Divine Alsace

Competitive wine prices and friendly faces

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

14 June 2018

It was an enjoyable wine evening earlier this month, Sunday 10 June, at Domaine Josmeyer in Wintzenheim. Lady winemakers who form the group DiVINes d’Alsace poured their wines.

Alsace is so rich in soil types and terroirs that the sheer number of grand cru designations is not enough. Some day, there may well be a premier cru category as well. Will that create clarity or confusion for customers? Atypical bottle shapes, complex names and (still unpredictable) residual sugar levels have not been the strongest selling points for Alsace, but Les DiVINes d’Alsace puts a feminine touch to #Alsace wine. With women winemakers, oenologists, competition organizers, wine merchants and sommeliers, Les DiVINes are committed to its success.

The 70 or so members regularly organize thematic tastings at their estates, visits to Alsace’s Vineyard Museum, pre-harvest technical meetings, and meetings just to get to know each other better. Their association joins a national circle of “Women of Wine” groupings alongside Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhone, Provence and the Languedoc among other regions.

Upcoming DiVINes events next month can be found on this page.

I do hope that they translate their page into English and organize DiVINes tasting events outside of Europe. Of course good wine can be made by women or men, but in this era of #MeToo, DiVINes tours could be an added selling point. Indeed, a few years back, I managed to combine my media relations work at the Council of Europe with my passion for wine, having invited DiVINes winemakers to the Council of Europe to pour wine and talk about discrimination they had faced as women in the wine world. Friend and journalist Javier Aguilar of the Spanish news agency EFE penned an article about the experience that was picked up by Spanish language outlets in both South America and in Spain. So we got news coverage, and drank some delicious wines. ?

In any case, it was nice to catch up with Laure Adam, the 15th generation of the Adam family for the eponymous domain in Ammerschwihr, which gives you a sense of the festive ambiance at the DiVINes tasting. In the video below, I asked Laure about the marvelous nature of the 2014 vintage for Alsatian whites, as well as her thoughts about the DiVINes group.

About the tasting 

Another great thing about this tasting was catching up with fellow wine writers and pals I see at other events in other parts of the world. For example, it was so nice to see, among other friends in the wine writing world, Stefanie Köhler, Raoul Salama, Bernard Burtschy, Gavin Chen (who traveled all the way from Hong Kong), Yves Beck, Christer Byklum as well as Neil Beckett of The World of Fine Wine. In Vino Veritas? Indeed, we end up at nice places like Domaine Josmeyer. An added plus – a very important plus – about the fine wines of Alsace? Top wines here are not as ridiculously expensive as big names from Bordeaux or Burgundy or Champagne. For true #winelovers? Alsace is paradise. 

Not quite as divine, sure, but nice to catch up with fellow wine geeks Gavin Chen, Yves Beck, Christer Byklum and yours truly. ?

Some 36 DiVINes d’Alsace properties took part. The wines were paired with different themed foods at various stands mostly en plein air, with a live band performing. For example, late harvest wines were paired with delectable desserts, both chocolate and fruit based. Muscats with delicious white asparagus. The appetizer section, naturally with charcuterie and … mini Kougelhopf, with Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc. I arrived a bit late so missed most, but the 2016 Domaine Pfister Pinot Blanc (88 points) is a very good illustration of solid, tasty Pinot Blanc, with white stone fruit, juiciness and freshness.

Muscat Love

This section featured many Muscats sweet and dry, served with white asparagus and elderberry mousseline. Also mini veggie tarts.

  • 2016 Ginglinger-Fix Muscat – France, Alsace
    Suave delivery and fresh, but just a bit too sweet for my taste. A solid Muscat however, if you like them on the sweeter side of the register. Meant to go with a delectable appetizer of white Alsace asparagus with elderberry. (87 pts.)
  • 2014 Maurice Schueller Muscat Goldert – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
    Not dry to be sure, but you have to admire the grand cru here, as the wine shows more grip and density than the preceding 2016. (90 pts.)
  • 2016 Domaine Jean-Marc Bernhard Muscat Tradition – France, Alsace
    Lovely aromatics, perfumed, and a smooth and suave palate. For a Muscat, pretty darn good. And a fine match to the spring vegetable tart. (89 pts.)

A couple of dry Pinot Gris and for the theme “Alsace Fish”
Potato and herring and trout rillette went well with these wines!

  • 2014 Josmeyer Pinot Gris Le Fromenteau – France, Alsace
    After a few other dry Pinot Gris, this impressed me with a slight reductive note but showing much density and character on the palate. Dry and yet rather full bodied. Salinity, too, as the vintage is fresh and higher in acidity than, say, 2015. And the label is really pretty. Go for it! (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Louis Sipp Pinot Gris Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
    The floral aromatics beguile you. The palate is soft and supple. While it lacks the grip and focus of the Le Fromenteau by Josmeyer, tasted just before, it is an appealing wine. (88 pts.)

Interlude with “Alsace meats”
Several rich wines, but I only tried one. It went well with the veal and pork dish.

