If you’ve been following this site for a while, you may have noticed that the blogging vehicle has provided me with the inspiration I needed, finally, to chronicle the details of a ten day whirlwind wine tour through Germany and France that I took back in February 2004. A visit at Domaine Barmès-Buecher, stop four of the trip, was the inspiration for the most recent installment. By a chance of timing, it was due up hot on the heels of a recent trip to the east coast by François and Genevieve Barmès. During their visit, I was able to spend a couple of hours catching up with the couple. Neither of them appeared to have aged a bit in the last several years. And as always, once we got him talking, François’ energy level was unbelievable. We managed to squeeze in enough time, just barely, to taste through the lineup of their wines now on the market. So, just in case you didn’t get your fill when reading through my notes on the 28 wines we tasted at the estate a few years back, here are a few thoughts on their current releases.
- Crémant d’Alsace 2005
This vintage is a blend, which can differ from year-to-year, of Chardonnay (grown solely for this wine), Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. François considers it a finer vintage than the 2006 which is ready and waiting to ship. Very fine mousse, appley fruit, bright and biscuity. Ideal as an aperitif and as an accompaniment to smoked fish or game-based salads and appetizers.
A little background: Crémant d’Alsace was established as an AOC in 1976. Barmès began producing his in the 1986 vintage. Though it is bottle fermented, Barmès’ production method differs slightly from the Méthode Traditionelle. François picks at 13° potential alcohol. Initial fermentation in tank is stopped at 11°. Natural grape yeasts are then added to the base wine, which is then bottled; no liqueur d’expedition is used. The hope – this process does accept a certain level of risk – is that secondary fermentation will then occur in bottle. There is no guarantee that the natural yeasts will get things going again. By nature of this process, Barmès’ Crémant d’Alsace is always a vintage wine and naturally differs from year to year.
- Pinot d’Alsace 2004
100% Pinot Auxerrois. Low acid and spicy, with hints of apricot nectar. Seems less sweet than when last tasted, though a touch of RS still shows through. A bit fat. Intended simply as “un vin de plaisir.”
- Pinot Blanc Rosenberg 2005
Medium bodied. Structured. Very mineral, with hints of dried honey. Far less rich than the 2002 currently on the market. Interestingly, these notes seem quite similar to those for the 2002 when it was tasted at the winery in 2004. It would seem that the Pinot Blanc sheds its minerality and acidity with age, in favor of rich pear fruit and honeyed texture.
- Pinot Gris Rosenberg “Silicis” 2004
The terrain of the “Silicis” portion of Rosenberg is dominated by limestone with a good deal of silex stones above and below ground, plus a dash of volcanic soil. Gun flint, graphite, peach pits and quince all spread across the palate. Solid acidity, something I don’t always associate with this wine. A good pairing for duck confit and salt-cured meats.
- Edelzwicker “Sept Grains” 2004
This is an atypical Edelzwicker, produced from free run juice captured at the beginning of the wine making practice rather than from leftover or lower quality fruit as is more usual. For a full description of the production process, see the note from the 2004 visit.
The 2004 is mostly Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. It shows the spice and slightly unctuous texture typical to Gewurztraminer with a good bolster of acidity from the Pinot Gris. A good choice for highly seasoned pan-Asian cuisine as well as a solid option for the Thanksgiving meal. As with the Crémant d’Alsace, the blend and resultant style differ from year to year; the 2005 version is dominated by Pinot Auxerrois.
- Riesling “Tradition” 2006
Stony mouthfeel, with bitter lemon, citrus rind and dried apricot fruit tones. This vintage is an assemblage of fruit from Rosenberg, Herrenweg and Clos Sand, meant to express the typicity of Alsace Riesling rather than a particular site or terroir.
- Riesling Herrenweg 2004
Tasting this immediately after the “Tradition” was very educational. Though the wine can sometimes seem fat, in this context I noticed more flesh (without fatness) and physiological intensity. Muscular on the palate and long on the finish. Riper citrus tones than found in the former wine. Pair with simple preparations, without sauces, of full-flavored fish like salmon or rouget.
- Riesling Rosenberg 2005
François feels that the personality of the Rosenberg cru is so intense that the aromas of its wines tend to be masked until some bottle maturation occurs. Livelier acidity and spicier flavors than the Herrenweg. Good cellar potential.
- Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2005
Pink grapefruit and floral spiciness. Citrus rind. Sappy, almost resiny, with an unmistakable hint of mint on the finish. Here’s the wine to stand up to richly sauced seafood dishes. Hengst has a perfect southern exposure. The vines are almost grilled by the sun, inducing intense photosynthesis and garnering a constant, high-energy ripening process. It shows, though without being over-the-top in any way. This has serious presence.
- Gewurztraminer Herrenweg 2004
Classic spice, rose petal and lychee profile. Dry but with lower acid and fatter texture than the Riesling from the same cru. A good foil to curry dishes.
- Pinot Noir “Réserve” 2005
Black cherry vanilla fruit. Creamy, with a hint of sweet oak on the nose. Firm and medium bodied. Classic pairings within Alsace would be main courses of game or leg of lamb.
- Pinot Gris Rosenberg “Vendange Tardive” 1999
Partial botrytis. Very musky. Orange oil and pear nectar. Good acid.
- Pinot Gris Rosenberg “Sélection Grains Nobles” 1999
100% botrytis. Intense. As with the VT, good acidity, which is needed here to support the oiliness and high RS.
- Muscat Ottonel “Sélection Grains Nobles” 2000
Sultanas and guava. Just enough acid to keep the super round texture afloat.
- Riesling Herrenweg “Sélection Grains Nobles” 2000
There’s no mistaking this wine’s aroma. It’s not just a little raisiny. Nope, it’s like sticking your nose in a freshly opened box of raisins. Much darker flavor and more unctuous texture than in the above VT’s and SGN’s. Intense RS balanced by a beam of acidity. Yikes!
If you still haven’t had enough, or if you’re just sick of reading my shorthand notes, you may enjoy the nice write-up of a few of these same wines, tasted in a different scenario, by Rajiv at Students of Wine.