In the end, Olivier Humbrecht told me in early May, 2000 is a very good year but with the potential drawbacks of a hot, precocious growing season. "There was no problem getting high grape sugars, especially after great weather in early September," said Humbrecht, "but there were problems of early rot, high yields in some sites, and lack of acidity and structure. There was too much rain in October 2000 and we were constantly afraid of losing necessary acidity. We had to fight constantly against overripeness, and October was a tricky month that required careful picking. On the other hand," Humbrecht added, "with their powerful fruit and lower acidity levels, these wines can handle their higher alcohol." "Only classic dry botrytis really concentrates acids as well as sugars," noted Humbrecht, "as in the case of Rangen riesling in 1998, or as in '89. We can't really compare 2000 to 1989, as some have done, because in 1989 it was dry from the first of September to the first of November. So during the harvest of 2000, we had to keep telling our harvesters not to be too dramatic; we told them that they should also pick some healthy berries, not just those affected by noble rot." In contrast to 2000, '99 was a very long harvest, stretching from September 24 until November 20, with little botrytis. "But we only picked on 16 of those days," Humbrecht noted. "This vintage is conducive to wines with some residual sugar, because the acids were quite firm, as high as those of '96 in some cases." Interestingly, Humbrecht was the only grower I visited who told me his yields were lower in '99 than in '00: 35 hectoliters on average in 1999, vs. 40 in 2000, and just 22 h/h for the grand crus in '99. The extra degree of concentration is most obvious in the '99 gewurztraminers, which are unusually strong but also strikingly elegant in the context of this vintage. But the 2000 gewurztraminers, with alcohol levels beginning at 15.5%, are a whole other thing: powerful and extremely aromatic, yet almost magically balanced. (Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA)
Resiny aromas of honey and flowers. Juicy flavors of soft citrus fruits and honey. Good intensity and cut for the variety. Zind-Humbrecht purchased this parcel in 1998, immediately cut the yield, but still produced 80 hectoliters per hectare in '99. The decision was then made to replant the vines to gewurztraminer.
Orange peel, spice and a smoky nuance on the nose. Juicy, ripe and intensely flavored, with solid acidity for pinot blanc, especially considering that this wine went through malolactic fermentation. Lovely vinosity and cut. Nuanced and dry.
Pale copper color. Aromas of flowers, honey, herbs and spices. Intensely flavored and serious; a very dry, austere style of muscat, finishing with very good persistence. Carries its 14.3% alcohol with style.
Pure aromas of spices, lime blossom and minerals; comes across as a bit less obviously ripe than the example from Herrenweg. Then soft, silky and gently sweet in the mouth, with ripe acids and lovely delicacy. Conveys less sense of power than the Herrenweg bottling, but this is also finer.
Nose hints at a honeyed ripeness. Rich, full and generous of texture; not especially penetrating or complex but thoroughly ripe and round. This wine, too, went through malolactic fermentation.
Very stony, minerally nose; totally different in style from the soft, fruit-driven Gueberschwihr example. Brisk and intensely flavored, with mineral and citrus flavors supported by very firm (8.5 g/l) acidity. Solidly structured young riesling.
Exotic aromas of dried apricot and honey; hints of botrytis. Juicy but full, with a waxy quality and a hint of residual sugar. Less minerally than the Turckheim. Nicely concentrated but agreeable already. Strong acidity balances the residual sweetness. Finishes with a slightly aggressive youthful quality. Serious juice.
Musky aromas of quinine, chalk and stone. Juicy, concentrated and currently rather severe. Nine grams per liter of residual sugar are nicely balanced by the wine substantial (13.8%) alcohol and strong acidity. Quite rich and tactile, but in need of a good four or five years of bottle aging. But this is serious riesling. The yield here was a modest 41 hectoliters per hectare, says Olivier.
Exotic aromas of nuts, flowers and smoke. Sweet and fat, with enticing honey, apricot and mineral flavors nicely framed by ripe, harmonious acidity. A couple of years of bottle aging will allow some of the wine residual sweetness (20 g/l) to be absorbed. Olivier told me that he's just now "learning" this vineyard. "I used to wait too long to pick, hoping for noble rot," he admitted.
