Wines from the Grés/Sandstone soil type
De Grés et De Force – Riesling.
From the sandstone (gréseux) and permeable, windy and airy, high slopes of Reichsfeld, comes this delightful Riesling. The 2015 was aged on the lees in barriques for 11 months, before bottling. Clear with pale yellow reflects. Catherine’s Rieslings are usually lightly filtered to encourage their delicate side. At our last tasting, the 2015 had rush of green and white fruits on the nose, with a lovely balance of freshness, acidity, gourmandise and salinity. Dry with a long finish. The 2017 is the current vintage on the shelves and on restaurant wine lists.
Dessous de Table – an assemblage based on Auxerrois and Sylvaner.
The base is always Auxerrois and Sylvaner, with either Gewurztraminer or Riesling added, depending on the year. The 2016 is a 50/40/10 Auxerrois/Sylvaner/Riesling mix. The parcelles run up to 400m on the slopes and this drives a delicate light balance into these base varieties, which can have tendency towards roundness. Co-fermented to encourage a “common energy.” Aged in used burgundy barrels. Unfiltered but almost colourless in appearance. On the nose, white flowers and fruits and a mild hint of spices. There is roundness on tasting, but its well balanced with fresh acidity and a complex range of fruit from pear skins to agrumes. There is a hint of gingerbread spice on the delicious finish.
Empriente – Pinot Noir.
This high altitude Pinot Noir is brought into the cellar in small baskets to keep that delicate touch running from vineyard to bottled wine. The 2015 then went through 14 days maceration on whole bunch grapes with once daily pumping over. Ageing is in well-used burgundy barrels. A nice, deep ripe cherry colour, with spicy red fruits on the nose. Touch of tannins on the finish but that comes with the house signature, delicate finesse. One of these Pinot Noirs with that interesting balance between structure and fragility, even though 2015 is regarded as a “big” and hot year.
Pied de Nez – assemblage of Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer
This is a Vin De France, 50/50 varietal mix coming from the sandstone vineyards. The plan is to pick on the same day. The Pinot Noir is pressed directly and the juice added to the Gewurztraminer grapes, where it goes through a 10-day maceration. Ageing is in used burgundy barrels. The 2016 had a cloudy pale orange appearance. The round aromatic volume comes from the Gewurztraminer with very fine hints of mango. The overall effect is again a delicate structure; totally thirst quenching that finishes super dry with hints of dried fruits.
You can check out your web translators for what Pied de Nez could mean to you. For us, it kind of means having the last word and snubbing your nose at something.
Wines from the Schieferberg Lieu-Dit – Schist soil type
Ah, the rare blue schist, stony and rich in iron and magnesium. Perfect for that mineral and nervous type of Riesling those Alsace Riesling lovers adore. But there is more to a wine than the dirt that it grows in. The winemaker has a big influence and Catherine brings that delicate precision and buvability to a wine that could get far too tight and vertical and closed up. Even with global warming this can be regarded as a cool climate Riesling. Great balance between acidity and fruit with a nice tramline of something mineral like wet stones, like crumbling blue schist. Ah of course, that’s the dirt that it grows in.
The 2017 is still sitting in Catherine’s Bernardvillé cellar. Most likely to be bottled in the spring, when its ready after 18-19 months of élevage.
The crumbly layers of blue schist, where the vine roots dig deep.
T’as pas du Schiste – Pinot Noir
More play on the word game. Transition énergétique or a certain lack of substance?
This time we have Pinot Noir with the in-house approach of 15 days maceration and once daily pumping over. Pressed and moved into used oak barrels for ageing. A clear, pure ruby colour, with a touch of smoke on the nose both in the 2014 and 2015 editions. All griotte cherries, complex hints of pepper and super light tannins on tasting. Again the meticulous approach brings a wonderful balance and freshness to this wine. The 2017 is the cuveé currently available.
More to follow on Catherine Riss as we track her path in this world of relevant new Alsace wines.