It’s been a real scorcher this summer in Europe. All over the continent, grape harvests have started two to three weeks early including in Alsace in northeastern France. The harvest for Alsace’s crisp sparkling wines, the Crémants d’Alsace, began Aug. 22, and the harvest for still wine grapes kicked off Sept. 3.
As in the rest of Europe, securing enough workers to snip the grape bunches from the vines presents a big challenge. In Alsace, the situation becomes trickier with seven prominent white wine varieties — Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Muscat d’Alsace, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Pinot Auxerrois — and one red wine variety, Pinot Noir. Each variety ripens at different times depending on the vineyard’s degree of slope and sun exposure. Critical decisions must be made to obtain precisely balanced grapes.
“I am starting harvest about a week early this year,” says Alexandre Schoffit who works with his parents at their family-owned Domaine Schoffit based in Colmar. “The grape ripeness is already looking very nice, but we are keeping an eye on the acidity levels which are not too high this year.”
Limiting the grapes taken from each vine plays a crucial role.
“Where growers were meticulous in managing the soils and vines during the year, the quality potential for 2018 wines looks great. I am sure growers who were careful about yields will do a nice vintage,” Schoffit notes.
Schoffit’s comments highlight an important point. Dedicated, careful growers focused on doing the work needed to achieve quality rather than excessive quantity typically produce terrific Alsace wines year in and out. Try the following scintillating wines from growers who fit the bill:
2014 Rolly-Gassmann, Pinot Blanc, Alsace
(Luxury 74541; $19.99)
Putting the finishing touches on a magnificent new winery building doubtlessly complicates winegrower Pierre Gassmann’s 2018 harvest. Yet nobody works the vines with more commitment and passion than Gassmann who employs a dedicated team of year-round workers. This delightful wine offers Gassmann’s trademarks of seductive aromas and concentrated richness. The golden color unfolds ripe grapefruit and peach aromas opening to luscious fruity flavors. A touch of creaminess and zesty acidity balance the vibrant fruity finish. Pair it with grilled ahi tuna with a mango salsa sauce. Highly Recommended.
2014 Domaine Schoffit, Pinot Gris, Lieu-Dit Harth “Tradition,” Alsace
(Luxury Code: 44959; $22.99)
The wine come from a single well-placed vineyard basking in sunny days and cool nights. This “gastronomic” style Pinot Gris offers pure fruity citrus aromas and ripe peach flavors balanced by rich acidity. The essentially dry finish makes the wine enjoyable either as a delicious aperitif with savory bites or with pan-seared, panko-crusted turbot with melted butter and shallots. Highly Recommended.
2016 Domaine Marcel Deiss, Alsace Blanc, Alsace, France
(Luxury 74558; $23.99)
This delightful, delicious wine comes from a mindboggling mélange of thirteen varieties—-Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot, Pinot Noir, Sylvaner, Muscat d’Alsace (both white and red-skinned), Muscat à Petit Grain, Riesling, Gewürztraminer , Traminer, Chasselas and Chasselas Rose. Talented young grower Mathieu Deiss and his father Jean-Michel use organic and biodynamic methods to grow the fruit in clay and limestone soils around the family home in the village of Bergheim. The wine unfolds ripe pear and peach aromas with floral and brown spice notes. Vibrant grapefruit and white peach flavors with ample concentration balance with lively, fresh acidity through the fruity, but dry finish. Pair it with steamed mussels. Highly Recommended.
2016 Domaine Mittnacht Frères, Pinot Noir, Alsace
(Luxury 74926: $24.99)
It’s always a good indication of pleasure when the bottle empties rapidly. So it was with the first bottle of this delicious red made from biodynamically grown Pinot Noir grapes. The wine’s dark ruby color offers ripe red fruit aromas opening to delicious ripe, pure red fruit. Startlingly fresh acidity delivers beautiful balance and carries through the soft, fruity finish. The wine exemplifies the terrific quality and pleasure of Alsace Pinot Noirs coming from confident growers focused on reflecting Alsace’s complex terroir. Highly Recommended.
Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.