2005 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Riesling Hengst

Domaine Barmes-Buecher Riesling Hengst

Beaune and Colmar are only two and a half hours apart. Each has precious east-facing hillsides. The slopes just south of Beaune are dedicated to just one variety in white -- Chardonnay. While the spot is perfect, the 'cuisine' in the cellar unparalleled, the Burgundians have never been the torchbearers of viticultural innovation. That distinction belongs to the Alsatiens, or more specifically, to a small handful of trailblazing winemakers producing astonishingly rich, vibrant and mineral white wines.

Unlike other writers with palate preferences towards high alcohol and extreme extraction, wine expert Steve Tanzer's taste seems to tiptoe that delicate tightrope between concentration and elegance. Alsace is all about that tightrope act, perhaps explaining why Steve is considered by many to be the world's most sophisticated judge of the wines from that region. Among his discoveries in the fine 2005 vintage were a few superb dry Rieslings, not surprisingly made by the best growers in Alsace. Just eight of these wines scored 92 points, a list that includes wines from Zind-Humbrecht, Weinbach, Mann and Francois Barmes.

Domaine Barmes-Buecher
Domaine Barmes-Buecher

Francois Barmes, along with Olivier Humbrecht and a few other indefatigable Alsatien producers are some of the world's greatest champions of bio-dynamic farming. Over a decade ago, Barmes turned away from the use of weed killers or fertilizers, replacing them with homeopathic treatments of nettle, horsetail, camomile and valerian. There is no chaptilisation (addition of sugar to increase alcohol levels), no fining, no enzyme treatment, no artificial yeast addition. These brilliant, fabulously age worthy wines are like the guy who makes them -- effusive, expressive, energetic and powerful.

This wine shows expressive aromas of pineapple and dusty stone. It is round, ripe and mouthfilling, with enticing flavors of pineapple, lemon curd, cherry-almond and smoke. With its compelling palate-coating breadth and tactile texture, this is deceptively tasteable now. But the powerful, rich, fairly dry finish, with its flavors of liquid stone and pineapple, suggests that this will blossom with five to seven years of cellaring.

This fruity, mineral-laden wine is particularly versatile with food. It will pair well with fish, both smoked and fresh, and will also handle spicy foods with ease. Combine these two strengths and serve it with a salmon prepared with soy and ginger sauce.