Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal VT 2004
One of the most enduringly appealing features of wine – wine that is worth talking about, at least – is the sense of place this transformed grape juice can convey. Each cuvée, each individual bottle, carries a synthesis of vineyard, vigneron and vintage which makes it unique when set against its peers. No other agricultural product comes close in translating its origins in this manner. It is this sense of place that keeps bringing me back to wine, an addiction made easier to bear by the fact that the finished product is often – provided it is wisely chosen – delicious.
This week’s wine seems as good an example as any of a wine that translates a sense of place. The wine in question originates from Clos Jebsal, a small walled vineyard closely abutting the vineyards of grand cru Brand, and the lieu-dit Heimbourg, all of which lie just to the north of Turckheim in Alsace. All three sites are associated with Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, and they are all closely related.
Beginning with the grand cru Brand, this extensive vineyard comprises many different plots; although it was originally just 3 hectares in size over the years its boundaries have spread, swallowing up any number of neighbouring vineyards, including Steinglitz, Kirchthal, Schneckenberg, Weingarten and Jebsal, and today there are about 60 hectares of vines that lay claim to the Brand name. At the western end lies the lieu-dit Heimbourg, a site worth considering alongside Brand, not just for the Zind Humbrecht connection but because the wines of this vineyard were once sold as Brand before the limits of the grand cru vineyard were set in stone in the 1980s – with Heimbourg on the outside of this new boundary.
Nestling between these two vineyards to the north and the town to the south is Clos Jebsal, a 1.4-hectare vineyard rich in gypsum and marl owned in its entirety by Zind Humbrecht. It is a remarkable site for many reasons; first and foremost it has a fine, south-facing aspect which makes this a real hot-spot, superb for ripening fruit. And it is a terraced vineyard, the steep slope running up from the town towards the Heimbourg vines above, with three or four rows of vines on each step. As a result of this very favourable microclimate the vines – all Pinot Gris, planted by Zind Humbrecht in 1983 – usually have no difficulty attaining high sugar levels, helped on by botrytis or passerillage. Indeed, between 1992 and 2003, the site saw a remarkable unbroken 11-year run of yielding a sélection de grains nobles, 2004 ‘merely’ yielding a sweet vendange tardive cuvée – as featured here – with just 68 g/l residual sugar.
And so now we are familiar with its origins, onto the wine itself, the 2004 Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal from Zind Humbrecht. In the glass it has a shimmering, fairly rich but very bright golden hue betraying the sweetness that this cuvée carries. The nose is evocative and very expressive, as we should perhaps expect from Zind Humbrecht. There is an intense richness, redolent of tropical fruit salad, with a honeyed sweetness. Layered on top of this there is a very forward note of smoky bacon, together with nuances of white pepper and ginger. This very expressive aromatic profile is more than matched by a great presence on the palate, sweet and full and very broad, with fleeting moments of tangerine zest mixed in with the rich flavours of brioche, lemons and star fruit, backed up by a fine skeleton comprising a lightly grippy structure and with a vibrant acidity alongside. The rolling finish is long and perfectly formed, with waves of bitter grip. This is a touch more delicate and light-footed than many Zind Humbrecht wines, reflecting that rather restrained residual sugar, but there is still no shortage of sweetness, flavour and impact here. Delicious. 17.5+/20 (25/10/10)