Zind Humbrecht on 2007

Published by Sally on December 5, 2009

Modest icon winemaker and erudite, oenologue extraordinaire, Olivier Humbrecht MW, was in London recently to show some of his 2007 wines.

Olivier Humbrecht MW

Olivier Humbrecht MW

The Zind Humbrecht estate was founded in 1959 when Olivier’s father, Léonard, married Geneviève Zind. Before that the Humbrecht estate dated to 1620. The estate comprises around 40 hectares of vines around Alsace’s southern villages of Thann, Hunawihr, Gueberschwihr, Wintzenheim and Turckheim. The estate finished converting to biodynamism in 1999.

There’s a lot to manage at the domaine, as Humbrecht makes between 28 and 35 different wines in any given year, with a total production of roughly between 13,000 to 18,000 dozens.

The vintage 2007

Humbrecht said: “2007 was special for me and Alsace. We had a budbreak that was extremely early. A warm April was followed by perfect May weather. Many [of our] vineyards finished flowering on May 25th.” Alluding to climate change, he added “my grandfather never saw this before June 1st.” 

In a region such as Alsace, an early flowering augurs well for wine as it allows more time for the vine to produce sugar (a cooler climate limiting factor). But the downside, Humbrecht said was you “might ripen grapes in the warmer part of year, so you may lose some acidity.”

But August 2007 was a “lousy, cold, rainy month. The vines took more time to ripen the grapes [which therefore] kept huge acidity levels. Gradually the grapes ripened in September/October.”

In summary, Humbrecht said their “2007 had very healthy grapes, with no rot and huge acidity, above the average.”  He cites it as being a great vintage. Not words he would use lightly.


Because Alsace wines have become notorious for being bone dry to medium sweet, without any stipulation on the label to help consumers, Humbrecht developed this ‘indice’, which gives an indication of the level of sweetness on the palate. Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles are excluded from this ranking, because they are, by definition, sweet to very sweet.

This number, from 1 to 5, combines the sweetness, acidity, alcohol and overall structure of the wine.

  1. Technically dry or tasting dry.
  2. Not technically dry, but sweetness not apparent on the palate. Some tasters might find some roundness on the finish.
  3. Medium sweetness, especially present when the wine is young and might gradually disappear with the ageing.
  4. Sweet wine.
  5. High sweetness, vendange tardive in richness without the usual botrytis of vendange tardive.


The wines

Zind 2007 ~£15
12.5%.  12g/l RS.  Indice: 2
65% chardonnay 35% auxerrois from Clos Windsbuhl in Hunawihr – a steep slope facing south and east. Calcareous ‘muschelkalk’ with lots of seashells in it. Old, rocky, poor soil. 
Zind is a ‘vin de table’.  As it contains chardonnay, it is not allowed the Alsace appellation. 
The nose is of creamy melon and peach with aromatic white stone fruit, and with perfumed apple blossom in the background. Creamy smooth palate attack, rich, sweet stone fruit, with aromatic star anise spice; balance residual sweetness with attractive weight and volume. Not massively complex (not designed to be), but delicious and enticing.

Muscat Herrenweg de Turckheim, 2007 ~£25
13.9%. 2.2 g/l RS. Indice: 1
75% muscat d’Alsace, 25% muscat Ottonel.
A serious muscat, which starts fragrantly grapey, with aromatic spicy weight and richness. Modest acidity gives breadth to the body, fully dry, but aromatic nature of grape variety makes it an accompaniment to Asian food. No enormous complexity, (by design); has attractive volume of fruit, with hints of savouriness; persistent flavour in mouth, which is not in the fruity spectrum, but in the more serious, earth-driven spectrum.
Humbrecht said: “less sweet, less grapey, showing more mineral character. Shows muscat is an early ripening grape, planted in early vineyards. Rich. Harvested early with medium acidity, no noble rot.”

Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim, Lot 144, 2007, ~£25
13.5%.  9.8g/l RS.  Indice:
This is a valley floor vineyard with porous soil; heat penetrates more quickly than a soil that retains water. It is the most precocious vineyards on the estate.  
Elusive hints of tropical fruit on the nose. Palate attack is of fresh yellow fruit, with citrus, almost lime background, and firm fleshy/ripe acid core. Understated, lime and pineapple gently erupting on mid palate. Medium bodied, of elegance as well as substance. It has a long palate profile, focused on fruit spectrum, with attractive alcohol warmth at the back palate. The finish is also long and fruity.

Riesling Heimbourg 2007  ~£28
13.5%. 10.2g/l RS.  Indice: 2
Citrus, white stone fruit nose, with some allspice spiciness. Stony and tropical at the same time. A little tingly texture on the tongue. Has a long palate which is rich and pure fruited. Elegance and length in the palate, with a blossoming of fruit and texture along its linear core fleshed out with fruit and hints of spice. Lovely complexity all through the palate.  It has a lightness of being despite the intensity, volume and breadth of flavour.

Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann, Clos Saint-Urban 2007  ~£48
13.5%. 2g/l RS.  Indice: 1. 
This grand cru is at the southern end of Alsace at relatively high altitude of 350m to 450m.  
Tropical and citrus nose, with star anise. Long and expansive palate, savoury, complex, stony and spicy, with serious hints of complexing gun-smokiness. It has a linear palate structure, with fruit and stony flavour fronds blossoming beautifully. It’s intensely complex and layered; young and delicious now with its fresh core and elegant combination of fruit flesh and savoury notes. This is massively long and richly flavoured. Again, that intensity with lightness of being, even though the concentration is right there. Fabulouso.  

Pinot Gris Calcaire 2007  ~£23
14.6%.  29g/l RS. Indice: 3
Fruit from Clos Windsbuhl, the estate’s biggest single vineyard.
A notably darkish hue of straw. Tangerine-like on the nose, with overt medium sweetness on the very clean focused mid palate of honey and honeysuckle. The alcohol is nicely integrated into the quite full bodied and rich style. A great introduction to Alsace pinot gris.  

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2007 ~£30
15.3%. 9g/l RS. Indice: 2
Typical straw colour, with an aromatic spicy nose; allspice. Rich tingling on the tongue, with smooth steely/stony texture, gunsmoke, orange zest notes mid palate and a long finish.  The alcohol is completely harmonious and the wine retains a very fresh core, something of a hallmark for the vintage. The flavour concentration and its freshness of core sends shivers down the back. 

Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive 2005, ~£50 /half
12.4%.  74 g/l RS. Indice 5.
Lemon colour with classic lychee and rose petal aromatics. Lush texture attack, honeyed, with a smooth sweetness to the mid palate; the texture and flavour inseparable in delight. This is elegant and mid-weighted with notes of honeysuckle, turkish delight, ginger and nutmeg.  It’s harmonious, seamless, delightful, focused, very clean and long.  A proper sweet wine with a filigree detail of definition.

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