Complex, cool aromas of herbs, flowers, licorice and lime. Dense, deep and dry; really chewy and tactile. More complex and less sweet than the Heimbourg. Lovely juicy intensity and excellent persistence. This riesling fermented for nearly a year.
Subtly aromatic nose combines stony minerality and spring flowers; less charry than usual for Rangen riesling. Very rich and mouthfilling but quite closed today and a bit youthfully aggressive; not yet revealing its personality. Full and pliant but distinctly dry. This is chewy with extract but also seems a bit topheavy. Appears to be a very good but not outstanding vintage for this wine, but the wine is still painfully unevolved.
Knockout nose of fresh and dried fruits, honey and white flowers. Delicious fruit salad and citrus skin flavors complicated by spices and honey. Lovely ripe acidity leavens the 22 g/l residual sugar. Very rich and dense, and much easier to taste today than the Rangen. I like the balance here.
Tangy aromas of orange peel and smoked nuts; exotic hint of noble rot. A ripe, moderately sweet fruit bomb on the palate; not complex but nicely balanced and easygoing. Finishes with good length.
Subtle aromas of orange, tangerine and smoke. Very intensely flavored and concentrated, with the ripe acids to balance the wine great sucrosity. Fat, chewy and dense, with compelling fruit. I've found some past vintages of this wine a bit rustic or topheavy, but I like the sugar/alcohol balance here.
Exotic aromas of quince jam, nuts and smoke. Juicy, fresh and fairly forward, with moderate fat and depth. Not too sweet but also rather low in alcohol. This will offer considerable early appeal.
Deep smoky, minerally nose. Thick and relatively high in alcohol, but with superb depth of fruit and firm acidity this comes across as rather stylish and light on its feet. Features excellent backbone and superb persistence. A very good showing.
Exotic yet reserved aromas of mandarin orange, quince and nuts; almost riesling-like. Generous and rich, but with wonderful freshness and precision of flavor. Strong but harmonious acids perfectly balance the wine 48 grams per liter residual sugar. This has the vinosity and grip of a riesling. Laid-back and impressively long.
Aromas of honey, spice and candied citrus peel. Tangy, penetrating acids and steely mineral spine give this wine a compellingly vivid character and partly hide its 65 r/l residual sugar. A wine of uncanny verve and precision, but partly hiding its structure today. Delicious to taste right now, and capable of lasting in bottle for two decades. This has 10 grams per liter acidity without the concentrating effect of botrytis.
Reticent, nutty nose. Sweeter and more viscous than the Rotenberg but also supported by harmonious acidity; compellingly tangy fruits and spices. Finishes very long and very pure. Humbrecht has made some fabulous tokays in '99!
Deeply pitched aromas of marmalade, tangerine zest, honey and smoke. Unctuous and very sweet; tactile and chewy. Highly complex, expressive flavors of orange marmalade, smoke, earth and spices. Extremely youthful wine, with the structure for long aging. Finishes with explosive soil character. This may ultimately merit a score in the mid-90s.
Smoked meat, cinnamon and a floral note on the nose. Spicy flavor of luncheon meat. Slightly alcoholic and rather obvious, but offers good fruit and texture.
Spicy aromas are finer than those of the basic bottling. Very dry and a bit hot; with its 14.1% alcohol, firm acids and only 2 g/l r.s., this is dense but rather unforgiving. Finishes spicy and long. Needs to be served with food.
Rose petal and spices on the nose. Distinctive saline and smoked meat flavors, with a firm mineral underpinning giving this rather powerful wine good shape and grip. Nicely detailed for a gewurztraminer from this vintage.
Spicy aromas of geranium, lichee and licorice. Sweeter and suppler than the regular Wintzenheim cuvee, and creamier in the middle. Lovely inner-mouth aromas of smoked meat and spices. Here there a bit more residual sweetness to hide the gewurztraminer tannins, giving the finish a gentle quality. Rather low in acidity.
Very ripe but reticent nose suggests honey and roasted yellow fruits. Full, sweet and expressive, but with lovely balancing acids. A classically balanced vintage for this bottling: sweet, smooth, persistent and enjoyable already. Finishes with a note of cinnamon.
Delicate, cool aromas of spring flowers, cress and chlorophyll. Chewy, dense and stylish; moderately sweet and very attractive. This is downright suave for the vintage.
