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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Alsatian Archives - January 18, 2012

We tasted last night (1/18/12) some Alsatians from the archives:

  1. DomainesDopff Eichberg GWT AC: Alsace (ReserveSpeciale; 13%; EB; PropreRecolteTardive)
    DopffAuMoulin/Riquewihr 1971
    : Dark gold/burnished bronze color; slight nutty/oxidized rather spicy/old GWT/cinammon slight herbal/grassy very complex old GWT nose; soft slight oxidized/nutty lovely old GWT/spicy/cinammon slight bitter quite complex flavor; very long/lingering soft rich/lush slight oxidized/nutty/bitter lovely old GWT/spicy/ cinammon quite complex beautiful finish; some slight oxidation starting to show but a lovely example of a mature old Alsatian GWT still very much alive. $5.25
  2. Babcock GWT DryBarrelFrmtd SantaYnezVlly (EG; 13.0%) 1988: Med.gold color; quite spicy rather smokey/pungent very aromatic/old GWT/spicy/cinammon slight hair oil very complex beautiful nose; rather tart quite spicy/old GWT quite smokey/pungent wonderful complex flavor; very long/lingering spicy/old GWT/cinammon tangy very complex finish; no signs whatsoever of oxidation in the color/aromatics/on the palate whatsoever; a beautiful example of an old GWT.. and from Calif of all places. $9.50 (AJ)
  3. Dom.Willm GWT ClosGaensbroennel AC: AGC (13.5%) Barr 1985: Med.dark gold color; lovely very spicy/old GWT/cinammon bit smokey no oxidation very complex nose; soft rich/lush lovely old GWT/spicy/smokey complex flavor; very long/ lingering old GWT/spicy/cinammon some smokey/pungent very complex finish; not a lot of intensity but a lovely gentle old lady of a GWT who's still very much alive; one of the best examples of these old GWTs. $17.00
  4. MarcKreydenweiss GWT Kritt AC: Alsace (MeBaD; 13.5%) Vigneron/Proprietaire/Andlau 1988: Med.gold color; slight lychee/ youthful/hair oil/mango quite spicy some mature/old GWT complex nose; fairly tart rich/lush bit lychee/hair oil some tangy slight bitter somewhat spicy/old GWT flavor; very long slight bitter some lychee/hair oil bit old GWT/spicy some herbal/green chile finish; in great condition and seems more youthful than the others w/ more primary GWT character and less old GWT/complex character. $16.00
  5. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht Muscat d'Alsace AC: Alsace (MaD; 11.5%) 1987: Light gold/med.yellow color; definitely Muscat/ hair oil slight piney/retsina slight Riesling/valve oil/gout de petrol tangy/metallic complex very interesting nose; slight Muscat/hair oil rather piney/PineSol rather tangy/metallic rather bitter flavor; med.long light Muscat/hair oil tangy/metallic quite bitter finish; still speaks of Muscat, but quietly; quite an interesting nose but a bit mangled on the palate. $11.00
  6. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht Tokay PinotGris VielleVigne AC: A (MaD, 13%) 1987: Med.dark gold color; some maderized/oxidized overripe/rotted apple no fruit nose; soft some oxidized/maderized quite overripe/rotted apple flavor; same maderized/ oxidized finish; way too oxidized and probably a cork failure. $17.90
  7. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht Riesling HerrenwegTuurckheim AC: A (MaD, 12%) 1987: Med.gold color; some old R/valve oil/gout de petrol some piney/PineSol/Christmas tree bit smokey rather complex nose; tart/lean/acid/tangy interesting piney/Christmas tree bit eviscerated slight Mosel valve oil totally dry flavor; long tart/lean/acid/tangy somewhat piney/Christmas tree light old R/valve oil rather austere finish; rather old-timey Alsace R in character but not much development of gout de petrol character; no telling where this will go, but no signs of oxidation evident. $11.60
  8. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Brand AC: AlsaceGrandCru (12%) LeonardHumbrecht/Wintzenheim 1986: Med.dark gold/burnished bronze color; rather tobaccoy/pungent slight volatile/pickle juice smokey very ripe/overripe fruit nose w/ not much complexity developed; soft very ripe/pineapply/old Caalif R some oxidized/maderized bit smokey/pungent flavor; med.long soft/fat rather overripe fruit/pineapply slight oxidized/maderized slight smokey/pungent off-dry finish; more like a 10 yr old Calif R than a 25 yr old Alsatian R; evolved in a rather strange way. $23.75
  9. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht GWT HerrenwegTuurckheim AC: A (MaD, 14%) 1986: Cloudy golden/brownish color; very tangy/Madeira/smokey no GWT whatsoever nose; off-dry/sweetish badly oxidized/wet dog fur maderized flavor; very long very oxidized/wet dog fur maderized off-dry finish; not too bad as an off-dry Madeira but totally shot as an old GWT; probably cork failure. $31.75
  10. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht GWT HeimbourgTuurckheim AC: A (MaD, 14%) 1987: Med.dark gold color; some old GWT/spicy light/low-key interesting w/ no obvious nutty/oxidized character; tart/dry/austere some old GWT/spicy slight bitter bit vapid slight ripe/pineapply interesting flavor; long somewhat dried out/austere rather bitter tart/dry/austere bit vapid slight old GWT/spicy finish; no obvious oxidation but just not much there. $14.10
  11. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht GWT Goldert AC: AGC (13%) 1987: Med.dark gold color w/ no browning; rather smokey/honeyed strong old GWT/spicy/cinammon quite complex lovely nose; tart/dry rather austere/lean old GWT/spicy/nutmeg slight lychee/ hair oil/young GWT complex flavor; very long/lingering strong old GWT/spicy/nutmeg rather lean/austere/dry quite complex finish; a lovely example of old GWT w/ good complexity. $17.40
  12. Dom.Zind-Humbrecht GWT Hengst AC: AGC (13.5%) 1987: Med.dark gold/burnished bronze color w/ no browning; very ripe/ honeyed fairly strong old GWT/spicy/cinammon/nutmeg slight hair oil/GWT beautiful/complex nose; soft lush/ripe/honeyed fairly rich old GWT/spicy/nutmeg light hair oil/lychee slight bitter/quinine quite complex/old GWT flavor; very long/ lingering old GWT/spicy/nutmeg light hair oil/lychee bit bitter/quinine rich/lush/soft/dry very complex finish; still some youth & a bit porky/fat but another lovely/complex old GWT. $19.05
  13. LeonBeyer GWT AC: Alsace (11%-14%) 1988: Med.gold color; lovely smokey/pungent/piney/ Christmas tree slight oxidized/ nutty bit complex/old GWT/spicy nose; tart/lean rather smokey/ pungent/piney/Christmas slight old GWT/spicy slight oxidized flavor; med.long tart/lean some smokey/pungent/piney slight oxidized/nutty bit old GWT/spicy finish; seems like the cork failed somewhat; a 2'nd btl several days later was in much better shape and a lovely example of a gentle
    old Alsatian GWT.
  14. Dom.Ostertag Riesling Fronholz AC: Alsace (MeBaD; 12.5%) Vigneron: DomaineOstertag/Epfig 1988: Dark gold/bit browning color; strong pepperminty/ribbon candy overripe some oxidized/maderized no old R nose; some tart/lean dry pepperminty/ overripe rather maderized/oxidized flavor; med.short peppermint dry/tart/lean oxidized/nutty/maderized finish; pretty much a shot wine w/ no redeeming features. $22.00 (A)

