Philippe Blanck, responsible for the commercial side of this large family domain business, described the '99 and '00 vintages as "two very different expressions of terroir Nineteen ninety-nine was a cold vintage, especially in our marl [cool, calcareous clay] and clay soils; the key to the vintage was having sufficiently ripe acidity. In contrast, 2000 was a hot year. We needed dry extract in 2000 but we couldn't simply pick later because this would have given us dangerously low acidity." According to Frederic Blanck, who is in charge of vineyards and vinification, aeration of the bunches and the tougher skins of the grapes in 2000 helped the vines fend off the effects of rain. "Also, the canopy work we now do is important for both sun and aeration," Frederic explained. "And with the plowing we do to break up the ground, the rain goes directly into the soil, rather than bouncing and reaching the leaves. So the mildew goes into the grass, not into the vines." I focused my tastings on the Blancks' lieu-dit and grand cru bottlings, the latter of which are released during the third year following the harvest (the family also has a negociant arm). But even the more basic cuvees here are consistently competent. Based on my extensive tastings of the past four vintages, this is now one of Alsace's top dozen sources. (Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY; Grand Cru Imports, Philadelphia, PA; Katherine Strange Wines, Los Angeles, CA)
Sweet peach on the nose. Juicy and attractive if a bit austere. Finishes with good persistence and grip.
Ripe aromas of dried fruits, smoke and truffle. Fat, sweet and full in the mouth, with rather low acidity. Offers good texture but comes across as a bit flat.
Peppery aromas of curry powder and ginger; a bit like gruner veltliner on the nose. Dry and rather chewy, with good texture and cut. A bit closed today but shows plenty of flavor. Needs to be served with food.
Pepper, spice and citrus hints on the nose. Juicy, dry and firm, with brisk citrus skin flavors. Slightly chewy and almost tannic on the persistent finish. Still quite youthfully unevolved and a bit austere.
Ripe aromas of pineapple and peach. Fat and easygoing; much more open-knit riesling than the Rosenbourg. Finishes with good length.
Peach blossom and a whiff of minerals on the nose. Soft, ripe, supple and sweet; just firm enough thanks to its mineral support. Ripe, lingering finish.
Pale yellow color. Aromas of pepper, caraway seed, lichee, smoked meat and flowers. Fat, supple and a bit blurry in the middle palate. Then spicy and persistent on the back end.
Wet stone and smoke on the nose; as granitic as a Wachau riesling. Minerally on the attack, then bright and brisk, with youthful lemon-lime and pepper flavors of noteworthy intensity. Dense and tightly wound. Finishes firm and persistent, with palate-cleansing lemony acidity. Classic dry riesling, a bit austere.
Ripe aromas of peach, ginger, minerals and earth. Dense, minerally and intensely flavored, with solid backbone and very good precision and cut. Ripe but quite lively, and fuller than the Wineck-Schlossberg. This has excellent palate presence. Finishes with persistent, fresh fruit and spice flavors.
Subtle aromas of yellow fruits and white flowers. Rather sweet on entry, then rich, supple and generous; a lovely combination of fruits and flowers. Not as obviously structured as the Schlossberg riesling but finishes with excellent grip and length.
Complex aromas of ripe peaches, flowers and minerals, plus hints of exotic fruits. Rich and dense, with lively lemon and mineral flavors. Finishes strong and quite stony.
(from Furstentum; underwent its malolactic fermentation in barriques Dark red. Spicy aromas of black cherry and currant. Supple and vinous, with subtle spice, herb and mineral notes adding complexity to the black fruit and smoked meat flavors. Nicely sweet in the middle, with an attractive touch of oak.
Aromas of pit fruits, sweet butter and gunflint. Fat and lush, with very ripe flavors of yellow fruits, smoke and earth. Firm minerality buffers the wine 13.8% alcohol. Good texture and length. Just off-dry (10.5 g/l r.s.), as the estate harvested its tokay early to avoid getting gray rot.
Superripe, smoky nose. Fat, full and sweet, with flavors of licorice and exotic fruits. Quite velvety in the mouth and a bit warm on the back end.
Spiced meat, mint, flowers, cinnamon and clove on the nose. Rich, spicy and aromatic in the mouth; fat and smooth but not at all heavy, with modest structure but a persistent, spicy, velvety finish.
Complex aromas of orange peel, rose petal and smoke; simultaneously shows cool and exotic aspects. Big, rich, thick and quite dry; but the wine sheer unctuousity and sweetness of fruit and firm acids manage to buffer the high alcohol. Intriguing flavor of licorice. Powerful but not aggressive. Tastes richer than its mere two grams of sugar would indicate.
Aromas of citrus skin, herbs, smoke, licorice and spices. Very dry and vinous, with good intensity and cut. I picked up a note of bacon. Shows distinctly stronger material than the '99 bottling.
Ripe aromas of peach and smoke, complicated by an herbal nuance. Sweet peachy fruit nicely framed by ripe acids. Seemed to grow firmer with aeration. This has a significant 19 g/l r.s. but tastes only moderately sweet.
Lime, minerals, mint and licorice on the nose. Quite dry and bracing, with a minty austerity. The 3.5 g/l r.s. is thoroughly hidden by strong acidity. Has the cut to make a flexible dinner-table wine.
Very minerally, granitic aromas of grapefruit skin, ginger and smoke. Dense, dry and minerally, with bracing flavors of dusty stone, iodine and grapefruit pith. Very long, dusty finish. Strong juice.
Pale green-tinged color. Subtle, vibrant aromas of lime, pink grapefruit, minerals, hazelnut, violet and ginger. Dense and fat, with dusty mineral and spice flavors; the wine richness makes it taste sweeter than its 6 g/l r.s. Finishes very long and firm.