Pure, tangy aromas of rose petal, smoke and clove. High-pitched and minerally, with strong acids and brisk lemony flavor contributing to the impression of great verve. Tastes less sweet than its 34 g/l r.s. would suggest This will be very slow to open and should develop slowly in bottle. Extremely elegant and impeccably balanced. The thick, leathery skins in this site resisted rot entirely in '99, according to Olivier.
Deep, very ripe aromas of spices, earth, lichee and smoke. Large-scaled and leathery; has the dense extract to support its substantial (14.9%) alcohol. A powerful, muscular, extremely young gewurztraminer with a strong spicy character and moderate sweetness.
Pale gold color. Intriguing nose combines tangerine and orange scents, honey and flinty Rangen terroir Powerful and penetrating but comes across as lower in alcohol than the Hengst and perhaps better-balanced. Lovely harmonious acidity and firm minerality gives the flavors shape and grip. This is also very young and elegant for '99 gewurztraminer.
Knockout nose combines dried fruits, honey, minerals and tangy grapefruit. Superb vibrant sweetness in the mouth, with strong acids giving the citrus flavors razor-sharp definition and great lift. Extremely long, vibrant finish is quite smooth for the variety. A great mouthful of gewurztraminer.
Pale yellow-gold. Rather reticent aromas of mirabelle and honey. Hugely rich, honeyed and sweet, but rather unformed today and not yet showing its personality. Very strong botrytis tones seem to clash with the wine mineral austerity. "Like a big square in your mouth today," admits Olivier. Seems a bit alcoholic. Upwards of 80% of the berries were nobly rotten, but perhaps, in this case at least, more is less.
Quintessential tokay SGN aromas of orange marmalade, quince and honey, with a hint of barley sugar. Explosively fruity in the mouth, with razor-sharp (11 g/l) acidity framing the orange, tangerine and quince flavors. Truly confectionery but shapely and vibrant. A wine of great depth and persistence. Will last for upwards of two decades.
Discreet aromas of minerals and lime. Dry, classic and penetrating; not quite austere due to its sheer intensity of flavor. This is dryer than the 2000 and higher in acidity, with the result that the finish shows more obvious grip.
Cool aromas of citrus skin and white flowers. Juicy, pure, dry and on the lean side, with a mineral firmness giving the finish good grip. Very fresh wine, from fruit picked early.
Lime, minerals and a whiff of curry powder on the perfumed nose. Ripe but brisk, with strong fruit complicated by curry powder and spice. Has a rather open texture but plenty of acid backbone. I like this. The granite soils ripened their fruit quickly and well in 2000, said Olivier.
Smoke, flowers and a peppery nuance on the nose. Quite dry in the mouth, with spice and mineral notes; rather austere despite the ripeness of the acidity. But precise and refined.
Very reticent, steely, lime-scented nose. Juicy, dense and moderately ripe, with floral and minty notes. A flavor of dusty stone accentuates this wine dryness (7 g/l r.s.). Finishes with very good length and verve. I will reserve comment on the '99 Riesling Turckheim, which was still fermenting.
Perfumed nose melds spring flowers, lime and pungent mint. Quite powerful on the palate, with enough alcohol and acidity to buffer the wine sweetness. Conveys a tactile impression of extract. This tastes fairly dry today and will be dryer still by the time the fermentation stops. Olivier figured it would end up with about 15 grams per liter residual sugar.
Classic smoky, flinty Rangen aromas along with musky quinine. Extremely ripe and concentrated; has a chewy, three-dimensional texture. Firm acids give the flavors lovely crispness for a wine with about 25 g/l r.s. Great resounding finish goes on and on.
Steely, musky aromas of quinine and smoke. Very ripe but tangy and fresh; a sweet but extremely clean fruit bomb from fruit picked virtually without rot of either persuasion. Deep, chewy, elegant and cool. Still, this shows less distinctive soil character than either the Rangen or the Brand.
Subtle mineral and pepper aromas call to mind a great Austrian gruner veltliner from granite. Thick and sweet but with great verve; at once unctuous and structured. Thoroughly ripe, expressive fruit shows great palate-staining persistence. 12.5% alcohol and 90 g/l r.s.
Resiny aromas of apples and spices. Dense, dusty and rich; has good weight in the mouth but the flavors lack real thrust. An easygoing, nicely balanced wine with very good length. This had the lowest potential alcohol of these 2000 tokays at just over 15%.
