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THE 2016 VINTAGE  - The vintage 2016 is extremely contrasted.

A mild and wet winter and spring allowed for a fertile budbreak but also caused lots of disease problems (mildew). Summer and ripening period to the harvest were arid and warm. 2016 strangely combines the characteristics of an early and late ripening vintage.

Winter 2015/2016 wasn’t very cold, as it happens often now. A few frost days in March and lots of humidity helped delay the start of the budbreak to middle April. End of April the risk of frost was high but luckily for Alsace, only a few vineyards near the main valley floor were affected. As a consequence to the 2015 heat and hydric stress, the vines increased their fertility and the buds produced lots of clusters. It was possible to witness a potentially huge crop for 2016 early on. Important rainfalls in April, May and June (up to 3 times the average) caused serious mildew attacks and as a consequence, the flowering only started the second half of June. Mildew was aggressive very early and growers who skipped the first spraying had huge losses. The vines grew vigorously during this period. Keeping up with the spraying programs and canopy management was a challenge. End of June, we had 40 people on the payroll in the vineyards alone! At least, letting the grass grow wasn’t a problem.

As summer started, temperature started to climb (extremely hot mid July) and the rain stopped. This was abrupt, as we only had 100mm of rain in 4 months after the flowering. Véraison started mid August for all the grapes at the exception of the Gewurztraminer that took much more time. The vines halted their growth easily as the drought set in, but in many places, the vines started to express serious hydric stress problems at the end of August. The consequences were serious: lack of acidity, not enough sugar ripeness, tight bitter skins… especially where the viticulture wasn’t adapted (lower yields, removing cover crops, shading, superficial root system…) and on the poorer soil types (sandy soil, granite, sandstone…) for the younger vines. All grapes were affected by the drought, but the sugar blockage was particularly impressive on Riesling.

 

Harvest started mid-September with perfect weather conditions. With the exception of hydric stress with the young vines on the valley floor, the grapes were very healthy, showed good balance and both technically and physiologically ripe. Harvest was stretched over a long period of time, consequence of a prolonged flowering but also different soil behavior with the climate. Topography, soil type, microclimate influences were important in this vintage. Pinot-Gris were harvested quite early, benefiting from the late September heat, Riesling took a long time to build up sugar ripeness and Gewurztraminer took even more time to ripen its skins properly (over 120 days after flowering). October was much colder, with the wind blowing from the North, but also very dry and sunny. Differences between soil types were also marked, so for example the Brand vineyard was picked a month before the Rangen! Generally speaking, lighter soils were harvested end September/early October and heavier soils towards the end of October for the later grape varieties. Within the same vineyard, Pinot-Gris was picked a month before the Riesling. Harvest finished November 2nd on our estate, but it wasn’t rare to see some growers finishing only in December. Unfortunately, except for the Clos Jebsal, 2016 wasn’t a vintage for late harvest style wines.

The vineyards that produced a reasonable crop resulted in wines with great structure (acidity/ripeness) and complex textures. Having to wait a long time to harvest also guarantees perfect phenolic ripeness. Unlike many recent vintages, sugar levels are low, resulting in delicate structure and mostly bone dry styles. Alsace shows again how well the vineyards are protected by the Vosges mountain range as it is probably one of the rare regions that wasn’t too affected by frost and storms in 2016 in France. Most wines have only just finished their fermentation (September 2017), but it is clear that all grape varieties are successful and 2016 will be a delicate complex vintage.

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History

Winegrowers father to son since 1620, the Humbrecht family has cultivated their vines in the great terroirs of Alsace.

Domaine Zind Humbrecht was created in 1959 and today owns 40ha of vines present in the Grand Crus of Rangen de Thann (5.5ha), Goldert in Gueberschwihr (0.9ha), Hengst in Wintzenheim (1.4ha) and Brand in Turckheim (2.4ha); as well as the terroirs of Rotenberg (1.8ha) and Clos Häuserer (1.2ha) in Wintzenheim; Herrenweg (11.5ha), Clos Jebsal (1.3ha) and Heimbourg (4ha) in Turckheim and the Clos Windsbuhl (5.15ha) in Hunawihr.

