taste the exceptional wines of Domaine Zind Humbrecht. These wines are the benchmark for the Alsace region, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to taste several of them side by side. It was a great reminder of the heights wines from this oft-overlooked region can reach in the hands of a great producer.
The Humbrecht family has viticultural roots in Alsace that can be traced back to 1620. Since 1989, Zind-Humbrecht has been managed by Olivier Humbrecht, one of the world’s only winemakers to attain MW status. Olivier has overseen the expansion of the winery’s cellar and the conversion of the winery to biodynamics in 2002. The domaine produces wines from many traditional Alsatian grape varieties including Gewurtraminer, Muscat, Pinot Noir, and Riesling, but for this tasting, we focused on their Pinot Gris. Though grape originated in Burgundy, it’s been widely planted in Alsace since the 16th century due to the fact that it is a vigorous varietal that is well-adapted to the deep, chalky soils of the region. The personality of this varietal is strong, so much so that Alsatian Pinot Gris can successfully be paired with dishes that would typically be paired with a red wine.
With all this in mind, we delved into the tasting: five bottles of Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris (four of which were from the famed Clos St. Urbain, Rangen de Thann Grand Cru vineyard) including a bottle of Vendange Tardive and a bottle of Selection de Grains Nobles. The first wine we tasted was the 2009 Pinot Gris “Calcaire.” The grapes for this wine are sourced from young vines in the Clos Windsbuhl vineyard, Zind-Humbrecht’s northern most vineyard. The thin topsoil, limestone rock (Calcaire translates to limestone), and high altitude of this vineyard help create a wine with vibrant acidity matched by honey and dried fruit characteristics. The balance of the wine was astonishing, especially given that my co-workers had their eyes locked on to the Grand Cru wines. It just goes to show that even in difficult years a world-class producer can produce a fantastic wine.
That said, the late harvest wines from Clos St. Urbain lived up to their lofty expectations. Both came from the 1998 vintage which has been described as, “the year of the century for botrytis wines in the grand cru of Rangen”. It was a rare experience to see the same grape, from the same vineyard, from the same year made into two very different wines. The 1998 Pinot Gris, Clos St. Urbain, Vendange Tardive (Late Harvest) had a luscious mouthfeel and a honeyed sweetness. The volcanic rocks and tufa of the vineyard gave the wine a smoky elegance to match the earthiness of the Pinot Gris grape. It’s complexity and long finish made it a true pleasure to drink. The 1998 Pinot Gris, Clos St. Urbain, Selection de Grains Nobles (Selection of Noble Berries) is predominantly made from grapes affected by noble rot and with an even higher sugar content than Vendange Tardive. Not much else can be said about this wine as it needs to be experienced. My coworkers remarked about its perfect texture and precision while others said they were going to race back to their computers to buy bottles for their cellar. This is a wine that can last at least fifty years and shows what an artist Olivier is.
The wines of Domaine Zind Humbrecht are some of the best white wines in the world and, at their current prices, represent a true value. Check out Hart Davis Hart Retail’s excellent selection of these wines and add them to your collection today!