We were fortunate enough to welcome Olivier Humbrecht to Crossgar at the start of June for a tasting of just some of the Zind Humbrecht wines we have in stock. This was the first time I have met the man widely acknowledged to be the king of Alsace winemaking, as well as my first opportunity to taste so many of the Zind wines in one sitting – and what a stunning line-up.
Alsace wines tend to be underrated and can be quite a hard sell, largely I think because of what is perceived to be complicated labelling; this is a shame as the wines possess a real sense of regional character and present something a bit different, an interesting alternative to the often brand-saturated and formulaic supermarket offerings of “international” varietals these days.
Zind Humbrecht Label
Four things really struck me listening to Olivier that evening:
His vast scientific knowledge of viticulture together with his profound belief in biodynamic farming and in employing ecologically sustainable agricultural practices, and the effect these have on the quality of wine.
Winemakers in Alsace seem to have more than their fair share of bureaucratic red tape to grapple with – frankly it’s amazing that they manage to produce wine that complies with the legal vagaries at all. In spite of this, Olivier is passionate about Alsace as a wine producing region and about raising its profile. He conveyed very clearly that he makes his wines simply to be enjoyed – by “ordinary” people and not just for a niche market or wine buffs.
Just how food friendly the Zind wines are; I was surprised at the acidity levels, belied by the honeyed sweeter notes on the nose. The Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim 2006 stood out as a particularly stunning match for Asian dishes.
The prices of Zind Humbrecht may seem high. But given the quality of the wines I tasted, the level of expertise employed in producing the wines and their ageing potential together with what must amount to substantial production costs, I really believe the prices are actually justified.
My favourite wine of the tasting was:
2004 Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Vendanges Tardives, Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Unbelievably rich with amazing length; honey, melon and nutty notes on the palate. Despite the huge sugar content, the wine is not remotely cloying or sickly, just incredibly well balanced and elegant. Olivier told us that the locals would typically drink this with rustic terrines and foie gras – absolutely delicious.