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Zind Humbrecht Heimbourg Pinot Gris 2001

Zind Humbrecht indice labellingThis seems like a good bottle with which to start this weekly feature, as it encapsulates so much of what makes wine so interesting. The domaine itself needs no introduction to those intimately familiar with Alsace, but my Zind Humbrecht profile should serve as a decent introduction to those without experience of these wines. In short, currently in charge is Olivier Humbrecht, who converted the entire estate to biodynamic viticulture not long after he took the reins from his father Léonard. The domaine style is rich, frequently with significant quantities of residual sugar (Olivier has recently introduced an indice system for describing sweetness on the label, as illustrated here on the label of the 2003 Heimbourg Riesling), they are intensely flavoured, often carry quite a whack of alcohol (looking at the several different cuvées in my cellar, there are none less than 13%, and the numbers stretch up as high as 16% for the Hengst 1998 Gewurztraminer - this is by no means the highest) and the wines seem almost guaranteed a high score from influential critics such as Parker. So that's biodynamics, residual sugar in 'dry' wines, massive alcohol and Parker points aplenty.....not much controversy here, then.

Zind Humbrecht bottlesPersonally I like the style, although I have found I prefer many of the wines with six to eight years bottle age, as a minimum, when they seem to settle from their exuberant youth into a somewhat more circumscribed style, more structured, more balanced. More refreshing, I suppose. I'm generalising wildly, of course, but at this point in their lives the residual sugar is less troublesome to my palate and I find the whole package much more enjoyable. Today's wine, though, I found pretty good to drink right now, although I still think it will benefit from some cellar time. It's also a veritable bargain (something that interests all of us), as it can currently be sourced from Costco in the UK for £10.56 per bottle; dirt cheap for Zind Humbrecht. This is the Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg 2001, Heimbourg being a 7 ha lieu-dit adjacent to the Brand Grand Cru vineyard. Olivier Humbrecht owns over half of this limestone site, planted with Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This example of the latter has a vibrant straw-gold hue, and offers up lots of Pinot Gris character on the nose, a variety which I find always gives a rich melange of tropical fruit aromas when nicely ripe. This has little notes of crispy bacon fat too. The immediate impression on the palate is that the intensity of flavour does not quite match the plump texture, which gives the wine a slightly hollow note, but through the midpalate the wine opens out and reveals more mineral, perfumed and floral fruit which sits quite nicely on the plump cushion of residual sugar (for those interested, this wine is Indice 4).

I cannot deny that this is a good wine; I would, ideally, prefer a little more firm acidity for current drinking, but there is such a lovely flourish of flavour present on the finish, and there is such potential for the overall balance to improve in the cellar, that I have picked up a few bottles myself to tuck away. After all, it is rather a bargain. 17/20 (17/7/06)

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