The expression of terroir, conveyed through grape varieties of Alsace, is reinforced by cultivating the vines organically and according to biodynamic principles. Great lengths are gone to each growing season to produce the best quality grapes from each vineyard. As respect for the vine and soil life is imperative, the viticultural tasks are carried out by a team of 22 dedicated staff members. The high ratio of vineyard worker to vineyard surface enables an attention to detail and the execution of many of the viticultural tasks manually. In addition, animal traction and the use of their own compost help to reduce the impact of mechanical compaction on the soils.

Ripe, balanced and concentrated grapes enables the elimination of any vinification techniques that would modify the initial harmony of each terroir. Fermentations are very slow, and the wines spend a minimum of 6 months on the total lees. The wines are bottled between 12 and 24 months after the harvest.

The yield is greatly vintage dependent, and averages around 35hl/ha with an annual production of between 12 000 and 16 000 cases.

Since 1992, the Domaine Zind Humbrecht is located at Route de Colmar, Turckheim, in the heart of the Herrenweg vineyard

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Vineyards

The Domaine produces wines from the following Grand Cru classified terroirs:

BRAND in Turckheim, HENGST in Wintzenheim, GOLDERT in Gueberschwihr, RANGEN DE THANN in Thann and in 2010 the Domaine was presented with an opportunity to acquire a small parcel of 0.32ha in the Grand Cru SOMMERBERG in Niedermorschwihr.

Wines from specific lieux-dits include the CLOS WINDSBUHL in Hunawihr, HEIMBOURG, CLOS JEBSAL and HERRENWEG in Turckheim, CLOS HAUSERER and ROTENBERG in Wintzenheim.

Our parcels which are either too small or not classified within these lieux-dit or Grand Cru vineyard sites are used for our “village” level or AOC Alsace wines.

Our annual production varies between 10 000 and 18 000 cases, with an average production of about 16 000 cases. Between 75 and 85% of our wines are exported.

Since 1992, the cellar and offices of Domaine Zind Humbrecht are situated at Route de Colmar, outside Turckheim in the heart of the Herrenweg de Turckheim vineyards.

 

The Rangen today

The Rangen was classified as a Grand Cru in 1983 and awarded appellation status “Appellation Rangen Grand Cru” in 2011. In 2012 the maximum yield allowed in the Rangen Grand Cru was reduced to 50hl/ha.

 

Terroir

The soil structure of this famous locality is a very particular one and absolutely unique in Alsace. Dating from the Carboniferous era (Dévono-dinantien), it is made up of volcanic rocks and sedimentary sandstones with a varying abundance of volcanic elements. It is strewn with stones eroded from hard rocks: grauwackes, volcanic tufa, and a rock flow of brown micaceous andesite. This layer has a thickness of around 40 to 60 cm above the fissured bedrock rock, which allows the vine roots to penetrate to a greater depth and favours a better natural drainage.

This type of terrain and the soil depth characterize a poor environment, low in clay content (15%) and therefore favourable to quality. The dark colour of the soil, a shade of reddish-brown, lends itself to higher soil temperatures.

The full south-facing aspect of the vineyard increases the amount of direct daylight giving the vines a privileged position on the steep Rangen hillside (90% on average), which has dictated the choice of terraced planting. The proximity of the Vosges Mountains, higher rainfall (750mm) and higher altitude of this vineyard relevant to other vineyards in Alsace (350m to 450m above sea level) are important factors which contribute to the late ripening character of this terroir.
In contrast the south facing slopes and exceptional exposition allows the grapes to mature slowly in October and November thus making it possible to achieve very high levels of concentration.

The Grand Cru Rangen de Thann is the most southern vineyard in Alsace, situated at the end of the Route du Vin, quite isolated from the rest of the Alsatian vineyards. The Grand Cru is bordered

 

Grape Varieties

The late ripening character of the Rangen results in the potential of achieving great physiological ripeness, which is very important when working with a grape variety like Riesling. Despite a solar topography (steep south facing slopes and warm soils) the ripening process is slow and the harvest late, the harvest date quite often being 2 to 3 weeks after the start of harvest.

