Albert Mann Furstentum Gewürztraminer SdGN 1994
This week a return to Alsace, with another one in my very infrequent and informal programme of Alsace Grand Cru tastings, At my current rate of tasting, I should have worked my way through all fifty grand cru vineyards - tasting at least one wine from each - by the end of 2028. As I said, it's infrequent and informal! For previous instalments, see Brand (admittedly featuring a wine from Clos Jebsal - close enough for the moment) and Osterberg (here featuring a wine that doesn't declare the grand cru in question on the label, but again, this is close enough for me).
In this instalment I come to Furstentum, a grand cru vineyard I am reasonably unfamiliar with. That perhaps shouldn't surprise us too much; Furstentum doesn't have the reputation enjoyed by sites such as Brand, Hengst or Bruderthal, and - apart from Domaine Weinbach, an old favourite of mine - there are none of the really big names of Alsace, no Trimbach, Hugel, Zind Humbrecht or similar, associated with the vineyard. The main exponents, alongside the Fallers of Weinbach, are the domaines Paul Blanck and Albert Mann.
The vineyard in question covers 30.5 hectares and is just to the north of Kientzheim and Sigolsheim, a little to the south of Ribeauvillé. On the slopes to the west, just beyond the trees in the map above, there lies an outpost of Schlossberg, another grand cru perhaps best associate with Domaine Weinbach. This is merely an outpost, however, and the main part of that noble grand cru is further along the Kayserberg valley, to the west, and so I have elected to focus on Furstentum alone in the map above. Although not a grand cru, another lieu-dit of importance here is Altenbourg, which sits on the slopes below Furstentum, and again this site acts as an important source of fruit for Weinbach.
Returning to Furstentum now, the slopes are south- and south-east-facing, the soils calcareous with marl and sandstone, steep and pebbly and well-drained. The site is planted with a selection of the varieties associated with grand cru status, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, as well as Pinot Noir which although not eligible for grand cru wines is said to do well here. That the vineyard was classified as grand cru is largely down to the efforts of Marcel Blanck, who introduced the vineyard not just to the world but also, writes Tom Stevenson in The Wines of Alsace (Faber & Faber, 1993) to his peers and neighbours; even within the confines of Alsace, this was not a widely-known or well-understood vineyard.
As for the wine, the 1994 Furstentum Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles from Albert Mann now looks very mature, with a rich, deep, perhaps slightly worrying orange-gold hue. Aromatically it feels very evolved, with a sense of dryness to it, a faint woodiness with spicy, sweet-scented sandalwood character, and paradoxically a dense suggestion of sweetness, rich and evolved fruit elements which call to mind baked oranges. There are plenty of nuances alongside this which strongly suggest the advance of oxidation, a little touch of toffee, and alongside that hint of dried wood I first noticed there are scents of nutty caramel and baked earth. Despite this I find the palate to be fresh, vibrant and well-structured despite the intense sweetness that comes from the sides bringing more toffee and nut flavours rather than the exotic Gewürztraminer fruit I might have preferred. It remains very rich, weighty and well fleshed out throughout. This is certainly not drying out in the mouth, despite that drying sensation on the nose which is more related to a vein of oxidation I think. Firm in the finish, quite grippy here too, I adore the weight of this, and the sappy edge in the finish. This wine wears its age on its sleeve I think, but there is still some grippy pleasure here, although there's no denying it feels rather tired and may have been better five years ago. 15/20 (14/11/11)