Visiting France's Alsace wine region, part 1
Domaine Paul Blanck
32 Grand Rue 68240 Kientzheim, France
Tel: +33 3 89 78 23 56
The village of Kientzheim
was my first taste of Alsace, a region whose wines I have admired
for some time, but which I'd never got round to visiting. First stop
was the impossibly pretty village of Kinetzheim, to visit Domaine
Philippe Blanck has 35 hectares of vines, from which he makes 200
000 bottles annually, of which 80% are exported. The vineyard
holdings are Altenbourg, Grafreben, Patergarten and Rosenbourg, and
the Grands Crus Schlossberg, Furstentum, Mambourg, Sommerberg and
Wineck-Schlossberg. From these vineyards some 40 wines are made each
of Blanck's holdings are farmed organically. The organic process was
started here in 1988/89, after encouragement from UK importer Simon
Loftus of Adnams. 'I love the English market,' says Philippe,
'because it opened up our eyes. In the late 1980s we were looking to
find our way.'
dropped the large wood casks for most wines and moved to stainless
steel, and began doing some maceration on skins. In 2001 they
started using screwcaps for some of their wines. This followed a
blind tasting comparing cork, plastic corks and screwcap, with Frédéric
Blanck (cousin of Philippe) who makes the wines. Now 60% of the
production is under screwcap.
head out of the village towards the vineyards. Roughly in a straight
line from where we are standing is the Vosges fault. The result is
that to the left the soils are granitic, and best suited to
Riesling. To the left, the soils are more clay-based, and best for
the aromatic varieties Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
village is at 220 metres. The top of the hill facing us, the
Schlossberg, reaches almost 500 m, while just along from this the
Altenbourg reaches 420 m.
then had a fabulous tasting in the vineyard, which is actually a
really good place to taste when the weather is right. On this day,
with comfortable temperatures in the mid-20s and a gentle breeze, it
was followed by lunch at the winery, outside on trestle tables with
some nice older wines. It was a 'picnic' open day for many of the
Vignerons Independents around France, who welcomed consumers to come
and eat with them.
Blanck Muscat d'Alsace 2010 Alsace, France Less than 1% of Alsace production is Muscat. Fresh, precise,
grapey and taut with nice crisp fruit. Precise and pithy. Nice.
Blanck Chasselas 2011 Alsace, France Lovely depth here: dense and pithy with nice melon and herb
characters as well as some pepper. 89/100
Blanck Rosenberg Riesling 2009 Alsace, France Lively, mineral, pithy and citrussy. Bright, dry and lemony with
lively mineral notes. This spends 3 months fermenting in oak and
then 9 months on lees in oak. 91/100
Blanck Riesling Patergarten 2009 Alsace, France Gravel soils, which cause the grapes to ripen fast.Tight, limey
and crisp but with some nice rounded texture. Intense, fresh and
rounded with ripe pear notes, good texture and some spiciness.
Blanck Pinot Blanc 2010 Alsace, France Fruity, lively and fresh with apple, herbs, pears. Nice rounded
fruit here with a bit of sweetness. 87/100
Blanck Riesling Schlossberg Grand Cru 2008 Alsace, France Complex, taut and mineral with some spice, apricot (10%
botrytis), lime and pear. A hint of tangerine, and lovely tingling
acidity. Great complexity and balance. 93/100
Blanck Riesling Schlossberg 1987 Alsace, France Smells sweet with lovely apricot, melon, pear and lemon notes.
But it's dry and mineral on the palate with lively citrus and herb
notes. Long, mineral and fine with rich texture and a pithy finish.
A lovely wine. 95/100
Blanck Riesling Furstentum Grand Cru 2005 Alsace, France Limestone soils. A cold vintage with low yields (25-30 hl/ha);
this has a bit of botrytis and 12 g/l sugar. Ripe, honeyed, pithy,
citrussy nose. The palate is broad, rich and mineral with nice depth
and spiciness. Intense, powerful and rich with some melon and
tangerine notes. 92/100
Blanck Pinot Gris Furstentum Grand Cru 2005 Alsace, France Wonderfully grapey, rich and intense with some melon fruit.
Sweetly rounded. The palate is rich textured and just off-dry with
sweet melon and grape characters. Some mineral and spice, too.
Blanck Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes Furstentum Grand Cru 2007
Alsace, France From 50-70 year old vines. Wonderfully aromatic with notes of
melon and herb, grape and lychee. Very nicely balanced. The palate
is fresh and textured with beautifully balanced rose petal and
lychee flavours. Just a bit of sweetness with a strongly mineral,
spicy finish. 94/100
Blanck Gewurztraminer Altenbourg Grand Cru 2007 Alsace, France Aromatic and bold with lychee, melon, spice and grape notes.
Thick textured, rich and bold (apparently the clay soils here give
the fat), with satsuma and melon flavours. 92/100
Blanck Gewurztraminer Mambourg Grand Cru 2007 Alsace, France From a sunny site with marl soils. Beautifully aromatic and
really fresh with grape, pepper and lychee flavours. Really weighty
with subtle nuttiness. Serious stuff. 93/100
Blanck Pinot d’Alsace 1989 Alsace, France Lovely ripe, rounded peach, pear, apricot and tangerine notes.
Lovely sweet, rounded fruit. 93/100
Blanck Riesling Furstentum Vieilles Vignes 1985 Alsace, France Powerful and aromatic with herbs, minerals, apricot, melon and
nuts, as well as some lanolin. Rounded, mineral palate with citrus
and apricot, as well as some toast and nice acidity. 93/100
Blanck Riesling Schlossberg 1998 Alsace, France Amazing: lovely grapefruit and tangerine notes. Powerful,
textured and intense with sweet fruit, a lively personality and
hints of cheese. Fine, mineral finish. 94/100
Blanck Riesling Rosenbourg 2005 Alsace, France Attractive, cabbagey, grapey, melony nose with some citrus.
Lovely tangerine notes as well as some pithy character. Reductive.
Furstentum SGN 1994 Alsace, France Lively and powerful with melon, peach, nuts, apricot and
tangerine. Rich, concentrated and intense with marmalade and nut
notes as well as a hint of oxidation. 93/100
short film of the visit, including some stunning vineyard scenery: