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Latest releases from one of the great winemakers of Alsace: 2019 Zind Humbrecht

The 2019 vintage from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht has just been released, with superb scores from James SucklingOlivier Humbrecht is one of the world's great winemakers and his grands crus in particular are a bargain when compared to equivalents from Burgundy, so it is madness that his wines are not more widely enjoyed in this country.  Unfamiliar names and perhaps a bit of uncertainty over style and sweetness levels are one reason for this.  The three lieu-dits and five grands crus below are all dry on the palate, except for the Gewurztraminers, which show some sweetness in youth.  All are in strictly limited quantities with scores ranging from 95-98 points.

2019 already had the makings of a good year, following on from the excellent 2018 vintage (vines have a two-year growing cycle and in good years lay down embryonic buds for the following growing season).   The summer was warm and largely dry, with some timely rainfall in August, avoiding excessive water-stress and allowing the grapes to reach perfect ripeness.  Despite this, acidity levels were also excellent, so much so that the fermentations, which are slowed by high acidity, took up to a year to complete.  This acidity also means that most will still be drinking in 20-30 years.  The wines have brilliant concentration, structure and refinement.

Suckling's high scores and succinct notes heap praise on the 2019s, but these are wines which defy simple explanation.  For us, the best writer by far among the current wine critics is Andrew Jefford, who wrote an article in the FT this summer in praise of Olivier as a winemaker:

"Many domains in Alsace and Germany produce huge ranges of 30 or more wines, but their diversity is chimerical: a matter of labels and vineyard names, while the wines resemble each other.  Not so with Zind-Humbrecht.  Every wine...Humbrecht makes each year is clearly differentiated from its peers - strikingly characterful, saturated with scent texture and flavour.  They are singular sensual objects of huge personality and impact."

Jefford's lyrical conclusion is that, since wine is "a liquid subject to the depredations of time (it) can be neither monumental nor abiding. Yet Humbrecht’s come close."  We agree with this conclusion and cannot recommend these wines highly enough.

See Oliver Humbrecht introduces his domaine in this short film:

Offered pre-landing, available by January 2022

 

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace

Producer Profile

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace

The Humbrecht family have grown grapes in the great terroirs of Alsace since 1620.  Domaine Zind Humbrecht was created in 1959 and today owns 40ha of vines in the Grand Crus of Rangen de Thann (5.5ha), Goldert in Gueberschwihr (0.9ha), Hengst in Wintzenheim (1.4ha) and Brand in Turckheim (2.4ha); as well as the terroirs of Rotenberg (1.8ha) and Clos Häuserer (1.2ha) in Wintzenheim; Herrenweg (11.5ha), Clos Jebsal (1.3ha) and Heimbourg (4ha) in Turckheim and the Clos Windsbuhl (5.15ha) in Hunawihr.

As well as being winemaker at the family domaine, Olivier Humbrecht became the first French Master of Wine, in 1989, at the age of just 26.

The expression of terroir, conveyed through grape varieties of Alsace, is reinforced by cultivating the vines organically and according to biodynamic principles. Great lengths are gone to each growing season to produce the best quality grapes from each vineyard. As respect for the vine and soil life is imperative, the viticultural tasks are carried out by a team of 22 dedicated staff members. The high ratio of vineyard worker to vineyard surface enables an attention to detail and the execution of many of the viticultural tasks manually. In addition, animal traction and the use of their own compost help to reduce the impact of mechanical compaction on the soils.  Fermentations are very slow, and the wines spend a minimum of 6 months on the total lees

 

