Travel Report – Alsace

By |2019-01-20T22:49:50+00:00January 20th, 2019|France, Podcast, Travel Report|

Frank Poot, John Griffin, and I are on a dizzying 12 day, 38 winery rout through France to taste 2018’s in barrel and catch up with producers.  We are compiling our opinions, notes, and media as a group and posting them here for your enjoyment!  

Vintage Summary

2018…Extraordinary vintage in Alsace. Large too very large volumes and very ripe at the same time. This despite a wet spring and a very dry, very hot summer. Harvest had to start early to retain acidity and freshness.  The wines are unusually concentrated with high, sometimes even record alcohol levels. However, the concentration is such that this does not seem to be a big problem.Obviously, residual sugar levels in Pinot Gris and Gewürz are high, but the wines still seem to be balanced.

Domaine Fernand Engel

Proprietor Xavier Engel runs what is probably the largest Biodynamic estate in France, and he is somewhat of an outsider on the natural/bio scene as he farms this way out of pure pragmatism (and obsession about mineral content in the finished wines) rather than being someone who farms this way for philosophical reasons. We will take it – Recent studies here showed 70% higher mineral content in wine from biodynamically farmed soil versus conventional soil (same area, same vine age)! Xavier’s cellar is one huge science experiment and his newest passion is reductive winemaking – He is minimizing oxygen to the extreme in all vessels for what can only be described as unbelievable freshness and balance. We will dive into that on the podcast this Spring as it is a bit too technical to splice into this post.

Xavier Engel in front of his self-invented oxygen scrubbing system

Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Blanc, fresh, ripe, outstanding.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Sylvaner, classic Sylvaner, enough to bring Frank close to tears
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Riesling “Cuvee Engel,” Ripe, good acidity and character, full, fresh. Rarely seen quality
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Riesling Rotenberg, big, intense, complex.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Riesling Praelatenberg, finer, more elegant, concentration.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Gris “Cuvee Engel,” dry, full, complex, intense
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Gewürztraminer “Cuvee Engel,” superb, full of character, impossible not to like. RS
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Vendage Tardives (PG and Gewürz), beautiful, super-concentration, still good acidity.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Noir “Cuvee Engel,” very dark, full, tannic with good varietal character.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Noir “Meyerhof,” biner, more focused, despite young vines.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Noir “Reniassance” (with some dried grapes added), over-the-top, but if you like Amarone….
Domaine Fernand Engel 2016 Cremant d’Alsace Chardonnay, pale, fine, crisp. Very good indeed.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2016 Cremant d’Alsace Pinot Noir, (new and from the Silberberg plot), big, bold young. *we purchased every last bottle he’d give us of this new bottling
The most interesting discovery on this trip was learning about Xavier’s unique process of making sparkling wines. We’ve long celebrated his bubbles for their rich mouthfeel and fine carbonation but weren’t aware that he was doing something completely unusual to accomplish this result.  Intrigued?  Listen to this short clip from Xavier our podcast where he explains his philosophy of growing on “cool” soils in order to harvest at a high enough brix level to have the ability to achieve secondary fermentation with natural grape sugars.

Cattin

As you know there is quite the broad range at Cattin and we focused mostly on cuvees we carry since we are just in the process of launching things with them.  Jacques Cattin feels lucky about the bountiful 2018 harvest. If you haven’t yet visited their spaceship like tasting room and wine bar you must go as there is nothing else like it in Alsace.  Tactile wines.

Jacques Cattin shows us his delicious new Cremant ICE


Cattin 2018 Pinot Blanc, aromatic, fresh.
Cattin 2018 Pinot Blanc Reserve, a little more of everything

Cattin 2018 Riesling, aromatic, tiny bit of rs
Cattin 2018 Rielsing Reserve, a step up, more acidity and a little smokey.

Cattin 2018 Pinot Gris, more concentration, typical
Cattin 2018 Pinot Gris Reserve, slightly better, same style

Cattin 2018 Pinot Noir, dark, good character, fresh, some tannin.
Cattin 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve, very close

Cattin 2016 Cremant d’Alsace BIO, fresh, crisp, dry, very good

Cattin NV Cremant d’Alsace ICE, demi-sec but quite fresh and balanced, Very nice, good packaging
Very bright future at ahead indeed at this winery. Apparently Cattin’s Demi-Sec ICE is a big hit in Alsace.  We couldn’t stop talking about it during our drive to Burgundy and will give it a go!

Introducing our new podcast, GRAPE: Unfined/Unfiltered

By |2018-12-31T06:04:41+00:00December 31st, 2018|News, Podcast|

Always looking for more ways to connect you with our winemakers, we’ve created the GRAPE: Unfined/Unfiltered podcast in order to give you some extra insight on the Grape Expectations wines in your sales bag, your retail shelves, or your wine list.  As of today it is up on iTunes/Apple Podcasts and Spotify, so take a listen when you get in your car!

This first take was a bit of a test run, so bear with us as we continue to improve the audio quality, splice in some intro/outro music, etc…

Various members of our team here at Grape will act as rotating “hosts” and of course we expect to hear plenty of Rotterdam-based insight from Frank.  Are there some specific producers you’d enjoy hearing as guests?  Please let us know!