Visiting France's Alsace wine region, part 4

Olivier Humbrecht

Zind Humbrecht is one of the great Alsace wine domaines. Possibly the greatest?

The current domaine dates from 1959 when the holdings of the Zind and Humbrecht families were merged. But the Humbrechts have been winegrowers since 1620, although it is only since 1947 that they’ve been producing, vinfying and selling their own wines. 

The domaine is 40 hectares, with 18 ha of vineyard holdings in Turckheim and the rest spread across Hunawihr (6.2), Thann (5.5), Gueberschwihr (2.4) and Wintzenheim (8.3). The spanking new winery is situated in the middle of the Herrenweg vineyard in Turckheim, unfortunately one of the less scenic Alsace villages (although with wines as good as this, who needs scenery). 

Things are currently run by the powerful figure of Olivier Humbrecht, a youthful-looking 50, who is an MW and acts as an articulate exponent of biodynamic viticulture, something he adopted back in 1997. Olivier has been instrumental in setting up Biodyvin, a certifying body for biodynamics that focuses solely on winegrowing. The cost to join is 100 times cheaper than the main biodynamic certifying organization, and Olivier says it is a very friendly group all working in the same directon. 

Olivier talked about some of the soils he farms. In Grand Cru Brand, there’s black and white mica. Black mica is degraded by bacteria in the soils which produces clay and minerals, making it very interesting for growing wine grapes. Some granite is like growing vines in hydroponic culture; it is the microbiological activity in some granite soils that makes them interesting. Herrenweg is the vineyard around the winery; it’s flat, with gravelly, alluvial soils. ‘The best 20% of the valley floor is better than 40% of the slopes,’ says Olivier. ‘But the very best sites are on the slopes.’ Soils on the valley floor that are covered by loess (wind-blown soil) are the least interesting because these are too fertile. 

‘What do you want to taste?’, asked Olivier. ‘Everything you want to show us,’ was my instinctive reply, which I suspect upset one or two of my colleagues who didn’t really want a mammoth tasting. But that’s what we got, and what a treat it was. 


Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Blanc 2010 Alsace, France
Two-thirds Auxerrois, the balance Pinot Blanc. Lively and complex with mineral and spice notes. Real presence here, with a citrussy core. 90/100

Zind-Humbrecht Zind 2010 Vin de Table, France
From Clos Windsbuhl, two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Auxerrois. Lively, intense and citrussy. Very bold and pithy with grapefruit notes as well as pear, apple and peach. So bold with great acidity. 92/100

Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Herrenweg 2010 Alsace, France
Lovely grapey, aromatic nose with some melon notes. The palate has tangerine and grape with some herby notes and a dry, pithy finish. A blend of Ottonel and Petits Grains Muscats. 89/100

Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Grand Cru Goldert 2010 Alsace, France
Marl/limestone soils, 9 g/litre sugar. Restrained and quite mineral with lovely pith notes and grapey fruit. Nice density of citrus and grapefruit with good freshness and some mineral notes. 91/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Terroir d’Alsace 2010 Alsace, France
From granite and gravel soils. Pithy, taut and dry with minerally citrus fruit. Nice density and high acidity. Bone dry despite 4 g/litre of sugar. 90/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Guebberschwihr 2010 Alsace, France
Limestone soils, 8 g/litre sugar. Full yellow colour. Mineral, citrussy, lively with some richness and amazing grapefruit minerality. So bold and fresh with a mineral finish. Really lively. 93/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Heimbourg 2010 Alsace, France
Next to Brand, Heimbourg has limestone soils. Not too aromatic, but has lovely volume and power on the palate. Mineral with crystalline fruit, and pear and citrus, as well as ripe apple. Generous but dry, with good acid. 92/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 2010 Alsace, France
This is a late-ripening, high altitude limestone vineyard site with lots of seashells. Full yellow colour. Incredibly lively, dry and mineral with dense, taut, citrus and white peach fruit. Great acidity with lovely full, ripe fruit. So mineral. 95/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Hauserer 2010 Alsace, France
Marl/limestone soils at the bottom of Grand Cru Hengst. Vines planted in 1973. Rounded melon, citrus and apple fruit with fine citrus and mineral finish. Hint of sweetness from the 8 g/litre sugar. 93/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos St Urbain Grand Cru Rangen de Thann 2010 Alsace, France
Higher altitude site with later harvest. Zind-Humbrecht have 5.5. hectares of this vineyard. Very aromatic sweet melon and apricot nose with a rich peach and melon fruit palate. Soft and intense. Lovely generosity: so delicious. 94/100

Zind-Humbrecht Grand Cru Brand Riesling 2010 Alsace, France
Granite soils. 33 g/litre residual sugar, some botrytis. Powerful, high-acid style with grapefruit, melon, apricot and marmalade notes, as well as tangerine. Rich and textured but lovely with some sweetness offset by amazing acidity. Thrilling. 95/100

