There are two producers in Alsace who have taken organic farming to logical extremes, striving for optimal ripeness and aromatic expression in every vintage. Francois Barmes and Olivier Humbrecht are among the world's most ardent proponents of biodynamic farming. So, when we traveled to the Hansel and Gretel towns of Alsace in August, we weren't surprised to see the activity in these two producers' vineyards, while most of the other winemaking families were taking a week's vacation before harvest.
This is what all the activity was about. The producers conducted an experiment to determine what impact trimming had on the ultimate maturity of harvested grapes. They looked at three different scenarios. First, the plant was trimmed before reaching its growing apex. Second, the plant was left to grow until it topped out, then it was trimmed. Last, once the plant reached its growth apex, by hand, vines were knotted above the top wire and never cut. When tasting the grapes from plants handled in each way, they determined that the sweetest, most nuanced grapes were drawn from the hand-tied vines. So, while their neighbors were vacationing in the mountains or by the sea, Francois and Maxime Barmes were spending three weeks in the August heat, hand-tying 35 acres of vines.
There are no wines in the world as aromatically sophisticated as the best wines of Alsace, and no wines of Alsace as expressive as those of Francois Barmes. Drawn off of the highly mineral vineyards above the Barmes's winery in Wettolsheim, these wines are among the most versatile whites in the world, great on the dinner table with all kinds of cuisine.
This wonderfully aromatic Pinot D'Alsace is made from a blend of Alsatien varieties. From the wonderfully balanced 2004 vintage, the wine is pale gold in color with fresh, exotic fruit aromas. Fat and clean on the palate, laced with tropically flavored residual sugar. Drink now-2010.
What's most special about this wine is its versatility. Try a glass in the kitchen AS you cook. If you want, put a cork in the wine, refrigerate and do the same for two or three more nights. The wine will stay remarkably fresh even after 3 days. Alternatively, enjoy it with a huge range of dishes including grilled pork chops, all sorts of cheese and fish.