A freak Alsace and a Rieslingfreak

2001 Zind Humbrecht Clos Jebsal Pinot Gris SGN 12%

2001 zh pg sgn 2021

From Alsace (France), a rare botrytised Selection de Grains Nobles (SGN) purchased at auction in late 2014 For $115. Previously reviewed on 29 June 2016, back then I gave it 97 points.

The cork was in excellent condition; the bright amber/copper colour of the wine caused some looks at the table, but all was forgiven – and more- when people smelled, and then tasted.

Baked apple, stonefruit – ripe peach and rich dark honey with some candied peel and dried fruits; palate (168 g/l) is lush yellow peach, pear, orange marmalade and spice notes. Outstanding. The sweetness level is high, but immaculately folded into balance. Gloriously enduring and hauntingly fresh tasting – irresistible. Magic again.

97 points, drink to 2028, but why wait? – this is a wine worth seeking too!

2017 Rieslingfreak #8 (Schatzkammer) 7%

2017 rieslingfreak #8

Medium-sweet at 50g/l, this is from the Polish Hill River sub-region of the Clare Valley.

2017 was a highly successful vintage for the area – and is well represented in my cellar. Winemaker John Hughes makes only Riesling- a numbered array showcasing various areas, styles, sweetness levels, including a fortified and a sparkling. Rieslingfreak (reverence of riesling)is a fantastic brand name!

Lemon zest with a dash of lime; apples dusted with icing sugar and lemon sherbet, with a dash of sweet spices; the palate follows through representing those aromas, and some light honey; pebbly acidity means the wine is lip-smackingly joyful and balances the level of sweetness. An excellent example of the style (roughly a Kabinett-weight)

I’m inclined to drink it in the next few years while it thrums with vibrancy.

Drink to 2025, 90 points


An Alsace VT, and a Portuguese Vp

2001 Louis Sipp Kirchberg de Ribeauville  (grand Cru) Pinot Gris (vendanges tardive) 12.5%
Alsace provides disproportionate disappointments caused by cork- oxidation and TCA. The discard rate should make anyone extremely wary. When the wines behave as intended they can be magnificent (the 1990 Trimbach Clos st Hune Riesling garnered a perfect score from me once; a second bottle a few years later was almost as memorable, and I have tasted awesome bottles from Josmeyer and Zind-Humbrecht).

This Louis Sipp wine was a final gamble– a bottle tried a few months ago was oxidised to undrinkability. Pinot Gris is a low acid, “quiet”  variety (undistinguished in Australia), but if aiming at the “gris style” with sensitivity, ripeness and some residual sugar, it can be a surprisingly adept partner with fish. Obtaining texture without phenolics being too overt is the winemaking key; alcohol, residual sugar and winemaking finesses are important.

2001 louis sipp pg vt

Vendanges tardive indicates late harvest, but the residual sugar level – moderate but an easily discernible amount- is unknown. The wine is golden in colour, displaying tropical notes of pear, baked apple, mango, honey, spice, and glace fruits. The palate is drying out, but still exerts attractive grapey sultana character, mandarine, yellow peach and mixed spices to wrap it up.

Better a few years ago, but a decent, well-chilled bottle will provide considerable enjoyment

Drink now (or via time machine a few years ago), 89 points.

1980 Warre’s Vintage Port 20%
Served blind, and a translucent brick colour, this wine exhibits mocha, almond, vibrancy and is relatively dry for the style; then fig and rose-petal emerge. Uniformly identified as Portuguese by commentators at the table, Warres was the house deemed likely. Its age was assumed as a declared but “lesser” year. This wine is a further triumph for 1980, showing a winning combination of life and mellowness ,with a wholesome, lingering palate.

Drink to 2030, and 92 points.

2001 Zind-humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal SGN 12%

Is 15 years too old for an Alsace SGN?

Thankfully the cork had not influenced the wine.

According to the Hugel vintage chart, 2001 in Alsace was special for late-harvest Pinot Gris.

For once, the usual informative vintage and wine notes from Zind-humbrecht (from a Coe Vintner’s site) have been truncated, so I’m missing some background. I understand that the site Clos Jebsal is particularly favourable for late-harvest and botrytis styles – and this wine contains 168 g/l of residual sugar.

