Alsace Wine Region – 2018 Vintage Update

The Alsace Region grape harvest, les vendanges, has finished up and it all took place in almost perfect weather conditions. It kind of went on a bit due to a welcome uptick in quantity  and also the opportunity to bring in some late harvest wines.

The wintry weather in February 2018 seems far, far away. The snow and subzero temperatures that month led into a long cold month in March. This kept the season behind which slowed down growth and any April frost damage. Frost was a major problem in 2017. Next up, the month of May turned out to be one of the wettest on record with +42% more rain than rolling average for May. Then a long dry period set in right through to harvest, which started on August 22nd for cremant and the 3rd September for the main effort.
To follow how the harvest unfolded, please keep reading.

Winemakers Vintage Report

Back In Alsace would like to give a (another) big thank-you to Florian Beck-Hartweg for sharing weekly updates during the 2018 harvest. Together with his spouse Mathilde, the family work 4.5 hectares of organic vineyards around Dambach-La-Ville, including parcelles on the Frankstein Grand Cru. The town of Dambach-La-Ville sits on the Alsace wine route in the Bas Rhin (Lower Rhine) department, approximately 50 km south of Strasbourg. That’s about at the halfway point of the long snaking, north to south, wine region.

Florian’s weekly bulletins provide an interesting record on how the harvest developed. We feel quite chuffed that he is sharing this with Back In Alsace.

Florian and Mathilde have an information packed web site, including a lot of content in English and you can find it here

Harvest Bulletin # 3 – 30th September

It has been first class harvest up and down the Alsace wine region. With traditionally good, harvest weather following on from an excellent growing season. Here is Florian’s final report from Dambach-La-Ville.

The harvest finished very early for us, with the vines having worked hard during the growing season, with a moderately good overall yield, and with no efforts around seeking out high levels of maturity. But however, after finishing up our last terroir wines (Gewurztraminer from the granitic Frankstein Grand Cru, and Riesling from sandstone and volcanic Bungertal lieu-dit) we harvested a magnificent vendange tardive, late harvest wine, on the 20th of September. The notion of late harvest is somewhat relative, as what counts for us is the right portion of over ripe fruit. We had a good proportion of super ripe grapes that will bring that rich, exotic sweetness, but also a good proportion of healthy structured fruit that will provide a good balance in the final wine. This late harvest wine has a potential to reach 17 degrees!!!!!

If you have read through these three reports you will have understood that we are super happy with the 2018 harvest. The principle strong points of the harvest are the extra healthy state of the grapes, coupled with a good maturity and concentration, and for once a sufficient quantity.

Now we are going to patiently follow the evolution of the wines in the cellar, to see how all these aspects of high potential play out, before we reach a definite conclusion on the 2018 vintage.

I would like to thank you very much for reading through the series of harvest reports !!!!!!


Les vendanges se sont terminées très tôt chez nous, avec des vignes qui ont bien travaillé, des rendements modérés et une absence de recherche de surmaturité sur nos terroirs. Quoi que, après avoir terminé nos derniers vins de terroir (Frankstein en Gewurz et en Riesling, Bungertal sur terroir gréso-volcanique), nous avons récolté une magnifique vendange tardive dès le 20 Septembre! Na notion de tardive est ici rendue relative, car en fait ce qui compte pour nous est la bonne proportion de surmaturité. Nous avions suffisamment de grains passerillés pour apporter un moelleux et des notes exotiques, ainsi qu’une belle richesse, mais aussi assez de grains sains pour garantir un bel équilibre. Cette vendange tardive titre 17° potentiels!
De manière générale, vous aurez compris que nous sommes très satisfaits de ces vendanges, dont les principaux caractères sont de donner des raisins parfaitement sains, mûrs et concentrés, sans oublier une quantité suffisante. Nous allons maintenant suivre l’évolution des vins en cave pour voir comment ces beaux potentiels se révèlent avant de tirer des conclusions définitives!
Merci de m’avoir lu.


Harvest Bulletin # 2 – 19th September

Its all moving along fast around Dambach-La-Ville. Here is the second bulletin from Florian with his impressions on how its going in 2018.

Yes, we are now preparing to finish up with harvest; last day should be Wednesday 19th September!!!!

The vines have continued to work well, offering a rapid ripening of the grapes.

The second half of this years harvest was focused on the Gewürztraminers and Riesling’s and the later ripening terroirs. Only one young parcelle of Gewürztraminer and another of Riesling suffered from the long dry summer period. All the other plots came through nicely.

The raisins ripened at different rhythms across the range of terroirs. We then adjusted our work to fit in with the optimum maturity we were looking for in the fruit. We also paid attention to not harvesting on very hot days, but that was a challenging task during such a sunny September.

The harvesting of the last parcelles allowed us to complete the various cuveés where we use an assemblage of different grape varieties. We are producing assemblages from the range of different terroirs, to allow better expression of the personality of the particular place with its range of characteristics.

But all the varieties are not ready at the same time, especially in the places ( les lieux ) where we assemble the Riesling’s and/or the Gewürztraminers with the earlier ripening Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris.
It’s always a key moment to bring in and position the last piece of the puzzle. Then we see the equilibriums and the personalities of these assemblage wines to start coming together.

