Monday, 6 June 2011

Icons - Zind Humbrecht

Hello All!

Welcome to the third installment of the Icons series - today, the biodynamic Alsace producer; Domaine Zind Humbrecht. I must admit, until recently I hadn't tried any of their wines but I have seen them lauded many times by the wine press. Current man at the helm in Turckheim is Oliver Humbrecht MW, the first Frenchman to become a Master of Wine. He is the son of Genevieve Zind and Leonard Humbrecht who created the domaine in 1959, although the family have been making wine since the 17th century! 

Their wines are revered for expressing a sense of place from the various Grand Cru and single vineyard sites, no doubt some would say, due to their fastidious vineyard practices (fully-certified as biodynamic). The top wines carry a hefty price-tag, for example a Gewurz from the Hengst Grand Cru vineyard will set you back about £40 - £60 a bottle! 

However, they do offer entry-level wines, and it is here that we'll look to see if you can get a feel for that "terroir expression" so often quoted, albeit at a sensible price. We had the entry-level Riesling and Gewurztraminer, both from 2009 and both from Majestic Wine at £11.99 each (when you buy 2-bottles, normally £14.99 each).

Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Riesling, 2009, 11.5%

The Look: A pale gold, very bright and clear with a watery white rim.

The Smell: Complex. Grapey, creamy vanilla, lots of stone fruit like peach and apricot, slightly nutty and some mineral undertones.

The Taste: There's acidity, smoothness, opulent and luxurious fruit, peach and apricot again dominating plus a long, dry, crisp citrussy finish.

The Score: Good, but not superb. I was left wondering what all the fuss was about, and didn't really get a sense of "terroir expression" apart from a slightly mineral nose. Worth a try, but for £15 I'd really have to go with something a bit fresher from the New World.   7.5/10. Recommended 

VFM: Normal price of £14.99 yields a VFM of 0.50 which is not great value by any stretch, but neither is it appalling! 


Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Gewurztraminer, 2009, 14%

The Look: A deep golden white.

The Smell: Very floral, candied-fruit type smell, VERY Turkish Delight and a deep scent. A nutty oakiness too.

The Taste: Off-dry but with plenty of balancing acidity. Smooth, full palate but very heavy and hard-drinking. Lots of florality and Turkish Delight flavours leading to a bitter grapefruit finish. Odd. Really needs food.

The Score: You need food to accompany this wine, rather than the other way around! Really heavy - we didn't finish the second glass (which is highly unusual for us!). I can't deny that it is probably well-made, just not my bag.  6/10.

VFM: Normal price of £14.99 yields a relatively poor VFM of 0.40 which, again, isn't great value.


There is a lot of Region-Snobbery as I call it associated with the Alsace, but on the evidence of entry-level wines from Domaine Zind Humbrecht, moderately unimpressed are we. The Riesling was good, but for £15? Pfft. There are bags more flavour in say, an Australian Clare Valley Riesling and signs of better "terroir expression" also coming to light. New Zealand, Chile, and don't forget Germany


With the Gewurz, in terms of personal choice, I'd much rather plump for a fresh, fruity Gewurz from the New World (Oz, NZ, Bio Bio in Chile etc.) or even better, the supremely fresh wines from Italy's Alto Adige - those to me, typify what Gewurz should be like, drenched in Lychee fruit, zippy-zingy acidity, and bone-dry. In a recent Decanter, Gewurz was described as a "Marmite" wine (love it or hate it). Actually, I'm inclined to disagree. I'd say that Alsace Gewurz is a "Marmite" wine, but the fresh, fruity, delicious Gewurzes from elsewhere have much more appeal. Region-Snobbery was again, horribly-evident in their poll, which basically implied the the only Gewurz worth its salt was from the Alsace. To the wine drinker on a budget that is absolute bollocks. Perhaps, if I was ever inclined to spend £60 on a bottle from the Alsace I may have an epiphany and eat my words. However, to encourage that sort of spend needs at least some sign that trading-up is actually worth it. I have yet to see that evidence.


My advice - for aromatics like Riesling, Gewurz and Pinot Gris - go to the New World or Alto Adige. Alsace on a budget is flat and flavourless in comparison.


As always, speak to you soon.





1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Alsace wines, but we do tend to see only the rather more expensive stuff in the UK.

    If you can get yourself to Alsace (not that far away), there are very pleasant aromatic dry whites to be had for around €5 - see here:

    Cheers, Tom