2001 zh pg sgn

The wine’s colour is amber with some copper tints.

The bouquet exudes freshness, tropical fruits, glace fruits, marmalade, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. The palate is yellow peach, nectarine and  and mandarine. It’s viscous, textured, balanced, and ripples with vitality. The complexity of the bouquet and palate really sets this wine up as special.

97 points, drink to 2025.

2000 Louis Sipp “couer de trie” Selection de grains nobles Pinot Gris SGN 12%

From auction, this is a 500ml bottle from Alsace – keen researchers may find some notes I made on Starforum back in 2008 “somehow carrying the pineapple, cinnamon, some light butterscotch, baked apple pie with just enough acidity – a nice wine with huge sweetness”.

Pinot gris and residual sugar is a wonderful match.
2000 louis sipp pg sgn
The cork has mercifully behaved, and at 16 years, the wine is now a deep amber colour with copper tints (no drama in a botrytis wine). It’s floral, mostly with ripe apricot, apricot jam and cinnamon spices. This is maintained on the palate, with touches of marmalade, citrus peel, and some baked apple. It’s sensual and voluptuous, the acidity continues to provide support.

While the wine may even have provided greater pleasure a few years ago, it still provides unctuous and luscious drinking- but please consume and enjoy soon.

90 points, drink to 2018.

Alsace, again

alsace may 20162001 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardive 12.5%

This wine has seen better days. The colour is a dark gold, but legitimate for its variety and age. It displays red apple and brown pear aromatics, plus some hints of bruised apple oxidation.

Its quite sweet (around 100g/l), but there is enough acidity to avoid any cloying; the pear flavours flow on a viscous palate, and the message is – drink up. Ready, and enjoyable but it had the misfortune to be paired with the following wine.

87 points, drink to 2018

2007 Dirler Spiegel Gewurztraminer SGN 12%

I was terrified to open this- from the last 2 wines from this Alsace estate, one was badly oxidised, the other corked – and no response from the producer despite 2 emails. But this wine was pristine.

Light gold in colour, its resoundingly fresh, with aromas of ripe red baked apple, musk, talc, cinnamon.  The balanced palate shows more rose petal, apricot and white peach, some honey and citrus, and is richly textured, fine, clean, and there is no cloying despite the 150-odd g/l of residual sugar.

It’s an outstanding wine, combining varietal character with botrytis richness.

96 points, drink to 2023

A night of Alsace whites

A group of enthusiasts aimed to explore mostly wines from 2007, except for the bracket of sweet wines at the end.

Alsace is in France near the German border, so its flipped a number of times. A cool Continental climate, and shelter from the Vosges mountains means it’s very dry. The wines can get very ripe, and often some sugar is retained to keep the wines balanced. Frustratingly, this means it’s difficult to tell in advance how dry/sweet any wine will be, and what food matches work.  Many wines are more textural and phenolic than Australians are comfortable with.

There are 51 grand crus sites – too many, and too large. The sweeter wines Vendage Tardive (VT) and Selection de grands Nobles (SGN) carry a significant premium price.

2007 Boxler Sommerberg Pinot Gris 13%

2010 Jean-luc Mader Schlossberg Pinot Gris (sweet) 11.5%

Off to a good start, with both wines gold in colour, the Boxler (approx. 30 g/l rs) viscous, displaying pear juice, limes, ginger and nutmeg spices, marzipan and citrus peel on the palate – drink to 2020, score 93).  The sweeter Mader was not as forthcoming on the bouquet, with dark honey to the fore, but had a finer, longer creamy mouthfilling palate, and was the groups preferred wine (drink to 2022, score 94 points).

