Zind Humbrecht Zind Z007
There are many facets of Alsace that serve to make it stand apart from the rest of France. Indeed, twice during the past few centuries this territory was not even French, having been under German control on each occasion. This oscillating history is I suspect of little or no relevance to the inhabitants of Alsace today, who consider themselves to be French and that their homeland has always been French (regardless of what claims were laid by other nations). Nevertheless, their position on the border between two great nations has shaped their heritage and their lives; there are certainly Germanic features to Alsace. The architecture for a start, some of the local foodstuffs and especially the names of towns and villages (Pfaffenheim, Wintzenheim and Zellenberg are hardly names you are likely to see repeated elsewhere in France). In wine, too, the evidence is there; the varieties planted – Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer – are just as home in Germany as they are here. Even the classic bottle shape associated with the region has more in common with the Mosel and Rhine than the rest of France.
One other feature of Alsace which distinguishes it from the rest of France (and which draws it closer to Germany as well) is the varietal labelling they have long employed. No other appellation in this great wine nation allows the name of the variety onto the label, but here for many decades it has been the norm. Not only those varieties above, but you might also see Pinot Blanc, Muscat or even Pinot Noir. In a market dominated by New World brands and their clear varietal labelling, it gave Alsace a little advantage. But when it comes to wine regulations, the French have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot. Since March 2005 varietal labelling has been optional for wines from grand cru sites, a ruling which suits the likes of Marcel Deiss – who prefers to focus on terroir rather than variety – down to a tee. Could this be the thin end of a wedge, to be driven home by a ruling outlawing the use of variety on Alsace labels? Some Alsace vignerons think so, and in 2009 200 such individuals, headed up by Laurence Faller of Domaine Weinbach, Olivier Humbrecht and Pierre Trimbach wrote to the Alsace Vintners Association to try and head off any such move. The Association denied any such plans, and in fact the whole affair seems to have been a storm in a teacup. Indeed, could it be anything else? A ban on varietal labelling in a region defined by 100% varietal wines would be more than a shot in the foot; how could a consumer differentiate between two wines, one Riesling and one Gewurztraminer, from the same producer, same vintage and the same grand cru vineyard if the variety – the only distinguishing feature – is banned from the label? It would be a ridiculous situation, so I hope for the sake of our sanity (which is already tested by the lack of information regarding residual sugar on Alsace labels) we hear nothing more about a ban on varietal labelling in Alsace.
This week’s wine, from Alsace of course, is also not without controversy, although at the other end of the spectrum from the varietal wines that characterise the region. This is Zind, a blended wine from Zind Humbrecht which, because of the inclusion of an unauthorised variety (Chardonnay) falls outside appellation definitions and is therefore sold as vin de table. The vintage is 2007, although as such information is forbidden in the vin de table classification Olivier Humbrecht gets round this by assigning the wine a useful lot number, Z007, instead. The creation of the Vin de France category, which I have already discussed in my write-up of Zind Z006, should make this nonsense redundant, but for the 2007 vintage this remains vin de table. And what of the wine? In the glass it has a vibrant although pale-straw hue. There are plenty of delicious and mouth-watering aromas on the nose, so typical of the best Edelzwicker blends; this one has plenty that is suggestive of Pinot Gris first and foremost, with aromas of tropical fruit salad and tangerine peel, very nicely lifted by elements of flower petals, minerals and an appealingly bitter seam of crisp, green nettles. A great texture on the palate follows, with plenty of sweetly ripe and intense fruit, backed up by that wonderful, trademark, chalky-volcanic minerality that you so often find in Zind-Humbrecht wines. There is definite sweetness here, in terms of flavour and mouthfeel, even if the wine is only an Indice 2 (the lower end of Humbrecht’s sweetness scale), but for my sugar-loving palate I find this very appealing, wrapped up with the minerals and acids as it is. Lovely wine. 17/20 (2/8/10)