Aromatic nose of minerals and spices. Less sweet than the Rotenberg (about 8 g/l r.s., vs. 14), and thus more penetrating, even somewhat austere. I find this a bit topheavy with alcohol (15%). Leaves a dry impression on the finish, which betrays a hint of harshness. The only question mark I have about a few of the Z-H VTs and SGNs in 2000: is there a sufficient concentration of acidity to balance the sugar and alcohol?
Orange blossom, vanilla and a suggestion of candied peach. Sweet, spicy and fresh, with lovely fruit character. Long, spicy finish. Very attractive wine, with about 20 g/l r.s. to support the 16% alcohol.
Peach syrup, quince and minerals. Rather unctuous on entry, then solidly structured and fairly dry in the middle; today the powerful alcohol and rather strong acidity seem to be in opposition. A muscular style of VT; still, this appears to be better balanced than the dry wine from the same vines.
Reticent aromas of marmalade, grapefruit and spice; some volatile acidity lifts the nose. Unctuous yet fresh in the mouth, with compelling orange, tangerine and spice flavors. Technically rather low in acidity, but this spicy fruit bomb finishes long and fresh.
Fresh, subtle aromas of peach, apricot and quince. Very suave and stylish, with superb flavor intensity and solid backbone. This will provide a kaleidoscope of flavor as it ages. Rather delicate for the vintage. I like the balance of 13.5% alcohol and 40 grams per liter residual sweetness.
Reticent, soil-inflected nose of wet stone and roasted pit fruits. Dusty, dense and powerful, with the strong mineral character running through to the finish. Solidly structured, very rich and very well-balanced. Still, says Olivier, "This is clearly not a VT style of wine for me. The sweetness will be absorbed over time, and the wine will taste dryer."
Rose petal, smoked meat and clove oil on the nose. Dense, rich and powerfully spicy, with firm acids to frame the strong fruit. Finishes very long, with an aromatic clove oil flavor that avoids bitterness.
Spices and smoked meat on the nose. Juicy and spicy in the mouth; not at all unctuous but rather powerful and uncompromising. If a gewurztraminer with this much alcohol can be said to be elegant, this may be the one.
Reduced, meaty nose. A step up in power from the Clos Windsbuhl. Very sweet and very spicy, with a strong flavor of smoked meat. Lower in acidity than the Clos Windsbuhl but boasts great power and thrust. Very strong finishing flavor.
Vibrant, perfumed aromas of orange, clove oil and minerals. Dense and superconcentrated, with great lift in the mouth. The sheer soil character and dusty minerality somehow buffer the high alcohol, giving this wine compelling balance. Finishes with great length and noticeable gewurztraminer tannins.
Withdrawn nose hints at rose petal, cinnamon and clove. Superripe and sweet, with bright acids framing the flavors of candied peach and yellow plum. Not quite as distinctive as the Hengst, but this has lovely tangy sweetness. Finishes with a bit of youthful aggressiveness.
Tangy, high-toned, SGN-like aromas of orange marmalade and quince jam, with suggestions of char and smoke. Unctuous yet sharply defined and bright, thanks to very firm acidity; conveys a powerful impression of soil character. Explosive finishing flavors are complicated by spice and flint nuances. This wine has been great since day one, says Olivier. A knockout in the making.
Flamboyant, high-toned nose combines quince jelly, pear, apricot, honey and maple syrup; dripping with noble rot character. Opulent and superrich but framed by ripe, harmonious acidity; like a fruit essence. Somewhat elevated volatile acidity and strong spice character lift the aromas and flavors and give the wine more bite. Slowly mounting finish goes on and on.
High-toned aromas of apricot, orange peel and minerals. Thick and chewy, but firm acids and strong mineral backbone already give this wine compelling inner-mouth perfume. Like the Rotenberg SGN, this is like an essence of fruit. Superlong and magically fresh on the back end.
Reticent, somewhat reduced nose currently shows more spice than fruit, along with a meaty aspect. Extremely clenched today yet already remarkably penetrating, thanks to its strong spine of acidity. This wine has superb balance considering its extreme ripeness and richness but is something of a cipher today. My score may prove to be unduly conservative.