The acidic, well-draining, warm soils of the Rangen are very favourable for Riesling, yet more surprisingly are also well suited to the predominantly limestone grown Pinot Gris. The fact that the Rangen naturally yields very small crops, without any manual intervention (green harvesting), adds to the success of Pinot Gris on these slopes.
The poor soils (low in organic matter and topsoil) necessitate high planting density, with the average planting density at 10 000 vines/ha for Domaine Zind Humbrecht at Rangen Thann.

The volcanic soil imprints a specific aromatic character and unique personality to the wines grown on this soil. Flint and smoke are the two descriptors most often associated with the wines from this terroir, highlighting the minerality of the Riesling and the earthiness of Pinot Gris.

The Gewurztraminer Rangen is rare, not only due to the small proportion of vineyard surface, but the cool winds that exit the valley hamper the flowering (coulure) and result in very small crops. Despite these challenging conditions, the Gewurztraminer from Rangen is capable of great expression of the volcanic terroir.

 

Working in the Rangen

In the Rangen the vines are planted at high densities along the very steep slopes. The vines are trained low, close to the soil to benefit from the warmth of the soil and rock. This warmth is needed by the late ripening terroir to perfectly ripen the grapes at the end of the growing season.

The Rangen is a challenging terroir to work and to maintain. The steep slopes necessitate many small terraces created with dry stone walls, requiring regular repair and maintenance. The impact of erosion and heavy rainfalls can also be significant on this terroir.

The high altitude and cooler climate makes the Rangen more susceptible to the development of powdery mildew, a formidable challenge in certain vintages. Downy mildew is less significant and is kept at bay by the cool winds which exit the valley and the cooler climate linked to the high altitude. As it is not possible to pass with tractors in these vineyards all treatments are carried out manually. Botrytis is not a problem in this vineyard and the late development in certain vintages is sought after to obtain the maturity required for Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles wines.

The working of the soil, an important element for biodynamic viticulture as all herbicides are banned, is done manually with the help of a winch system. In order to prevent competition from other plants and grass on what is already not a very fertile soil; the vineyards are ploughed at least twice per year.

 

Low Yields

Vines grown in the Grand Cru Rangen deliver very low yields. Despite a high planting density the average yields are less than 30 hl/ha, often between 15 and 25 hl /ha (in vintages 2012, 2010). The low yields being linked directly to the challenging growing conditions and soils led to the decision by the collective of producers of the Rangen to accept maximum yields of 50 hl/ha for Grand Cru wines in 1993.

 

 

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Winemaking

Olivier Humbrecht, General Manager of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, is the second winemaker in the world to attain Master of Wine status.  With degrees from the Ecole Supérieure d’Agriculture de Purpan and Université d’Oenologie de Toulouse in Agriculture and Oenology, respectively, Olivier earned his Master of Wine certification in 1989.  The same year, he took over winemaking from his father, continuing an unbroken lineage that extends back to the year 1620.

Since 2002, he has served as President of the Syndicat International des Vignerons en Culure Bio-Dynamique/ Biodyvin (SIVCBD).  He became President of the Alsace Grand Cru Association in 2011.

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Inside information

Domaine Zind Humbrecht was created in 1959 through the amalgamation of the Humbrecht family vineyards in Gueberschwihr and the Zind family vineyards in Wintzenheim.  Prior to 1959, both families produced and sold their wines under their respective names.

After taking over the reins from Léonard and Geneviève Humbrecht in 1989, the Domaine is today run by Olivier and Margaret Humbrecht.

Winegrowing is a tradition in the Humbrecht family that has been passed down from father to son since the 30 Year War in 1620. Canon Barth, an historian of Alsatian wine, recounts that the Humbrecht family was a tenant of the Marbach Abbey vineyards near Gueberschwihr in the 18th century.  However, it was only in 1947 that the Humbrecht family began producing, vinifying and selling their wines under the Humbrecht name.

Domaine Zind Humbrecht today comprises of 41.1 hectares of vines, spread out over the following 6 communes:

  • 5.5ha Thann
  • 6.0ha Hunawihr
  • 2.2ha Gueberschwihr
  • 7.3ha Wintzenheim
  • 19.8ha Turckheim
  • 0.3ha Niedermorschwihr

After many years’ experience with these terroirs, we are able to assign the different Alsatian grape varieties to our specific soils and mesoclimates, respecting the specificity of each cru. This also explains the complexity of the composition of grape varieties and the diversity of wine styles possible within a commune.