Generally speaking we are in advance of many of our colleagues and neighbors, who are still right in the thick of harvest.

Hope to see you soon !!!


Oui, nous sommes maintenant en train de terminer les vendanges, dernière journée demain! Les vignes ont continué à bien travailler, offrant une maturation rapide. Cette deuxième moitié de vendange a surtout été consacrée aux Gewurz, Riesling et terroirs tardifs. Une jeune parcelle de riesling et une de Gewurz ont souffert de sécheresse, toutes les autres se montrent superbes. Les différents terroirs ont mûri leurs raisins à des rythmes différents, nous nous sommes adaptés pour être au plus proche des maturités justes. Nous nous sommes aussi appliqués à récolter les jours où il ne faisait pas trop chaud, tâche difficile en ce mois de Septembre ensoleillé!

La récolte des dernières parcelles a aussi permis de compléter les assemblages: en effet, nous produisons sur chacun de nos terroirs un assemblage, afin d’exprimer au mieux la personnalité unique de chaque lieu, sous toutes ses facettes. Mais tous les cépages ne sont pas mûrs en même temps, notamment les lieux ou nous assemblons du riesling et/ou du Gewurz avec des Pinots noir ou gris. C’est toujours un beau moment d’apporter la dernière pièce du puzzle, et de voir les équilibres et les personnalités se mettre en place.

De manière générale, nous sommes en avance sur nos collègues qui sont maintenant dans le coeur des vendanges.

A bientôt!

Here we go again, 2018 is once more a very particular vintage.

Florian’s narrative –

After a normal budding period in mid-April, perfect weather conditions set in for vine growth, with long periods of sunshine and sufficient rain. This encouraged the vines to grow at a considerable rate for several weeks. Then, from around mid-June another stable weather pattern set in, this time a long hot and dry spell. This kept the vines in a super healthy state and accentuated how advanced the season had become after a slow start. Into August and we understood that the two main issues of the season were the continuing run of high temperatures and the lack of rain, aspects which risked bringing down the acidity levels in the fruit. All the other indicators were green; healthy grapes, great maturity, good concentration and even good potential yield. In the last week of August temperatures dropped, still allowing good maturation but limiting the losses in acidity.

We have started the harvest in August for the first time in our family’s history!! Our work on getting the equilibrium right in the vines (living soils, moderate vigor, no pruning, not encouraging early growth) has allowed us to have good early maturity. This early maturity comes with good acidity, aromas, complexity and minerality, but interestingly coupled with a slow increase in sugar levels. This has allowed us to pick early but with a good level of maturity in the fruit; very interesting in this type of vintage. The majority of our vines with their moderate yield and deep root systems in the living soils, were able to resist the long dry period with very little sign of hydric stress. This was also a big factor in how well the maturity of the fruit progressed.

The 8th of September and we are already at midway point of our harvest. The Pinot Noirs are already  in the cellar and we have also harvested the more advanced parcelles of Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner. The Rieslings and the Gewurztraminers will have some more time to mature and ripen. The rain that fell at the end of the first week in September was a welcome event in helping this process.

The first pressed juice tastes ripe and concentrated, with medium acidities and there is beautiful purity that comes from the exceptionally healthy fruit. The natural fermentations from the indigenous yeast kicked off reasonably fast due to the higher ambient temperatures.

We will follow the evolution in the wines with interest as their potential starts to reveal itself ………..

2018 a une nouvelle fois été un millésime particulier

Après un débourrement dans la normale à la mi-avril, les conditions météo ont été parfaites pour le développement de la vigne: bel ensoleillement et suffisamment d’eau. La vigne a alors poussé à une vitesse considérable, le travail a été intense.

Puis, à partir de la mi Juin, la météo a été très sèche et chaude, accentuant encore la précocité et aidant également à garder la vigne très saine. En Août, nous avons compris que le manque d’eau et la chaleur risquant de faire chuter les acidités étaient les deux enjeux du millésime, tous les autres voyants étaient au vert: raisin sain, belle maturité, concentration, et même quantité.

Fin Août, les températures ont baissé, permettant la maturation en limitant les pertes d’acidité.

Nous avons donc commencé les vendanges en Août pour la première fois de notre histoire! Notre travail sur l’équilibre de la vigne (sols vivants, vigueur modérée, non rognage, arrêt de croissance précoce) nous permet d’avoir des maturités précoces en ce qui concerne les acidités, les arômes, la complexité et les minéraux, mais une montée du sucre plus lente. Cela permet de récolter tôt tout en ayant des maturités très complètes: très intéressant dans ce type de millésime. La plupart de nos vignes, aux rendements raisonnables et bien enracinées dans des sols vivants, n’ont pas subi de stress hydrique, la maturité a bien progressé.

Nous sommes déjà à mi-vendange, en ayant récolté tous les rouges ainsi que les zones précoces en Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc et Sylvaner. Les Riesling et Gewurz auront plus de temps pour mûrir, la pluie d’hier est la bienvenue dans cette optique.

Les jus récoltés se goûtent mûrs et concentrés, les acidités sont moyennes, et il y a toujours une belle pureté, les raisins étant parfaitement sains. Mention spéciale pour les rouges! Les fermentations démarrent assez vite du fait des températures élevées. Nous allons suivre l’évolution et les potentiels se révéler…