Gingery spice and stone on the nose. Ripe, sappy flavors of lime, white flowers and spices. At once rich and lively, and gentle and long on the aftertaste. This should gain in complexity with a few years of bottle aging.
Cuvee #1, from slightly deeper soil: very complex, slightly reduced aromas of smoke, pepper, earth, flowers and stone; comes across as rather brothy and Chablis-like. A huge mouthful of wet stones and white flowers, with incipient smoke and fusel elements. Dry, dense and tactile, with a powerful structure. Very long, adamantly granitic riesling. Cuvee #2, from pure granite: Less reduced than the first sample, but also less expressive; elements of smoke, paprika and exotic fruits. Tactile, rich and chewy in the middle, then finishes with resounding, wonderfully ripe spice and mineral flavors. The blend should make an outstanding bottle.
Cuvee #1, from younger vines: Smoke, pepper, ginger and a fusel aspect on the nose. Superripe and fat, with dusty, mineral flavors of ginger, pepper, caraway seed, coriander and powdered stone and ripe citrus notes of lemon and mandarin orange. Very rich and long, with a suggestion of tannins. Cuvee #2, from older vines: Sweet aromas of ginger and pepper. Distinctly sweeter in the mouth (29 g/l r.s., vs. just 7 for the young vines), with musky, superripe flavors of key lime pie, powdered stone and pepper. Finishes very long and very ripe, with a distinctly dusty quality. The ultimate wine will be bottled with about 20 g/l r.s. and should offer terrific richness and thrust.
Ripe aromas of fruit salad, banana and smoke. Fat, chewy and slightly sweet, with good structure and a bit of acidity yet to be absorbed. This has good stuffing and density but can't quite match the estate 2000 rieslings for complexity and grip. Gunflint and smoke notes convey a strong impression of soil.
High-pitched, spicy aromas of fruit salad, minerals and honey. Fat, thick and sweet, with vibrant, tangy peach and apricot flavors complicated by mineral and smoke notes that repeat on the finish. Really densely packed and layered. From fruit harvested during the second week of September, according to Frederic, who noted that there was no noble rot until the middle of October.
Peach, lime peel, smoke and gunflint on the nose. Powdered stone and ginger more than mere fruit here; conveys a stronger impression of soil tones than the Schlossberg tokay. Finishes tactile and long, and much dryer than the Schlossberg.
Medium-deep red. Strawberry, raspberry, leather and smoke on the nose. On the light side, with supple flavors of red fruits, spices and herbs complicated by subtle oakiness. Not complex but attractively easygoing.
Pure, varietally accurate aromas of rose petal, cinnamon, lichee and spiced meats, plus a whiff of exotic fruits. Sweet (25 g/l r.s.) but spicy and firm-edged, with very good intensity and harmonious acidity. Fresh flavors of lemon, grapefruit and white flowers complicated by smoke and spice notes. Finishes with a faint impression of tannins and sneaky persistence. I find this style of gewurztraminer very easy to drink.
Refined, complex nose melds flowers, spices, pineapple and truffle. Dense, oily and chewy in the mouth, but firm and only moderately sweet, with pronounced spice notes of ginger and nutmeg. Very long and ripe but fairly dry on the back end. This tactile, very rich gewurztraminer offers an unusual degree of finesse.
Reticent but pure aromas of smoked meat and spices. Fat, spicy and sweet, with extravagant flavors of yellow plum and smoked meats. Heavier than the Furstentum (the alcohol is 1.5% higher, with the same 31 g/l r.s.) but boasts superb, liqueur-like fruit and terrific fat and intensity. Conveys an impression of pure fruit pulp.
Heavily botrytized aromas of honey, brown spices, game, smoke and earth. Supersweet flavor of tangy apricot; less noble and soil-inflected than Blanck best 2000 gewurztraminers, and more unctuous, but avoids heaviness as firm acidity gives it good backbone. Finishes very long and sweet.
Knockout nose features subtle spices, yellow plum, rose petal and smoke. Quite suave in the mouth and not at all overly sweet; communicates a strong impression of dusty, spicy soil tones. Sound acidity keeps this wine light on its feet. A classic VT that offers superb refinement and persistence. This is carrying just 41 g/l r.s., while the tokay VT from Furstentum weighs in with 90.
Minerals, honey and a hint of apple cider on the nose; could be a bit fresher. Thick and liqueur-like, with flavors of mirabelle and honey. Shows plenty of soil character but seems rather monolithic and lacking in refinement, and doesn't quite come alive in the glass. But certainly fat, chewy and long.
Tangy aromas of white peach and apple; more vibrant than the gewurztraminer SGN from the same grand cru vineyard. Extremely unctuous and superconcentrated but also impressively vibrant; fresh pit fruit and syrupy fruit salad flavors offer great sucrosity but also superb lift. This is truly chewy with extract. The finish really refreshes the palate, and lingers on for minutes. A knockout SGN in the making, and there will be 1,300 liters of this elixir.
Nose features poire, pineapple syrup, sour apple and spices. Quite penetrating and slightly dry-edged; seems only moderately concentrated for an SGN. Shows a honeyed ripeness yet comes across as slightly bitter-edged and almost austere, with rather pronounced acidity. I don't find compelling varietal or vineyard character. Hard to taste after the supernal tokay SGN.
Deeply pitched aromas of honey, earth and fig, along with some roasted high tones. Fat, dense and expressive, with more earth, fig and date flavors than ripe fruit. Shows good vineyard character, but finishes slightly warm and bitter-edged. Could use a bit more freshness.