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For many years now, there has been a Chambers Street tradition of a summer trip to France to visit winemakers across the country. In the winter, there are the big "salons," full of importers, retailers, and sommeliers from around the globe. In the summer, in lieu of large, organized tastings, it's a trip full of intimate visits, tromping through vineyards and tasting barrel and tank samples in the cellar. It's a special time, and one I look forward to every year. One little part of what makes this trip so special is the time spent in Alsace, a region that is postively brimming with sunshine and natural energy in the summer. The Alsatian leg of the journey always involves a visit to Chantal and Pierre Frick, in Pfaffenheim. Wonderful people, and good friends, they have become sort of family figures for me, simultaneosly peers who enjoy a laugh, and elders, who have a lifetime of holistic wisdom to share. I have learned several Alsatian songs from them (Amanda, how can we forget "Steht uf, Steht uf," see below for sheet music), been explained the theory and application of music therapy for grapevines, and drunk countless nightcaps of local schnapps enthusiastically hoisted upon me. The tasting in the Frick cellar is always memorable, with new experimental wines to try, and inevitably a few blind tastes from Pierre, who encourages me to think about how the wines feel and not focus on trying to pinpoint varietal characteristics. All in all, I cherish the time I get to spend with the Fricks, and though there was no chance for a trip to France this summer, I'm glad we were at least able to bring some of their wines here to New York!
All tasted in the summer of 2019 and in January of 2020, these are wines that we've been anticipating for a little while now and are excited to finally have in the shop. There are three skin-macerated wines - Sylvaner, Riesling and Gewuztraminer (gotta try them all!), each one fascinating and distinct. 'Voyages' is an amalgam of all of the grape varieties, a sort of press wine with a mesmerizing peach-orange hue. The Muscat Sec is direct and very dry, with perfect structure and subtle weight in the mid-palate. The Pinot Noirs come in the recent 2018 version, and a special release (from the Frick cellar) of 2003 Pinot Noir Strangenberg (no SO2 added!). A wine that seems to change considerably with aeration (considering it was essentially hermetically sealed for almost 20 years, it's no surprise), our most recent tasting here in NYC saw 10 minutes of beautiful, high toned, young red fruit, followed by the onset of rustic tannins and more dark stewed fruit. Pierre is always showing me wines in sulfured and unsulfured versions, so I finally decided to bring that stateside by offering the filtered and minimally sulfured Sylvaner 2017 next to the same wine without filtration or added sulfites.No obligation to get one of each, but for those who are interested in comparing, the option is there. For some wines with a bit of age, there's the slightly oxidative Riesling Steinert 2014, and the perfectly off-dry Sylvaner Bergweingarten 2012. We round out the offering with some bubbles, mixing the funky/edgy side of natural wine palate with toasty, brioche-laden classicism.
Chantal and Pierre Frick have been working organically since 1970, and have been certified Biodynamic since 1981. They are incredibly passionate about the importance of living soils that contribute to the health of the vines and the complexity of the wines. As they write, "the application of this more comprehensive approach to the life of the soil and vine advocated by bio-dynamie has changed our vineyard. The growing cycle of the vine is in better harmony. It is less sensitive to grey rot and insect pests. The better balance of the plant is conducive to good grape ripening and obtaining a better quality of juice (density, balance, minerality, vitality). From this the wines have revealed more depth and greater expression of terroir." The grapes are hand harvested - "The social aspect of the harvest and the search for quality through successive pickings excludes the use of machine harvesters." Fermentations are with wild yeasts - "The soil and sub-soil and additionally the bloom and yeasts on the grapes constitute the terroir. For us, biodynamic viticulture and the expression of terroir require wild yeast fermentations." They do not chaptalize and use minimal or no sulfur-dioxide, which results in delicate "luminous" wines.