And the usual BloodyPulpit:

1. Because these wines were fairly old and possibly a bit oxidized, I served them at cool room temperature (low-60's) in order to enhance the aromatics and reduce and bitterness the oxidation might have. In a couple of btls, the cork punched down into the wine when I took the Ah-So to it. But there was no pronounced browning on any of the wines that indicated any of the corks had failed.
2. I am a big fan of old/mature Alsatian GWT's. Around '69, I found a stash of the '59 ClosGaensbroennel GWT at HappyHollow in KansasCity. A very expensive (for me) wine at $18/btl. I tried a btl and was blown away by it; went back and bought a bunch more. I had my last one in the late '70's and it was still a beautiful old lady.

GWT has a very distinctive aroma to it that transcends terroir. It can sometimes be very powerful, very hair-oil/ Vitalis; some describe it has lychee...though the fresh lychees I've had don't have much aroma that I could tell. It can sometimes be a bit off-putting to some people. It is the ideal/only accompainment to classic Alsatian weenies & kraut.

But has GWT ages, it loses that youthful intensity and develops a beautiful/complex old GWT aroma; elegant, a bit spicy like cinammon & nutmeg, very perfumed...old GWT is about the only way to describe it. It's an aroma that I search for and love in GWT w/ some age on them.
3. My customary rant on Alsatian wines: When I first started drinking wines, I was quickly drawn to Alsatian wines and fell madly in love with them. They were dry and very aromatic; great to go w/ my weenies & kraut and tart flambee. And, best of all, they were....cheap. White wines you could drink on a daily basis, with all sorts of things. You could find good/great Alsatian Riesling/GWT typically for less than $5. And, even though they were cheap, many/ most aged incredibly well. It was a wonderful world to be in.

We bought a ton of the Dopff Au Moulin GrandCru Schoenenberg Riesling and Eichberg GWT, both VendageTardive. Back in those days, VT just represented "late harvest", slightly richer & bigger than the bottom-end Dopffs (which were also amazingly good). And...best of all, those VT were totally dry. Both of those Dopffs aged amazingly well and easily went out 20 yrs. The cost all of $4.99 at Boulder's LiquorMart. Did I mention they were...cheap.

