Alsace has done all it can to ruin its reputation as a wine producing region.
For one its market is flooded with irrelevant mass productions; and the quality designations that govern it are no longer reliable parameters.
The Grand Cru-System seems like a contraption from the stone ages; and in several of the 51 classified locations more than just doubtful wines have been produced over the past few years. At the same time, the incumbents of the region have had a hand in preventing new parcels to gain any kind of status. Furthermore, many small producers have had to face defeat due to market pressure and have ended up under the wings of large cooperations and wine cellars.
Any type of clear lean-profile is no longer recognizable. In some cases, there seems to be a growing trend towards extremely high alcohol and residual sugar levels, which do more than offend the long stranding tradition of fine and subtle, but most of all dry wines from Alsace.
But there is hope.
There is a counter-movement: independent private wineries that strive for consistent quality without certified Grand-Cru vineyards. On top of that many of these wineries have successfully completed a conversion towards all organic farming.
However, only a few of them take this exciting yet, often troublesome path as firmly as Domaine Jean-Paul Schmitt in Scherwiller has done and still does. Low yields of 35 hectoliters per hectare; completely hand picked grapes; very slow fermentation processes by the help of natural yeast; strictly no enhancement in the cellar; abandonment of chaptalisation; and almost no filtration are the basic principles of Jean-Paul Schmitt’s estate. In addition, their main focus remains on dry wines.
Please, no wood flavors!
Schmitt elevates several of his white wines in oak barrels. However, only in very old barrels, as ‘wood flavors’ are pretty much the last thing what the wine maker wishes to offer his delicate solitaries. The results are ’Slow Wines’; totally complex wines that are full of surprising details and often significant differences from one vintage to another.
While the estate produces the typical wine sorts such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, they also hold high stock and devote attention to their Pinots.
The one wine that seriously blew my mind was the Pinot Gris Rittersberg Réserve Personelle 2010. Its impressive structure makes you easily forget the 14.5% alcohol it holds inside. Four grams of residual sugar grants for a dry wine infatuated with ripe honey melon, preserved fruits in rum, accompanied by bitter oranges and a bit of bitter almonds. In addition to that there is a tender suggestion of anise and fennel. In the background a discreet spicy acidity is embedded into the symphony of flavors. Thus, this Pinot remains drinkable, despite its incredible power and gives a long lasting and heavily melting farewell.
But this Domaine manages to easily top this outstanding wine with another.
Much sugar that suits.
The Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2008 simple is a dream of fully matured, sweet grapes. A tantalizing smell of roses, ripe yellow fruits and acacia honey flatters the nose. Litchis and marzipan fill the palate. If anyone ever wanted to find out what the sensation of 63 grams per liter of residual sugar, perfectly inbound into an opulent aroma structure is like, has most certainly chosen the right domaine and more importantly wine to discover as much.
Alsace, mon amour! In respect to wines, these words are getting ever more rare. However, we have managed to discover a winemaker - an organic one at that - who has knocked our socks off:
Original allemand : Captain Cork - 23/03/2014
English Adaptation : Anna and Bernd Koppenhöfer
Note from Domaine Jean-Paul Schmitt:
Today we offer our Pinot Gris Rittersberg Réserve Personnelle 2012: 6.5 grams of residual sugar and 14% alcohol. This outstanding Pinot Gris received excellent 93/100 points from Suisse journalist Yves Beck - Beckustator, as well as from WeinSpion Uli Kutting from Germany.
Currently we offer the Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2009 with 57 grams of residual sugar and 14.5% alcohol: winner of the gold medal at the international BioWeinpreis.