  • 2017 Zeyssolff Klevener de Heiligenstein – France, Alsace, Klevener de Heiligenstein
    This was one of several wines for the “meats” section of the soirée. The mini Fleischanacka was very tasty! I should have tried the meat pie, but I need to be careful about my weight. I digress. This is a very good example of a the Savagnin Rose grape. The nearly 14 grams of residual sugar are very well integrated, and one gets a spicy delivery with charm and ripe fruit, as well as freshness. Bravo! (89 pts.)

Château de l’Eau. It was rather hot outside!

Choucroute time with Riesling
By the time we got to this section, I drank some water first and avoided the choucroute. It has been rather hot in Alsace these last few days. I even snapped a photo of a winemaker with a bottle of … Alsace water ?

  • 2012 René Muré Crémant d’Alsace Pinot Noir Brut Millesime Grande Reserve – France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
    Tasted with Neil Beckett of the World of Fine Wine and we both found it impressive for the depth as well as the quality and finesse of the bubbles. There is some unresolved oak perhaps, but a lovely bubbly, méthode traditionnelle, that would fit the needs of a gastronomic palate. (92 pts.)

Fine Alsatian vintage bubbles

  • 2014 J.B. Adam Riesling Alsace Letzenberg Les Grands Vins – France, Alsace
    I took much pleasure from this high altitude terroir that may one day be considered “premier cru” in Alsace – as the campaign to introduce premiers cru terroirs continues. The vines here average 45 years of age, just one hectare of vines, mostly Riesling but some Pinot Gris in the vineyard. This bottle is only Riesling, with fine concentration yet also vivacious and energetic. Seek this 2014 out! (92 pts.)
  • 2014 Meyer-Fonné Riesling Wineck-Schlossberg – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
    Tasted along with the Riesling Letzenberg by Domaine JB Adam, this wine rivals the Adam with similar positive traits: density, depth, tension on the palate, with lift on the finish. Another successful 2014 from Riesling in Alsace. (92 pts.)

Pinot Noirs

Several Pinot Noirs
I tried six but these three were the best. No food here, save for some fine French bread.

  • 2016 Armand Hurst Pinot Noir – France, Alsace
    Part of a series of Pinot Noirs tasted at this fun evening of Divine d’Alsace: all women winemakers. This 2016 vintage is designated as “Terroir B” coming from the famous Brand vineyard, and it has much appeal! Subtle density, smooth tannin and depth. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Domaine Henri Schoenheitz Pinot Noir Linsenberg – France, Alsace
    This may be the best Pinot Noir from Alsace that I can recall tasting. Just two barrels of the stuff, so about 600 bottles. Tomorrow at the trade show, I will try other reds from this domain, as 18% of its production goes to red, and this particular wine is very small production. The vines are not that old – about 15 years (as opposed to the 45 year old vines at Armand Hurst, tasted before). But the vines are trained to be lower to the ground, to get as much of the heat from the stony surface – granite – as possible. Full south exposure on very high elevation terroir, about 450 meters above sea. One gets the impression of superb ripeness, almost jam like, but with fine structure and balance. Bravo! (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Marcel Deiss Burlenberg – France, Alsace
    Impressive substance to this wine, density to be sure, but it seems to be a bit austere, almost too much so. Could it be in just a phase? I am not sure. It lacks the sumptuousness of the Schoenheitz Linsenberg of the same vintage, but it does delivery “matière” … give it time. (88 pts.)

Cheese and white wine? Of course!

Cheese and wine
This was a great pairing, with Alsatian cheeses and fine whites.

  • NV François Schmitt Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut – France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
    What can I say? A very smooth and refined bubbly. But it went so well with the goat cheese with crushed mint leaves, that I am judging this a bit more on the wine and food combo. Certainly a smooth bubbly! If not the top of the bubbly pops of Alsace. (89 pts.)
  • 2001 Paul Ginglinger Riesling Eichberg – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
    Finely aged Riesling from an excellent vintage, this displayed youth, vivacity and breadth; it really went well too with the Geister goat milk based cheese. (92 pts.)
  • 2016 Domaine Pfister Pinot Gris Tradition – France, Alsace
    A solid Pinot Gris, with fine acidity and very dry. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Domaine Dischler Riesling – France, Alsace
    A richer styled Riesling that accompanied very well the Tomme de Vache cheese with cumin. (88 pts.)

Wine writer Stefanie Köhler (left) with Laure Adam, of the estate Jean-Baptiste Adam with … wine and cheese!

Late harvest later in the evening
Next to the live jazz band, the last stand featured some really delicious desserts but I did not try any… as late harvest Alsace wines are sweet enough ;-)

  • 2015 Domaine Dischler Riesling Vendanges Tardives – France, Alsace
    A very fine late harvest Riesling, that showed much energy as well as residual sugar. (90 pts.)
  • 2014 René Muré Muscat Clos Saint Landelin Vendanges Tardives – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
    Really liked this late harvest Muscat because it showed such verve as well as sweetness. The higher acidity 2014 puts this a cut above the Riesling 2015 late harvest by Dischler tasted just before this one. (91 pts.)

All in all, this tasting showed me how good 2014 Alsace white can be, how Pinot Noir in Alsace remains hit or miss, with some beauties, and how great it is to combine local foods with locals wines: perhaps the highlight of the tasting was the cheese and wine pairing stand.

Many thanks to Les DiVINes d’Alsace and to Domaine Josmeyer for this wonderful evening!


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