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2005 Pinot Gris, Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive, Domaine Zind Humbrecht
The wines of Olivier Humbrecht M.W. need little introduction, possessing great depth, exactitude as well as generosity…like the man himself.
The Humbrecht family viticultural roots can be traced back to The Thirty Years War of 1620. Today they own forty hectares across five villages in the Haut-Rhin, the southern half of the picturesque vineyards overlapping the Vosges foothills, treasured for its idyllic climate, tapestry of terroirs as much for its half-timbered houses.
The domaine has vines in 4 Grands Crus - Rangen (Thann) 5.5 ha, Brand (Turckheim) 2.4 ha, Hengst (Wintzenheim) 1.4 ha, Goldert (Gueberschwihr) 0.9 ha as well as Single Vineyards; Rotenberg (Wintzenheim) 1.8 ha, Clos Häuserer (Wintzenheim) 1.2 ha, Herrenweg (Turkheim) 11.5 ha, Clos Jebsal (Turkheim) 1.3 ha, Heimbourg (Turkheim) 4 ha and Clos Windsbuhl (Hunawihr) 5.2 ha.
Olivier has arguably overseen the most notable improvements in the estate’s illustrious history: a new cellar in 1992 while retaining the traditional ‘foudre’ oval barrels; initiating biodynamic practices in 1997 (certified in 2002); and the buying of a horse in 2006 to plough the vineyards!
A first class grape variety grown in Alsace, where it is known as Tokay Pinot Gris, and in Italy, where it is called Pinot Grigio. In Alsace it is best suited to the deep, clay rich soils found in the north of the region where it produces richly honeyed, dry whites as well as superb sweet late harvest wines. At its best it combines the heady perfume and rich aroma of Gewürztraminer with the acidity one associates with Riesling. It ages very well, developing rich buttery characteristics.
In Northern Italy Pinot Grigio produces many thin undistinguished dry whites. However it comes into its own in Friuli-Venezia and the Alto Adige, where leading producers such as Alvaro Pecorari of Lis Neris produce marvellously rounded, elegant, and mineral laden examples. Pinot Gris is now grown with notable success in Oregon in the USA and in New Zealand.
Vendange Tardive (VT) is a particular classification for Alsace wines signifying a late-harvest wine with a greater-than-usual concentration of natural sugars which is the result of the grapes having achieved minimum required ripeness levels (the top producers consistently exceed these). Vendange Tardive translates as ‘late harvest’. Its wines can vary from almost dry to very sweet.
The official criteria for a wine to qualify as a VT are:
- A minimum grape must weight equivalent to 15.3 percent potential alcohol for Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, and 14 percent potential alcohol for Riesling and Muscat.
- No chaptalisation or acidification.
Gewürztraminer is ideally suited for vendange tardive wines, as it can easily reach high sugar levels. Vendage Tardive Riesling and Pinot Gris less frequent, but with greater acidity to balance the sweetness, such wines can be long-lived. Muscat Vendange Tardive wines are rare.