Sunday, July 25, 2021

Alsace Wines’ Heart and Soul - Land Sustainability #Winophiles #DrinkAlsace

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Respecting nature is part of the long tradition in Alsace. The Upper Rhine region in Alsace is the birthplace of biodynamic farming. Organic and biodynamic viticulture have widely been adopted throughout the Alsace wine-growing areas. This sustainable farming approach challenges vineyards to smartly manage their use of pesticides and fertilizers, and makes growers implement an overall initiative, through technical means and agricultural practices, to  comply with the sustainable farming standards. These standards focus on respecting the environment, managing the health of vines, and contributing to protecting the landscapes and biological diversity of the overall estate.

Photo Credit: Vins Alsace

Organic and biodynamic farming and grape-growing started to gain attention in the area since the beginning of 1970’s, when the early signs of land deterioration were sunk in: Desertification of rural areas, widened imbalance between the Northern and Southern regions, increasing consumption of energy in farming, and deterioration of soils, air, water and nature. In addition, the need to increase yields of grapes and over production of wines destroyed the balances between fauna and flora, resulting from the incresing use of pesticides by farmers and vineyards. Simultaneously, food quality, knowledge of harmful effects of pesticides on human, and land sustainability became concerns not only among the growers but the consumers. 

Photo Credit: Vins Alsace
Faced with this concerns, organic grape-growing and biodynamic farming attempts to gain a closer look at how the earth, water, plants, air, fauna and flora could healthily interact and cohabitate. Instead of fighting against the natural elements that may stunt the growth and yields of vines, farmers begin to reactivate soil life and stimulate the natural resistance of plants, becoming intune with the natural cycles. While growing grapes with the ancestral wisdom and practices is still important, adopting to organic and biodynamic farming practices becomes an integral part of their modern winemaking process. Winemakers notably manage their vines using zero to minimal chemical fertilizers or synthetic pesticides, gaining regulatory and commercial approvals and recognition. Let's take a look at how three of the pioneers - DOMAINE FREDERIC MOCHEL, DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE HAAG, and DOMAINE ALFRED WANTZ, which are at different stages of their organic and biodynamic farming journey, sustain their land.


Located in Traenheim, the northern part Alsace, 12 miles west of Strasbourg, the Mochel family has been living in this village that has deep wine history since 1669. As an independent winemaker, Domaine Frederic Mochel respects their terroir, harvest solely in their own vineyard, and fulfill their whole supply chain - make wines, bottle them, and sell them directly from their cellar. They are in the process of converting to organic farming and continue to respect the soils and the vines.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2015 Kaploen en conversion  
Terroir: Traenheim: north-west facing terrasse farming at the altitude between 210 and 265 meters, marly soils; Bergbieten: south and south-east facing on gentle hillside slopes between 210 and 265 meters, marl-limestone-gypsum soils.
Taste: Outstanding notes of exotic fruit and candied lemon on the nose, rich and oily mouthfeel, contrast with crisp acidity and intense fruitiness.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 en conversion  
Terroir: Traenheim and Bergbieten.
Taste: Citrus notes, white flowers aromas, intense acidity, lively and juicy, long finish.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2019 cuvée Henriette en conversion  
Terroir: Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten is located in the heart of a large natural amphitheatre in the northern part of the Alsace wine-growing area.The Altenberg hill ideally exposes to the south/south-east, protecting it from northerly winds. To the west, the Vosges form a protective barriar against excessive rain from the west. This open landscape is bathed in optimal sunlight all day long. 
Taste: Concentrated notes of minerals and and stone fruits on the nose, rich and saline on the palate, mineral and tense finish, and great cellaring potential.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2011 cuvée Henriette en conversion  
Terroir: Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten
Taste: Complex, rounded and well-balanced wine, fruity yet slightly overripe notes on the nose, lively minerality, and fresh finish.


Domaine Jean-Marie Haag, which owns around 21 acres of vineyards, is located in the decending slopes of the steep hillsides in the narrow valley called Vallée Noble, south of Colmar. The estate 
is certified in Terra Vitis, sustainable viticulture and HEV (high environmental value). To preserve the quality and true expression of grapes, the harvest of the grapes grown on the hillsides is picked exclusively by hand. The special dry climate that reigns there offers the vines a potential for over-maturity and makes it possible to produce concentrated, finesse vintages with incredible length.  

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle Riesling 2018 HVE  
Terroir: This Riesling is planted in facing south slope in Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle. Its soils are made up of limestone (Muschelkalk) and Avoltzia sandstone (Bundsandstein), considering one of the highest Alsatian Grand Crus. 
Taste: Full mouthfeel, minerality, bold salinity, great purity, minty aromas, notes of white flower and herbal tea. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2018 Vallée Noble HVE
Terroir: This Riesling is planted in south-facing hillside parcel of the estate that has the  Avoltzia sandstone soil.
Taste: Fresh, salinity, great purity, complex aromatic expression of wild flowers. 

AOC Alsace Gewurtraminer 2019 HVE
Terroir: Planted on the south-western slope of Zinnkoepfle. 
Taste: Floral and spicy notes on the palate, full yet fresh, long, and balanced. 

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2019 HVE
Terroir: Zinnkoepfle
Taste: Aromas of very ripe black fruits, fresh mouthfeel, elegant tannins, balanced and persistent.  


Domaine Alfred Wantz, which is located around 
Mittelbergheim consisting of AOP Alsace, AOP Alsace Grand Cru and Crémant d’Alsace, owns 31 acres of vineyards. They have produced organic wines since the 2020 vintage. The organic-farming certification is an acknowledgement of Alfred Wantz's long-term environmental commitment initiated at the end of the 90’s, when he started natural agricultural methods in grass management, ploughing, maintaining of hedgerowsthus, and promoting biodiversity. The estate nowadays adapts to new environmental challenges, reducing the effects from climate changes, while continuing the production of quality wines.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg Riesling 2019 En Conversion
Terroir: Zotzenberg sits in a basin, resting on the south side of the Mittelbergheim 320 -metre hillside. Facing east and south, it has plenty of sunshine. The soils are composed of Jurassic-period and Oligocene marls and limestones, which are drought-resistent and are easy to retain dampness.  
Taste: Aged on lees for nine months, nose nose of citrus and spices, mineral touch, powerful yet balanced, fresh acidity at the finish. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2017 Vielles Vignes En Conversion
Terroir: Produced in the estate's unique sandstone-soil vineyard.
Taste: Aged on lees for 15 months in an oak cask, floral and mineral nose, smooth and pear notes on the palate, and saline final touch.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg Sylvaner 2019 En Conversion
Terroir: Zotzenberg is the unique place where Sylvaner can succeed to the AOP Alsace Grand Cru level. This is the land of Sylvaner, where this grape manages to develop its aromatic potential to the fullest (e.g., bay leaves and verbena), and reveals the finesse and saltiness dervied from the limestone soil. 
Taste: Floral and peppery notes, pleasant and noble bitter taste, and exceptionnal structure. 

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2017 Berg "Eden" En Conversion
Terroir: Eden is a selection of Domaine Alfred Wantz's best Pinot Noir vineyards. This Pinot Noir is aged in old oak barrels for 12 months and is bottled unfiltered to preserve the pesonnality.
Taste:  Complex, rich, subtle nose of cherry and blackberry, discrete vanilia notes, spicy yet smooth notes, and well-integrated tannins. 

To read the entire trilogy of my Alsace wine blogs, check out also my blogs on Food Compatibility and Family Tradition!

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