Recent misses (and hits)

1968 Moulin Touchais (Coteaux du Layon) Loire Valley
Chenin blanc. A bit of dried apple, but this oxidised bottle provided no pleasure.
1979 Moulin Touchais (Coteaux du Layon) Loire Valley
Similar, but worse. Pretty dead.

These “fails” could not be scored. But Cellartracker shows there are better bottles around.

2004 fonseca
2004 Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port
Portugal. Ruby colour with some bricking; dark red fruits and plum, dried fruitcake and spices, almond meal, clean spirit, savoury, grippy, chalky. Maybe a tad light, but very smashable at the end of a long night! Not a generally declared year, and in this year Fonseca also produced a Panascal. The single quinta wines can be excellent value.

Drink to 2030, 92 points

2005 Zind-humbrecht Turkheim Riesling 13%
Alsace. Advanced mandarine colour; apricot and tropicals run riot. Palate is off-dry, waxy, with lime marmalade, and  22 g/l residual sugar. Great fun, but drink up. Alsace is so inconsistent, but when they get it right. Zind-humbrecht sometimes seem alcohol-heavy; this hit the spot.

Drink now, 90 points

2000 Chambers botrytis tokay
Rutherglen, Victoria. Its colour was almost mahogany, but it was still kicking sweetly with orange, toffee, quince,  and dried fruits. It was very grapey, spicy, and varietally not Riesling nor Sauterne-like. I was pondering Frontignac, or something unusual.

Botrytis tokay (muscadelle) is uncommon, but not unique. Chambers in Rutherglen released thi style from 1996, 2000 and 2011. Pfeiffer has also made the style.

Drink now, and 90 points-  as a wine that was difficult to define, but worth the effort.

1977 taylors VP
1977 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port
Portugal. Memories came flooding back after this wine was unmasked; it was the first Portuguese VP I ever tasted, and I instantly purchased one bottle despite my meagre salary. That bottle was opened in mid-2005 – “rose-petal & raisin & Turkish delight, high alcohol, huge power- another 20 years”.

Sixteen years later…. ruby with some brick, not the deepest, but with a mix of red, blue, black, purple fruits; fresh, fleshy, ultra-supple, clean spirit, almond notes, spices and rich dark chocolate. Its owner informed that a three-hour decant did the trick. This wine looks indestructible, and its complexity was a delight.

Drink to 2040, and 95 points


2000 Zind Humbrecht Rotenberg Pinot Gris SGN 11.5%

The cork broke, but performed its task; the colour of this wine is dark amber, with some copper tints (and harmless tartrate crystals).


Pinot Gris is a low-acid variety, but from appropriate sites- and old vines-  is capable of extended improvement with cellaring.  Zind-Humbrecht has wonderful sites in its Alsace home.

There is lots happening- spiced apple and pear, lime marmalade, marzipan and pastry- perhaps a smidge of VA too; the palate is intense and viscous, its length supported by some phenolics. It seems quite alcoholic in weight and mouthfeel (not hotness), but the label shows this perception is erroneous, an artifact of its botrytized concentration (153 g/l of residual sugar).

Details of the vintage, and this wine with notes from Olivier Zind-humbrecht are here.

Drink to 2025, and 91 decadent, easy points.

2005 Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Hengst 14.5%

From Alsace, and much, much better than a bottle tasted about 12 months ago (drying out and where the alcohol poked through too). Hengst is one of the too-numerous distinguished sites of Alsace.

Long cork, in excellent condition. Quite a developed gold colour, but the aromatics absolutely leaped out, providing enormous confidence; musk stick, green pineapple rind, dried fruit spices as well.


The palate is rich and viscous, faintly oily; the integrated acidity sets off the 40-odd g/l of residual sugar providing a versatile “not-dessert” food match (chicken, tonight). Despite that sweetness, its a savoury style, concentrated,  with tropical flavours of just-ripe pineapple, a dash of lime, and some ginger spice to tickle the interest further.
A terrific wine overall, and an excellent tribute to the skills of Zind Humbrecht, the complexity that cellaring can bring, and the marvels of Gewurztraminer from the right site, in the right hands. Vintage notes can be found here.

If only every cork-sealed bottle could be this pristine!

Drink to 2023, and 94 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.

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.

2001 Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Hengst 14.5%

Obsessive readers will recall an earlier post (May 2015) when I tasted the 2002 edition of this wine. Alsace wines are often “manly” and Zind Humbrecht is typically at the extremely powerful end. Hengst is one of the too-numerous Alsace grand cru sites. The colour is a bright brassy gold, but very respectable for a wine that is 15 years old (and the long cork has performed its duty).  Alas, the tall  bottle is ridiculously heavy. The wine however presents with archetype dark honey, musk and rose-petal aromas.

zh 2001

Alsace is situated near the border of France and Germany, meaning its history is littered with changes of nationality. On one of the occasions I visited this scenic area, the couple who owned the B&B spoke to each other in different languages – they understood both, but each preferred to speak in a different one!

Meanwhile, the palate is lush and ripe (guessing 40 g/l sugar), oily, honeyed, with apricot, other ripe stonefruits, camphor and unashamed phenolics.  Gewurztraminer is a wine of distinct intrigue, but usually one glass is quite enough. This bottle passes this hurdle admirably, despite nearing the end of its drinking span – and it probably would have been better a few years ago. The acidity has ensured the sweetness does not cloy, and the wine possesses “drinkability”.

Drink to 2018, score 90.

FYI, the vintage rating chart published by Alsace producer Hugel is here

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+.