Next came along the '76 BottFreres, imported by Draper&Esquin. GWT/Riesling/Muscat. They were two levels, SelectionneEspeciale and ReservePersonnelle (the VT level). Alas, the prices had escalated badly. The SE were about $6 and the RP about $8. Again, we bought a ton of them on special order.

And there were some other amazing ones in there in the late '70's. The Hugel ReservePersonnelle (VT llevel) and Selectionne au JeanHugel I recall. The Trimbach special cuvees. They were all delicious, food friendly, drinkable in large quantities....and don't forget....cheap. Zind-Humbrecht....never done did hear'ed of them.

The Rieslings were a special case. They were dry and very acidic in many cases. But they aged incredibly well, taking on that gout de petrol/valve oil character you get in old German Mosel. My criteria back then for buying Alsatian Riesling.....the more austere and they more hurtey they were to drink young, the better they would be with some age on them. Worked amazingly well.

And then something happened. Something very bad. The Z-H's appeared on the scene. The low-end ones were quite good; classic/traditional Alsatians...low alcohol, dry, good acidity..though not so cheap any more. And then there were the Z-H GrandCrus. Different in style. Higher in alcohol, lower in acidity, often with a bit of RS; rich & lush and fat; extracted, mouth-filling wines. And the VT level?? Quite sweet..2%-8% RS. Not so good anymore w/ weenies & kraut. And frightfully expensive...sometimes in excess of $20. Look at those gawd-awfull prices on the Z-H's above.

But...wait....it gets worse. These gross abberations/characterizations of Alsatian wines started to get rave reviews from certain Monktown attourneys...and scores in the mid-upper 90's. Leonard Humbrecht was labeled as the world's greatest winemaker. Before long, these high alcohol, off-dry, low acidity, highly extracted, fat/porky wines became to be thought of by consumers as "classic" Alsatian wines. They were amazing wines to taste and marvel at their extraction levels...but they did not go w/ my weenies & kraut. I had serious doubts that these abominations would age nearly as well os those of yore.

But...wait....it gets worse. Other Alsatian winemakers took note of the scores these Z-H's were receiving out of Monktown. They decided they could get those same high scores and charge those same prices. What were once the exception now became the norm. The whole genre/style of Alsatian wines changed...and not for the better. Prices sky-rocketed. $50-$80 Alsatian whites...gimmee a break. My consumption of cheap Alsatian wines and weenies & kraut plummeted. A heavy/depressing gloom descended over LosAlamos.

So... I organized this tasting w/ very low expectations...given the number of Z-H's I had included. In the prelims, I tried several btls of the low-end Z-H's GWT & Riesling Reservves. They were totally dead & gone. I held out little hope for the village designates and the GrandCrus as well. But...surprise...some of these Z-H's were not only pretty good, but some had aged amazingly well...far better than my expectations. In some cases, it was obvious from the first pour that the wine was gone. The color was not just golden/burnished brown, but had definite brownish tones. Oxidized...which I attrubute to cork failure (nearly all the corks were crumbly, difficult to extract, even w/ an AhSo, some fell into the btl...though the fill levels were good on all). But some of the others had evolved  into beautiful examples of old Alsatian wines. Shows how much I know about Alsatian wines I guess.

So....where do I stand now vis a vis Alsatian wines??? I try most of the low-end Alsatians that come down the pike. They're generally richer & lower acid than the ones I recall. Some of them are pretty decent, actually. I buy the low-end Z-H's and find them to be OK. I almost never buy the Z-H's GrandCrus because of the price, certainly not the VendageTardives as they're too sweet to go w/ my weenies & kraut. The Z-H SGN's remind me too much of the Calif freezer IceWines and I'm skeptical they evolve into something like a great Mosel BA or TBA. I like the Marcel Deiss, Kreydinweiss, DomaineWeinbach. Sometimes the prices are more than I want to pay.

But when I want a good GWT to go with my weenies & kraut, I generally turn to the AltoAdige. Where I think some of the most traditional/old-timey GWTs are being made these days. Particularly the Abbazzia. I like the Claibourne & Churchills from Calif. I think the lean/mean Rieslings from AdamTolmach, which get low marks out of Monktown, have the potential to age into great old Riesling.

But it's a sad/sad world out there. Gawd..I miss the good/old days of Alsatian whites. End of rant/fini.
4. Babcock: I had another btl of this same wine a week earlier and they oxidation was pretty noticible and it was pretty shakey condition. This btl was totally different, w/ no signs of nutty/oxidation whatsoever. Easily, the best example of an old Calif GWT I've ever had. What a shame Brian abandoned GWT. I think probably the Claibourne& Churchill GWT's have the potential to age as well as this one.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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