 

The Domaine produces wines from the following Grand Cru classified terroirs:

BRAND in Turckheim, HENGST in Wintzenheim, GOLDERT in Gueberschwihr, RANGEN DE THANN in Thann and in 2010 the Domaine was presented with an opportunity to acquire a small parcel of 0.32ha in the Grand Cru SOMMERBERG in Niedermorschwihr.

Wines from specific lieux-dits include the CLOS WINDSBUHL in Hunawihr, HEIMBOURG, CLOS JEBSAL and HERRENWEG in Turckheim, CLOS HAUSERER and ROTENBERG in Wintzenheim.

Our parcels which are either too small or not classified within these lieux-dit or Grand Cru vineyard sites are used for our “village” level or AOC Alsace wines.

Our annual production varies between 10 000 and 18 000 cases, with an average production of about 16 000 cases. Between 75 and 85% of our wines are exported.

Since 1992, the cellar and offices of Domaine Zind Humbrecht are situated at Route de Colmar, outside Turckheim in the heart of the Herrenweg de Turckheim vineyards.

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23 different wines with 63 vintages

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Wine Moments

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 Julia Harding MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  6 wines  from  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht . In a tasting of  25 wines 

Alpha Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Toumpa Vineyard /Toumpa means ‘lower-altitude basin’, like a location in a valley. 1.3-ha vineyard at 620-710 m. Sandy-clay soil over limestone. Hand harvested. Skin contact under inert atmosphere at low temperature. Controlled alcoholic fermentation in fine grain, untoasted Bertranges and Jupille oak barriques with regular stirring on fine lees. Maximum 7 months following vinification in the same oak casks. TA 5.7 g/l, pH 3.51, RS 1.6 g/l.
Unexpectedly peachy on the nose, with citrus freshness too but the oak is hardly visible except in a delicate creamy spice. More creamy on the palate but I have to say this is masterful use of oak and lees, giving a gentle creamy quality rather than a heavy oak flavour. Gentle and fresh, elegant and persistent. I am not sure it has the concentration for long ageing but there is no hurry to drink this. (JH)

3m 20d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  2 wines  from  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Vega Sicilia Unico 2006 / Ruby. Blueberries, vanilla, dark berries, liquorice, scented, almost floral behind, layered and nuanced. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, dark fruity, spices, liquorice, layered and detailed, intense and long. 96p

1y 3d ago

 Huizi Zeng, Wine Writer (China)  tasted  14 wines  from  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht . In a tasting of  14 wines 

ZIND-HUMBRECHT Gewürztraminer Herrenweg Vendange Tardive Vielles Vignes 2009 / The nose shows great aromatic intensity with fresh exotic fruits (litchi), citrus zests and an overall sensation of maturity while the botrytis remains discreet. The palate is an profound continuation of the nose. The Herrenweg has a restrained influence on the wine, allowing the Gewürztraminer to speak out in an elegant fashion. The wine finishes on an attractive round sweet mouth-feel, superbly balanced with a nice citrusy acidity. Although this wine is already very approachable, it will benefit from extra aging.

2y 3m ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht . In a tasting of  12 wines 

A great tasting was hold by the Institute of Masters of Wine and Vinexpo on the topic of Riesling around the World. Debra Meiburg MW moderated this prestigious event featuring a number of Master of Wine for Rieslings from different countries. Gerard Basset MW presented Alsace, Markus Del Monego MW presented Germany, Roman Horvath MW was explaining Austrian Riesling, Justin Howard-Sneyd MW represented Australia and Matthew Deller North America. 

2y 11m ago

 Juha Jormanainen, Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Zind-Humbrecht . In a tasting of  7 wines 

Graham Vintage Port 1963 / Clear but not very intensive red color, broad nose with aromas of red berries, strawberry and arctic bramble. On palate strong but still gentle, elegant wine with loads of berries, chocolate and plum – very, very, very long and lovely aftertaste. This is my favorite port for Christmas, if I don’t have Quinta 63 Nacional. If you have opportunity to buy a bottle under 300 euros, don’t think a second. Beautiful women just love this wine… Points 96.

3y 6m ago

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