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This is a memorable Riesling from two parcels in the Grand Cru of Frankstein, which rests above the town of Dambach-la-Ville on a fault of granite. Frauenberg is a parcel that gives small berries that Florian and Mathilde find to have great concentration and intense acidity. This is blended with fruit from the Pflanzer parcel, which has less intensity and provides more delicate character to the blend. There is less intense dryness here than with the 2015 vintage, which translates to a bit more ripeness and body. Quite reductive and 'petroly' on the nose upon opening, but give it time, and something ethereal and quite enjoyable emerges. The first bottle I opened stateside was forgotten in my fridge for about a week, and I was greatly impressed with how lovely it was 7 days after opening! Definitely a young wine, but a very pure and age-worthy wine nonetheless. Guaranteed there's enough acidity and mineral sharpness from the granitic soils for this natural wine to age gracefully without fear of bacterial issues developing. -EL
The Blettig vineyard is situated on a hill below the village, and is atypical for Beck-Hartweg in that there is no influence of granitic soils here. Instead there is a richer, loamy soil, lending to riper and less minerally-intense fruit. Classic exotic fruit aromas of figs, dates, and golden raisins, with about 15g RS, but it tastes like 5 or 6 grams due to the level of acidity. Though low in added SO2, I wouldn't consider this as part of their natural wine lineup. Instead, I see it as a textbook, slightly off-dry, Alsace Pinot Gris. -EL
This is a field blend that was made to show the character of the soil in Dambach. Florian and Mathilde selected three vineyards that produced what they call the most "salivant" wines (salivant roughly translates to mouth-watering). This quality is common with wines that come from granite terroir, hence the name of this cuvée. The area around Dambach-la-Ville is known for a high percentage of granitic soils, so this is very much a Dambach wine. A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, it has a faint pink hue, and a fascinating saline/mineral quality. No SO2 added.
Tout Naturellement is a fresh and hazy natural white from Florian and Mathilde Beck-Hartweg. A blend of Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Auxerrois, vinified without filtration or addition of SO2. The grapes for this cuvée come from their Laubenhutt vineyard and the lower part of the Plettig vineyard. Laubenhutt is below the Route des Vins and the important hillside vineyards, on a soil that is silty with a bit of granite, and Plettig is a lone hill to the east of the village of Dambach, with silt and clay that provides grapes with more fatness than the granitic sites that are above the town. This is crispy, and fresh, with a bit of salinity blended with ripe orchard fruit. A complex little wine, and though it's cloudy, it's clean and direct, thanks to ample acidity and careful winemaking! EL
Though this Riesling was produced before the Hausherrs converted to Biodynamic farming and started making natural wines, it is proof that I actually do love varietal wines from Alsace and I don't mind a little added SO2! The wine was fermented in stainless steel, and bottled with 20 mg/l of SO2. Soils here are a mix of marl and sandstone with north-west exposition. It's a very classic Alsace Riesling, with notes of petrol and passion fruit. There's lovely ripeness here, balanced by zippy acidity, and subtle oxidative notes. -EL
This is a special bottling that the Hausherrs made from a difficult 2014 harvest. Mildew had created problems with their tiny plot of Pinot Noir, so they made a Blanc de Noirs from their miniscule 0.3 hectares. They then aged the wine for 4 years in a large barrel. The result is a deep golden, slightly oxidative and remarkably expressive wine, with notes of butterscotch and creme brûlée. -EL
Aussitôt Bue is a blend of Pinot Auxerrois* and Sylvaner, with a small amount of Tokai Pinot Gris, from an east-facing parcel on sandstone terroir. Notes of white melon, lemon curd, and lychee, with a touch of fleshiness on the palate. A friendly wine, and a great aperitif sipper. -EL*I ask every Alsace producer what the difference is between Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, and Hubert had some insight on the matter! As he explained, Auxerrois typically has lower acidity than its close cousin Pinot Blanc, but is known for lovely aromatics, while Pinot Blanc is greener and less beautiful aromatically.
This is a skin-contact offering from Hubert and Heidi Hausherr. A blend of Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Auxerrois, and Riesling, with 21 days of maceration. Because the grapes were left intact (whole-cluster), the tannic structure here is very subtle. Hubert says the Riesling provides pretty acidity, and I believe the Pinot Gris lent color and spice. Of all the Hausherr wines, this is the only one I would recommend drinking in one sitting. It seems to lose it's freshness and lift after several hours, and some bacterial notes emerge. Their still whites, however, are well worth trying over several days! -EL
Colline Céleste is a wine made from a coplantation of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris from the Eischberg Grand Cru, which is a south and east exposed vineyard of marl and limestone. The "berg" in Eischberg is Alsatian for "hill" (colline in French) and Céleste is the name of their grandfather. Hubert explained that the fermentation stopped with 10 grams of sugar remaining, so they waited 5 or 6 months to see if the yeast might finish the job. It didn't change much so they bottled at 9 grams RS. The blend here is dominated by the Gewurztraminer in percentage and aromatics. Lovely floral and white pepper notes, with a long, spicy finish. Though it isn't 100%, if anyone out there likes a good dry Gewurztraminer, this is most definitely worth a try! -EL
A blend of Riesling and Pinot Gris from marl and sandstone soils. This wine was a treat to taste over several hours and maintained it's freshness and energy into the second day. Notes of lemon verbena, and stone fruit. Pinot Gris gives some heft and power but it's very delicate and round. Riesling provides straight acidity and melon fruit. This is a great example of a natural wine that is first and foremost complex and terroir-driven. The detail of it's lack of filtration or sulfur addition is important and noteworthy of course, but it does not define the wine or predict how complete and well-made it is. -EL
Always around 50% Pinot Auxerrois (fermented separately), with Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and a touch of Riesling. The idea here is to make a wine that is easy to drink, says Laurent, and he nails it! There's a subtle touch of spice on the palate, with a crystalline minerality in the finish, thanks to the granite soils. Though dry, there is a roundness and ripeness to the wine, which seems typical of similar "edelzwicker" blends of white grapes in Alsace. This should pair nicely with salads, as an apéro, or with mildly spicy dishes. -EL
A friendly Alsace Riesling from Laurent Barth, this wine is a blend of fruit from several different parcels, including a small amount from the granite Schlossberg vineyard. The residual sugar here is usually hovering around 2-3g, making this a pretty classic dry Riesling from the region. Ripe, orchard fruit on the nose, a touch of structure in the mouth (maybe from the Schlossberg granite), and a pleasant finish. It should be a nice accompaniment to fall-time meals. -EL
From the south-facing Bollenberg lieu-dit in Orschwir, a hill that stands apart from the foothills of the Vosges. The soils are iron-rich clays. The vines are farmed biodynamically, the grapes undergo extreme selection before fermentation with native yeasts and aging in large Vosges casks. The 2014 Sylvaner Bollenberg offers enticing aromas of apricot, cool crushed herbs, golden apple skin, and apple blossoms. The palate is fresh and lively, with flavors of perfectly ripe stone fruit, faint tropical notes, a bracing herbaceousness, and an incisively savory finish. The 2014 embodies the charm of Sylvaner, while expressing enough stoniness to captivate the most ardent rock fan. A fine pairing with poached chicken with salsa verde and grand with a ripe triple crème cheese, this would enliven lighter fish preparations and make for a splendid apéritif. John McIlwain