Aging is in old 3,000 liter casks which the Fricks prefer to stainless steel or barrique. "These casks allow breathing (airflow) and transpiration (evacuation of higher alcohols and esters) of wines, without changing their taste by the contributions of new oak." The Fricks have also moved away from cork, and use crown caps for all of their still wines (no corked bottles!).
The 2018 Muscat sec is from parcels above and below Grand Cru Vorbourg on mixed terroir of limestone/marne/sandstone. Aged on the lees for 11 months, bottled with zero added SO2, 13.1% alc, zero RS.Pale gold color, nose fresh, intense and intriguing with yellow flowers, chamomille and muscat. The palate is dry, ripe and ample with spicy fruit, with bitter pomelo (grapefruit) finishing with lovely minerality and ripe muscat flavors. A lovely aperitif or serve with terrines and vegetable tarts, artichokes, asparagus, fennel, ceviche with dill...
The Pierre Frick 2018 Sylvaner "Maceration" is from sandy clay soils over limestone; the whole-cluster grapes macerated for 7 days before pressing, the wine matured on its fine lees in 100 year-old foudre for ten months, then was assembled and bottled at the end of April, 2019 with zero added SO2. The wine shows a straw yellow color with fine aromas of citrus and whhite flowers, the palate is full and round with nice freshness and slightly grainy tannins. Flavors of citrus fruits and brown spices are supported by firm minerality and saline notes in the finish. Serve with a full-flavored sushi, dried meats, terrines and Asian sitr-fry. 12.5% alc, zero RS, zero SO2 added.
The 2018 Frick Gewurstraminer Macération is from two parcels: Terroir Krottenfues, soil marno-gréseux, high on a slope above grand Cru Vorbourg, and from a limestone terroir below Grand Cru Steinert, facing due east. There was a ten-day whole-cluster maceration before pressing, the wine matured on its lees for six months in hundred year-old foudres and was bottled at the end of March 2019 with zero added SO2. The wine shows a bright and luminous orange tinted color and complex aromas or rose, cinnamon, cardamon, white pepper and orange zest. The wine is dry, ample and rich with discreet tannins and flavors of white fruits, citrus, rosewater, ginger, pepper, with a long spicy finish. Serve this dry Gewurztraminer as an aperitif or with Asian and spicy dishes of fish, vegetables or white meats.
Tasting with Pierre Frick is always a fun experience, especially when he pulls bottles from under the table with a mischievous smile. The last time he did this, he made me taste two wines and then guess about them. I can't remember what I thought, but the two wines were in fact from the same vintage, same vineyard site, and same grapes, in fact, with the sole difference being the lack of filtration or added sulfites on one, and the use of filtration and a small dose of SO2 for the other. Here is one of the two, the "Pur Vin" Sylvaner Bergweingarten. Aged on the lees for 7 months, and bottled from the middle of the tank without filtration or added sulfites. Aromas of yellow fruits, flowery hay, white pepper and wet limestone.
The 2017 Frick Cremant is pure wine - no added SO2, from 50% Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, 50% Pinot Gris grown on clay/limestone with alluvial soils and brown limestone, high in iron. The wine was bottled at 25 g/l RS in March 2018 then underwent a secondary fermentation with native yeasts, finishing totally dry. Bottled after one year of aging, with zero sulfur.The wine shows a pale gold color with a fine mousse and elegant aromas of white flowers, pineapple and hazelnut. The palate is full-bodied, dry and energetic with great purity, with flavors of green apple, quince and almond with a long saline finish. Serve as an aperitif, or with shellfish and white meats.
Just released for the first time, from a historically dry and HOT vintage, this is an aged natural wine, indeed a rare find. A wine that seems to change considerably with aeration, our most recent tasting here in NYC saw 10 minutes of beautiful, high toned, young red fruit, followed by the onset of rustic tannins and more dark stewed fruit. My guess is the rusticity will increase with air, so I wouldn't be inclined to decant it. Unusual to say the least, but free of mousiness, volatile acidity or other effects that often accompany no SO2 vinification and aging.
