Oyster shell, salt spray, and kelp lend the Zind-Humbrecht 2008 Riesling Clos Hauserer a strikingly marine cast. Clear and juicy if relatively austere, this persists in its oceanic ways while deploying fresh citrus and tart plum to every crevice of the mouth, leaving a bracing, invigorating, saliva-inducing, rapier and mineral-tinged finishing impression. An over-10 grams acidic, 12.8% alcohol Riesling, it be worth following for a good 15 years (â€œperhaps longer,â€ suggests its author) though it is best suited for those whose archetype of Alsace Riesling may strike other wine lovers as severe. â€œThe grapes were beautiful gold, not the least green,â€ notes Humbrecht, â€œso I have to admit that I was surprised when I learned the acidity of the wine.â€ He assures me that it underwent malo â€“ there just wasnâ€™t much malic acid to transform!
Tasting the Zind-Humbrecht collections armed with what one knows of these vintages from most other establishments, both the 2008s and 2009s will harbor surprises. A number of 2008s are ornery in finished acidity, and some are more marked by botrytis than most other exemplars of their vintage from top addresses, this occasionally taking the form of fungal notes and piquancy that some tasters may find off-putting. The 2008 harvest began here already on September 23, lasting exactly one month. Selectivity in October â€“ especially with Pinot Gris â€“ consisted, explained Humbrecht, more in the careful removal of healthy bunches to insure some dry wines, with the remaining crop being left until later, the opposite of what more usually happens and at many other top-quality Alsace (or German) estates â€“ notwithstanding the literal meaning of the expression â€œvendange tardive.â€ â€œGewurztraminer was the last to ripen,â€ notes Humbrecht, and presumably for that reason grape sugars were very high by the time he picked, making for a collection nearly all of which exhibits V.T.-like sweetness. â€œIt was almost easier and more sensible to make S.G.N. this vintage than V.T.,â€ remarks Humbrecht by way of explaining why he rendered six of the former and only one 2008 wine in the latter category. â€œIf there had been pressure to harvest,â€ he notes, â€œthen we would have had V.T.s instead.â€ The majority of 2008 Rieslings â€“ as well as the Pinot Blanc and two Muscats â€“ were not bottled until February, 2010 on account of their high acidity and/or sluggish fermentations. But most of those wines underwent malo and finished dry or virtually so. (The yeasts and beneficial bacteria may have found it tough working in such a low pH medium, but â€“ eventually â€“ they succeeded.) Yet even in early-harvested instances, Humbrecht says that the proportion of malic acidity â€“ which thereafter diminished â€“ was never higher than one-third. Most of the 2008 vintage Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, even including the S.G.N.s, were bottled already in September, 2009.
The surprise on tasting the Zind-Humbrecht 2009s is an entirely pleasant one. The exceptional expressiveness of so many of these wines â€“ even if Olivier Humbrecht admits that â€œthey arenâ€™t always perfectly precise or pureâ€ â€“ is surely in large part a tribute to vineyard management that permitted such a substantial portion of so large a crop to be picked unusually early, yet expressively ripe, although, a few sites succumbed to fortunately noble rot. Among practices to which Humbrecht points as relevant to his 2009 quality is his elimination in recent years of vine hedging to achieve earlier and more uniform flavor ripeness without excess grape sugar. Instead, his crew now lets the tips grow and then laboriously ties or tucks them back into the canopy, an approach for which fellow-proponent of biodynamics Lalou Bize-Leroy has become well-known. Against a background in vintage 2009 of wines that fermented rapidly for most growers, Humbrecht explains that this was the case for many of his, too; but some that had stopped with significant residual sugar over the winter began fermenting again in early
Juicy acidity enlivens the quince, white peach, salt and stone notes of this bold Riesling, which is firmly structured, but still stylish and well put together, thanks to the fine balance and length. A pretty floral note lingers on the finish. Drink now through 2020. 500 cases made. â€“AN