WHITE 2019 5 cases Zind Humbrecht - Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 75cl £210 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl
2019 / 5 cases / 75cl
£210 per case of 6
IB
Tasting Notes"Gewurz can be an impressive but tiring wine. With its floral delicacy and lively, graceful personality, this is the opposite of the bombastic norm. The touch of sweetness stays in the background and the floral freshness wins out at the long, precise finish. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drink or hold. 95 points." James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com Jul '21
WHITE 2019 2 cases Zind Humbrecht - Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St Urbain 75cl £285 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St Urbain
2019 / 2 cases / 75cl
£285 per case of 6
IB
Tasting Notes"The 2019 Pinot-Gris Rangen was harvested towards the end of September. We aimed for healthy ripe grapes, but with a balance that could achieve a dry wine. Most vineyards planted in Pinot-Gris in Alsace often require a high potential to be expressive. The Rangen, with the impact of its soil and very low natural yields, can actually also produce concentrated and flavourful wines without sweetness, as the past vintages have demonstrated." Olivier Humbrecht MW------"So spicy and smoky with a hint of mushroom, this is an enormously deep and concentrated dry pinot gris that’s just beginning to open up. With some aeration, ripe melon character is added to the expansive picture. Tons of spice at the imposing, dry finish and just a hint of raisin. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drinkable now, but better from 2023. 98 points." James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com Jul '21
WHITE 2019 2 cases Zind Humbrecht - Riesling Brand 75cl £240 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Riesling Brand
2019 / 2 cases / 75cl
£240 per case of 6
IB
Tasting Notes"The Grand Cru Brand is located just above the village of Turckheim on a succession of small biotite granite hills. It is visible from the large Munster valley which means that despite its south, south-east facing, the Brand also enjoys the wind running down the valley. The vines grow here in a very precocious climate, accentuated by the granite that warms up quickly and transfer sun heat deep in the soil. It is however a geology that enable the roots to grow deep in the soil, at levels where they can feed from the clay and minerals resulting from the granite decomposition. These old vines were planted at a time when massal selection was the norm, so cluster are small and yields are naturally small, particularly in 2019 when most Riesling showed millerandage. Due to the ripeness of the grapes in 2019, the fermentation was particularly slow for this wine. We couldn’t believe that eventually the wine fermented bone dry after 12 months of activity. 2024-2044+" Olivier Humbrecht MW------"A giant of minerality with enormous structure, this also delights you with the stunningly ripe apricot and pineapple fruit that’s wrapped around its dense core. This will surely only get better for many years to come, as it slowly reveals its deep riches. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drinkable now, but better from 2023. 98 points." James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com Jul '21
WHITE 2019 3 cases Zind Humbrecht - Riesling Clos Hauserer 75cl £160 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Riesling Clos Hauserer
2019 / 3 cases / 75cl
£160 per case of 6
IB
Tasting Notes"The Clos Häuserer is a little 1.2ha vineyard planted with Riesling in 1973. It isn’t an historic vineyard as such as it was created by my father, who managed to group together many small parcels to form a large coherent square. It is bordered on the top by the Hengst Grand Cru and the Häuserer road just below (the road to the houses in reference to an old roman settlement not far away). It was easy then to appreciate the quality potential of this vineyard and its capacity to produce long lived wines. The Clos Häuserer is lying on the same mother rock as the Hengst: a siliceous marl limestone from the oligocen period, but with a top soil layer much thicker (about 1 meter). This vineyard enjoys a warm micro-climate in summer, but the soil remains cool and the vines never suffer from drought. Like many wines produced on this geology, the Clos Häuserer is slow to ferment. The 2019 was harvested at a perfect ripeness and finished bone dry." Olivier Humbrecht MW------"With its cornucopia of yellow fruit, floral notes and wet-stone character, this is at once fleshy and enormously structured. Nothing opulent or warm about it at all, though. In fact, the very long finish is decisively cool. You really need some time to take in this embarrassment of riches! From biodynamically grown grapes. Drink or hold. 96 points." James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com Jul '21
WHITE 2019 1 case Zind Humbrecht - Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 75cl £210 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Riesling Clos Windsbuhl
2019 / 1 case / 75cl
£210 per case of 6
IB
Tasting Notes"The Clos Windsbuhl has an incredible history that goes back to the 14th century, when it was owned by the Habsburg of Austria. Alsace was part of the Saint Roman Empire until 1648. Right from the beginning it was always considered a special place, not just for the quality of the wines and their uniqueness, but also for the beauty of the nature that surrounds the vineyard and the strong energy of the ‘hill where the wind plays’. Its higher altitude, the proximity of the forest and the thin rocky limestone soil are probably the main factors that explain why the Windsbuhl produces wines with such elegance and noble character. The vineyard in 2019 was superb, the grapes were perfectly ripe but more important, kept a balance that allowed the indigenous yeasts to craft an intense dry wine. It was kept 18 months on the gross lees before bottling without any manipulation." Olivier Humbrecht MW------"It’s hard to resist the fragrant bouquet of apricot and orange blossom! This is very dense and concentrated with very intense, chalky minerality, yet it remains so graceful and the very long finish shows wonderful silkiness that pulls you back for more. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drink or hold. 96 points." James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com Jul '21
WHITE 2019 2 cases Zind Humbrecht - Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St Urbain 75cl £285 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St Urbain
2019 / 2 cases / 75cl
£285 per case of 6
IB
Tasting Notes"About 350 millions years ago, a small stratovolcano (the Molkenrain) covered a large part of the southern Vosges mountains with volcanic ash that eventually sedimented under the sea and was compacted in the dark heavy rocks (Grauwackes) that one can see in the Rangen Grand Cru today. The Rangen is at the eastern end of that area, the only one where vines can be cultivated, which explains why this vineyard is so unique in the Alsace landscape. The vineyard is extremely steep as these rocks do not erode easily. They do decay with time though, and produce some very interesting high surface clay, so important to fix minerals and humus. Young vines struggle to grow in this rocky soil, but with time, the roots can eventually reach these richer layers, bringing complexity to the wines."------"This dry riesling masterpiece is full of seeming contradictions that give it a sense of mystery you very rarely find. So rich and concentrated, yet also astonishingly vivid and precise, the aromas range from smoke to roses, although the most obvious note is the peachy one up front. Breathtakingly long and complete finish with so much mineral complexity. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drink or hold. 98 points." James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com Jul '21
WHITE 2019 3 cases Zind Humbrecht - Zind' Chardonnay-Auxerrois 75cl £80 per case of 6 Zind Humbrecht
Zind' Chardonnay-Auxerrois
2019 / 3 cases / 75cl
£80 per case of 6
IB

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