Alsace adventure (2) the brilliant wines of Emile Beyer

Based in Eguisheim, Emile Beyer is a really exceptional producer, and I visited with Christian and Valerie Beyer. Eguisheim is a historic wine village in Alsace that was making wines in the second century CE, and it was established as a Roman camp. ‘History has always played an important role in this place,’ says Christian. There was even a pope born here in 1002. The village itself is well preserved, and has 360 hectares of vines (the fifth largest wine town in Alsace) with two Grand Crus: Eichberg and Pferisberg.

Valerie and Christian Beyer

We took a trip into the vineyards before tasting the wines. They explained why Alsace is one of the most complicated regions in France in terms of terroir. The Vosges and Black Forest mountains were one 50 million years ago: they were formed from elementary granite that had been uplifted and then covered in sea, resulting in sedimentary deposits. The middle of this uplift then collapsed, separating the Vosges and the Black Forest mountains, and this rift valley became the Rhine plain. But with seas and rivers there was further modification of the already jumbled soil types, so that Alsace now has 14 different kinds of soils including limestone, granite, volcanic and schist, all within 150 km. There’s also a diversity of climates.

Valerie is studying a diploma in enology at Dijon wine school, and is looking at the impact of stems on Gewurztraminer, taking only the stems to see the impact. The results aren’t out yet.

Pinot Noir is an interesting story in Alsace at the moment, and Emile Beyer are doing some interesting things with it. Yields for Pinot are low: 28 hl/ha. But they avoid over-ripeness. Fermentation takes three weeks but is more of an infusion approach than extraction, with no punching down.

The 2023 vintage was much easier than tricky 2021, but they felt the drought a bit in the summer. Two cool weeks in early August saved the vintage. June and July were so hot and dry.

Back in the day, says Christian, Pinot Noir had to be picked as ripe as possible, picking at 14 or 15% alcohol. This, fortunately, has changed. ‘But Alsace has a nice potential to grow Pinot Noirs.’


Emile Beyer Pinot Noir Eguisheim 2022 (cask sample)
Sample from 3 different barrels, mostly 2-4 years old. Used some whole clusters this year, which brings freshness. Sweetly aromatic with floral black cherries and raspberries, as well as some mineral earthy hints in the background. The palate has vibrancy and directness with a lovely core of black cherries, and also meat and charcoal. Rich and expressive with lovely fruit intensity. Has some meaty savouriness, too. Superb. 94/100 (€119)

Emile Beyer Pinot Noir Eguisheim 2020
Mostly old oak (10-15% new), all small casks. Floral, bright and expressive with good tannins and nice acidity, with tart sour cherry notes as well as appealing raspberry and cherry notes. Fresh, vibrant and bracing, with good concentration and nice intensity of flavour. 93/100

Emile Beyer Pinot Noir Lieu Dit Sundel 2022 (cask sample)
100% new oak. Taut, linear, fresh and structured with wonderful purity to the black cherry, red cherry and raspberry fruit, showing great precision and focus. Nice acid line with good structure, showing freshness and some support from well integrated oak. Finishes with some sour cherry. Taut and focused with great precision. 95/100

Emile Beyer Pinot Noir Lieu Dit Sundel 2020
13% alcohol. 100% new oak. Mineral, stony edge to the bright cherry and raspberry fruit. Good intensity here with nice tannins and well integrated oak, and fresh bright fruit with high acidity. Firm tannins and good acidity on the finish. This has lovely savouriness as well as powerful fruit. 94/100

Emile Beyer Mosaïque 2022
13.5% alcohol. Fruity, generous and expressive with lovely lemon and fine spices. 60% Riesling and 40% Pinot Gris, mostly. Lovely balance here with finesse and detail. Such a lovely fine-grained mineral character showing lovely delicacy as well as depth of fruit. 93/100

Emile Beyer Liber 2021
2021 gave a very small crop where they didn’t harvest bunches, only berries. This is the result: a blend with low sulfites, and Gewurztraminer skin fermented, unfiltered. Floral with rose petal and mandarin on the nose. The palate has structure from light bitterness and acidity, with notes of melon, peach and pear. Really concentrated, but bright and vivid with great intensity. Finishes with notes of white pepper, spice and honey. 93/100

Emile Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Eichberg 2022
Fresh and linear with lovely lime, lemon and pear fruit. Fine structure here with some mineral and spice, showing fine spices and a slight salinity. Dry and beautifully expressive with great precision. A beautiful expression of Riesling. Youthful but with amazing integrated acidity. 94/100

Emile Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Eichberg 2020
So fine and linear with chiselled citrus fruit and good acidity. Linear and bright with notes of chalk and lime, and finishing with a lovely acid line. Shows precision and a lack of heaviness: this is delicate and fresh with a stony brightness on the finish. 94/100

Emile Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2020
pH 3.1 and 8 g/l TA. It’s almost a Mediterranean microclimate, with the green lizard and rosemary and lavender in this south-facing slope. Powerful and intense with high acidity and lovely lime fruit. Powerful and expressive with such high acidity, showing a youthful intensity. Stony and mineral. 94/100

Emile Beyer Pinot Gris Lieu Dit Hohrain 2022
14% alcohol. Powerful, fresh, dry expression of Pinot Gris (9 g/l rs, TA 7 g/l), with some grapey richness, a touch of cherry and some nice spicy notes. Lovely depth of fruit here with beautiful balance. Very fine. 93/100

Emile Beyer Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2022
14% alcohol. They use a bit of maceration here to give phenolic balance. Lovely aromatics here: fresh and grapey with some rose petal as well as a twist of lemon peel. Layered palate with a hint of sweetness (12 g/l rs) but also lovely delicacy and structure, showing superb balance. Lovely acid line, but not too much, not too little. 94/100