alsace 2016 pg and gwt

2005 Zind-Humbrecht Hengst Gewurztraminer 14.5%

2007 Sorg Eichberg Gewurztraminer 13.3%

2007 Dirler Cade Kitterle Gewurztraminer 14%

The three wines all showed their varietal character. ZH rows their own boat, with high alcohols on most wines, this one showing rose, honeysuckle and musk, its length partly contributed by its alcohol, and the palate beginning to dry out (37 g/l rs).  Drink up, 85 points. The Sorg looked more “feminine”, gently textured, but some bitterness detracted (drink to 2018, 88 points). The Dirler (41 g/l rs) was the group’s preference, some apple and tropical fruits on its bouquet, toffee, honey, and an attractive touch of apricot on the palate; altogether lovely (drink to 2020, 91 points)

alsace 2016 rieslings

2007 Stirn Brand Riesling 13%

2007 Dirler Cade Kessler “heisse wanne” Riesling 13.5%

2007 Boxler Brand Riesling 13%

2007 Boxler Brand “K” (kirchberg) Riesling 13.7%

The Stirn seemed a bit awkward initially, austerity and some petroleum over-riding its flintiness. But it limbered up, with limes, white flowers and minerals emerging (drink to 2020, score 91 points).  The Dirler was our first casualty – blue cheese, butterscotch and oxidation too noticeable for me. The group favourite Boxler (18 g/l rs) was a delight; dried red apple, cinnamon and other spices, terrific length and lip-smacking texture (drink to 2025, 94 points). The Boxler “twin” was the 4 g/l rs “K”; with a similar slinky supple palate, but the higher alcohol made its presence felt Drink to 2020, 91 points).

Then it was a true gamble with a bracket of deliberately sweet wines, and individual desserts.

alsace 2016 sweeties. jpg

2009 Stirn Muscat VT 12.5%

2007 Dirler Saering Gewurztraminer VT 14%

1998 Zind-humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris 13.5%

1997 Hugel Sporen Gewurztraminer SGN 13%

1997 Louis Sipp Osterberg Gewurztraminer VT 13%

The Stirn was a restrained style but full of interest; grapey, fruitcake spices, poached pear, and Lemon peel (drink to 2020, 90 points)

Zind-humbrecht (71 g/l rs) was affected by hessiany TCA – a shame as there was plenty going on underneath. The Louis Sipp was badly oxidised.

The Dirler (54 g/l rs) looked slightly bruised-apple-oxidised, and a little hard and burnt; but still provided some drinking enjoyment with stewed apricots, orange blossom and some savouriness on the palate. There will be better bottles.

The Hugel (103 g/l rs) was a classy wine; even though the colour was amber, it had the luminous glow that often brings up the expectation of excitement.  And it delivered – citrus peel, marmalade, dark honey, on an unctuous balanced palate. And will keep for many more years (to 2023, 96 points)

Overall, the wines were ready to drink, (although the Boxlers look age-worthy) with cellaring a bit of a gamble. A very enjoyable evening, despite cork problems making 3 of the 14 bottles undrinkable, and one more slightly affected– a disgrace.

2005 Dirler Kessler Pinot Gris 14%

Bright clear gold, this Alsatian wine seems quite advanced with low-key but authentic scents of musk, marzipan and almond meal. It’s dense and rich with chalks, flints. Fruit descriptor would be beurre bosc pears. Perhaps 50 g/l residual sugar, and it’s beginning to dry out, but the heroic 14% alcohol doesn’t seem inappropriate. The acidity is adequate, but not quite enough to warrant further cellaring (although Pinot Gris is a notorious low acid variety).

2005 dirler pg

Grimly, another instance of a Grand Cru site, but somewhat disappointing for a wine labelled at this standard.

Drink now- 2017, score 86

2005 Zind-Humbrecht Heimbourg Pinot Gris SGN 10%

zind sgn

The selection de grains noble (SGN) from Alsace. I guessed at 190 g/l; but is 219 g/l.

I struggle to define Pinot Gris; sometimes its pear-like, with more body than  riesling but throw in botrytis and its all too difficult. This wine is  at BA sweetness levels and the oiliness and honey elements could easily lead to choosing this as a Mosel wine; there are some phenolic aspects, nothing untowards.

Pale colour revealing some musk and lemon sherbet and botrytis spices, very sweet pear and apricot but held together by magic acidity; marvellous texture and balance, so clean – will live for another 20 years. Score 95+.