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Grand Cru Brand Vieilles Vignes Vendanges Tardive 2010 Alsace, France
14% alcohol, 60 g/litre sugar. Pure intense citrussy nose with some fresh melon sweetness. Rich, bold, thick-textured palate with peach, melon and citrus, as well as spice and apricot. Creamy and broad, lively and concentrated. 94/100

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Calcaire 2010 Alsace, France
From young vines in Clos Windsbuhl. Rounded and lively with melon and grape fruit. Bold, textured. Nicely rounded with an attractive freshness. 90/100

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 2010 Alsace, France
28 g/litre residual sugar, from 20–25 year old vines. Rich gold/yellow colour. Lovely open melon, herb, lemon fruit nose. The palate is grapey and melony with some satsuma notes. Off-dry and lovely. 92/100

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg 2010 Alsace, France
Full yellow colour. Lively crystalline fruit and herbs with some minerals and a bit of smoky bacon. Also some marmalade and spice. Boldly textured with real finesse combined with power. Fermentation was stopped at 15 g/litre residual sugar. 93/100

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2010 Alsace, France
Harvested 10 days after the young vines were for Calcaire, with just clean fruit and no botrytis. Bold, richly textured, with interesting minerality and a bit of spice. Lovely pear and melon fruit. Textured, beautiful and balanced with richness and finesse. 94/100 

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St Urbain, Grand Cru Rangen de Thann 2010 Alsace, France
Noble rot harvested alongside healthy fruit. 49 g/litre residual sugar. Wondefully spicy, smoky, mineral reductive nose. Grapey, herby, complex and lively. The palate is concentrated, powerful, lively and complex with sweetness and rich texture. Pear, peach and grape fruit. Powerful and balanced: an amazing wine. 97/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2011 Alsace, France
Gewürz was a disaster in 2010. Perfumed with attractive sweet lychee, pear and grape notes. Very pretty but not confected, and dry-ish with 8–9 g/litre sugar. 89/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Calcaire 2010 Alsace, France
A small crop, from Goldert and other vineyards. Beautifully perfumed, open and sweet with melon, honey, herb and marmalade notes. Sweet and intense but with high acidity adding tension and personality. 93/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürxtraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2010 Alsace, France
Low yields of 9 hl/hectare. 37 g/litre sugar. Rich yellow colour. Melon, peach, honey and spice notes. Rounded, rich and textured with lovely texture. Concentrated and bold with amazing richness. Lovely balance with some sweetness and notes of ginger. 94/100 

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2008 Alsace, France
Honey, melon and lychee. Rich aromatics. Rounded, peachy and melony. Lush and ripe with good balance. It is quite sweet with 48 g/litre sugar, but there’s some spiciness balancing this. Brilliant wine. 95/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos St Urbain Grand Cru Rangen de Thann 2010 Alsace, France
Rounded, taut and peppery with some fresh melon and grape notes. Lively, rich and bold. Mineral, grown-up wine with some fatness but also lovely spicy minerality and some smoky notes. Brilliant. 95/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2010 Alsace, France
60 g/litre residual sugar. Rich, bold, ripe and sweet with rich melon notes and a hint of lychee. Rounded and smooth. A rich, sweet wine that’s very pretty. 93/100

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive 2010 Alsace, France
From two vineyards with gravelly soils, 90 g/litre sugar. Very lively, rich and sweet with bold grapey notes and some spice and pear. Very rich but balanced. 92/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Vendange Tardive 2010 Alsace, France
10.5% alcohol, 114 g/litre residual sugar. Rich lychee, melon and spice notes as well as some apricot. Very pure, sweet and concentrated with bold grapey notes. Brilliant stuff. 94/100

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive Clos Windsbuhl 2005 Alsace, France
Amazing smoking mineral edge to the very sweet, ripe melony fruit. Some crystalline notes. Wonderfully ripe, open and sweet with melon, ripe apple, herb and spice, as well as apple pie and vanilla. Amazing complexity. 97/100

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2005 Alsace, France
Amazing nose of nectarine, satsuma and grape with incredible purity. The palate is textured and powerful: very sweet with melon, tangerine, mandarin and spice notes. Smooth with some minerality, as well as peppery freshness that offsets the sweetness. Incredible. 97/100

Part 1, Paul Blanck
Part 2, Clement Klur
Part 3, Schlumberger
Part 4, Zind Humbrecht
Part 5, Albert Boxler
Part 6, Dirler-Cadé
Part 7, Josmeyer

See also: pictures from the vineyards of Alsace, part 1, Paul Blanck

Wines tasted 06/12  
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