The 2018 Alsace "Voyages" is an assembly of the end-of-press of all the estate's varieties, bottled in July 2019 with zero added SO2. It's a colorful invitation from all the domain's terroirs and grapes, showing a beautiful pink/rose hue and vibrant aromas of mandarine, blood orange, red currant and brown spice. The palate is full and intense, quite dry, with a fine tannic structure and flavors of pomegranate, pink grapefruit, strawberry/rhubarb compote and sweet spices, with a long saline finish. An extraordinary and versatile wine to serve with tapas, pates, salads, vegetable quiche, white meats with cream sauce, or just sip and enjoy. 12.5% alc, zero R/S, zero added SO2.
The 2017 Frick Riesling Maceration is produced from two parcesls: one with marne/sandstone sols above Grand Cru Vorbourg, the other, at mid-slope near Vorbourg is similar but with more presence of limestone, both with eastern exposure. The grapes underwent a 9-day whole-cluster maceration before pressing. The wine matured on its fine lees for 9 months in old foudre before bottling in July of 2018. Zero added SO2. The wine shows a golden color with orange highlights and intense aromas of yuzu, lemon mint and mandarine. The palate is dry, vibrant and persistent, with a nice touch of tannin and flavors of citrus zest and a long very mineral finish. Seerve with full-flavored fish dishes, fish choucroute, white meats in sauce. 12.5% alc, 0.1 grams/liter RS, no added SO2.
100% Sylvaner from the lieu-dit "Bergweingarten" on brown calcerous soils, mid-slope, aged on the lees for seven months in old foudre, small addition of SO2 befoe bottling, and a light filtration. Very different than the beautiful off-dry 2012, the 2017 is a vibrant dry Sylvaner, drinking more like a dry Riesling. The aromas are of white peach, white flowers, strawberry confit and grapefruit with a smoky hint. Full-bodied and dry, the palate is well-structured and mineral with flavors of white peach, black peppercorn and limestone with a very long saline finish. Serve this lovely dry Sylvaner with shellfish, grilled fish and fish in sauce, and roast chicken with lemon and rosemary.
Grand Cru Steinert is the steepest vineyard in Pfaffenheim with bedrock of limestone covered with thin stony soil, very dry and porous. The 2014 was aged for ten months in old foudres and received a minimal dose of SO2 prior to bottling (total SO2 22mg/l). The wine shows a bright gold color with aromas of limestone, lemon bergamote and verveine with a touch of iodine - the palate is dry, dense and energetic with intense saline flavors framing citrus confit, white fruits, pomelo and rhubarb, with a very long mineral finish. Seve with smoked fish, fish terrines and carpaccio, shellfish and white meats. 12.5% alc, 6.2 g/l RS.
100% Sylvaner from the lieu-dit "Bergweingarten" on brown calcerous soils, mid-slope, aged on the lees for ten months in foudre, small addition of SO2 befoe bottling in August of 2013. Pale gold color with aromas of pineapple, peach, dried apricot, praline and stone. The palate is full, soft and refreshing with complex flavors of raspberry, almond, bitter citrus and white fruits with terrific length of citrus confit and limestone. 14% alc, 16 g/L RS. Serve this lovely off-dry wine as an aperitif or with white meats and alpine cheeses.
The Frick 2018 Pinot Noir "Strangenberg" is from grapes grown at the summit of a dry hill, with brown calcerous soils over hard limestone bedrock. The grapes undergo a fifteen day whole-cluster fermentation and are then pressed, with no addition of sulfur, followed by six months aging in 100 year old foudre. Bright, deep garnet color, lush aromas of ripe raspberry liqueur and elderberry with violet, brown spice and toasted almond. The palate if full with ripe firm tannns and saline flavors underlying vibrant red currant, cassis and sour cherry. A beautiful Pinot Noir - pure juice, zero additives! Serve with duck breast, roast lamb with garlic, beef carpaccio, smoked meats, eggplant tian with goat cheese.