POST # 76 – THE MILLESIMES ALSACE 2021 DIGITASTING – A GREAT WINE EVENT

On June 7th to 9th, 2021 the first edition of the Salon Millesimes Alsace 2021 Digitasting took place. Over 100 Alsace wine producers took part, showcasing 4 wines each. 3,750 visitors took part, 2,700 were international from 55 different countries, and 1,050 were French from France. Over 10,000 boxes of samples were ordered and shipped worldwide.

Participants had the wines they had selected to taste shipped to their door. Each participant was entitled to select 4 wineries to taste, and a fifth was selected for you. You would then have 20 mini bottles (3cl size) sent by courier to you, 4 wines from 5 different producers. Participants were then able to taste the wines on their own schedule, in guided group tastings online, or in one on one interviews with the wine producer (often the owners themselves) or their designated representative, again all online, between June 7th and 9th.

Myself, and my Reg’s Wine Blog associates, had the pleasure of tasting 88 different wines from 22 different producers over this 3 day experience. This was a great experience on so many different levels. First, this was an opportunity to taste selections from 100 different producers, many of whom most of us had not tried before. As an experienced wine taster who already has long had a passion for Alsace wines, I had tasted wines from only 8 of these 22 producers that we sampled. So this was a great opportunity for us to meet and taste wines from many different and unknown producers.

Second, each producer showcased 4 different wines, and many included their premium wines as well as their basic wines, giving you the opportunity to taste their best products. This tasting experience gave us more insight into a producer’s product range, the quality of his vineyards, and his wine-making expertise. Finally, having the opportunity to meet one on one with the wine producer, discuss the wines themselves, and to hear their passion for their wines, their vineyards, and their production techniques, was a wonderful way to taste these largely unknown wines.

Of the 88 wines we tasted during the show, I would estimate that over 70 were new to me. The overall quality was very good. I rated 25 wines at 90 points or better, while the remaining wines were rated between 80 and 89 points. Some wines were out of balance, and possibly did not ship well, and some were clearly just average, but the majority were quite good. There were some pleasant surprises from new up and coming producers, and there were some disappointments from existing known producers who are capable of producing better wines. And this is what a tasting like this is all about, finding those excellent new producers, and distancing oneself from the underachievers.

Producers we tasted during this event included: Arthur Metz, Leon Beyer, Domaine Dussourt, Paul Gaschy, Kuent-Bas, Domaine Edmund Rentz, Ruhlmann-Schutz, Domaine Schlumberger, Cave de Turckheim, Lucien Albrecht, Charles Baur, Josmeyer, Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs, Jean-Baptiste Adam, Dopff au Molin, Famille Hugel, Gustave Lorentz, Domaine Bernhard + Reigel, Dopff + Irion, and Domaine Henry Fuchs. Of the 25 top wines rated 90 points or better, 10 were Rieslings, 7 were Gewurztraminers, 3 were Muscats, 3 were Pinot Gris, and 2 were Pinot Noirs. This clearly shows the diversity of top quality wine produced in Alsace. I was also very surprised to see that two of our top 25 wines were Pinot Noirs, showing me that red wine production has moved up in quality a lot in the region.

The 13 white wines that were not Rieslings (7 Gewurztraminers, 3 Muscats, and 3 Pinot Gris) clearly shows that there is more to Alsace than just Riesling, and that consumers have plenty of top quality wine to choose from in Alsace, wines that pair with all kinds of food matches.

Here are my top 25 wines tasted at the show:

*95 Points – Arthur Metz Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles, 2008. Classic Gewurztraminer nose, not overly sweet, allowing all the flavors to shine through, smooth on the palate, balanced and refined finish. Roses, spices, and peppers, with just the right level of acidity to leave your palate feeling refreshed.

*95 Points – Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim, 2012. From a warm vintage with very ripe fruit. Beautiful nose with lichees, roses, nutmeg, spices, pineapple and mangoes on the nose and palate. Mild sweetness that is not overpowering, has the body and structure of a Vendanges Tardives and a great wine.

*94 Points – Famille Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2010. Plenty of citrus, floral, and exotic fruit on both the nose and palate. Typical Gewurztraminer lychees and spices on the palate. Like liquid candy and a cream soda. All the body and length you would expect from a late harvest wine. Years of life ahead for this wine, a very satisfying wine made in the classic Hugel style. 4,000 bottles made, mark me down for a case of this baby.

*94 Points – Gustave Lorentz Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Vieilles Vignes, 2016. This is a wonderful wine, made from vines coming from a 700 year old vineyard, low yield, and a limestone/clay soil. This wine is full bodied, has great acidity, with citrus, grapefruit, flint and white pepper on the nose and palate. Powerful yet so well balanced that it feels delicate, well built with great minerality. The 2015 vintage of this wine will be released in August in the LCBO in Ontario at $58.00 per bottle, and should be worthwhile buying a couple of bottles for special occasions.

*93 Points – Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kitterle, 2012. Great legs in the glass, very fragrant nose of flowers and roses, grapefruit, mango, lychee, orange and warm spices. Thick and smooth on the palate without being overly sweet. A lush, plump, sumptuous, and literally intoxicating aftertaste leaves you wanting more. Superb balance and a great expression of a Gewurztraminer late harvest wine, this one is a keeper.

*93 Points – Gustave Lorentz Riesling Grand Cru Kanzlerberg, 2017. Made from the smallest vineyard that Lorentz has, only 3 hectares on a heavy clay soil, producing no more than 300 cases. Beautiful deep yellow color in the glass, with citrus, grapefruit, cedar, and flint on the nose. The palate is full, fat, and rounded, with great minerality. The finish is long and smooth with nicely interwoven citrus and peppery scents. This wine is still young and will get better and smoother over the next 10 years.

*93 Points – Arthur Metz Muscat Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr, 2019. Very low production of only 4,000 bottles from the Domaine Andre Lorentz Clos Zisser vineyard. A very floral nose, the wine is dry but rich on the palate, showing a candied lemon taste combined with minerals that gives way to a minty aftertaste. There are a lot of evolving flavors in this wine, powerful and elegant, very well made, very expressive.

*92 Points – Leon Beyer Pinot Gris Grand Cru Eichberg, 2016. Rich exotic tropical fruit, truffles and peaches on the nose. Long glycerin legs in the glass, deep yellow in color. Velvety smooth on the palate, with caramel and honey added to the previous aromas. The finish is long, smooth, and extremely well balanced, a great wine.

*92 points – Maison Paul Gaschy Gewurztraminer, 2016. Classic Gewurztraminer nose, full of lychees and spices. Luscious, plump, sweet, smooth, and opulent. Noteworthy because this is made by rising star Paul Gaschy, and this is not even a Grand Cru wine. A very strong statement from, and a tribute to, the winemaker.

*92 Points – Leon Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Eichberg, 2015. Great legs in the glass, green apples and flinty on the nose. Creamy, robust, full bodied, powerful and yet so finely balanced on the palate. This is a great dry Riesling from a great vintage that has years of life ahead of it, well done.

*92 Points – Ruhlmann-Schutz Muscat Grand Cru Frankstein, 2018. Exceptional granite terroir translates into classic Muscat aromas and fragrance on the nose. Fine, delicate minerality on the palate adds an extra dimension of freshness. A very classy wine.

*91 Points – Lucien Albrecht Riesling Reserve, 2019. The wine has beautiful balance, not too acidic, not too dry, lots of citrus and flower scents on the nose, and a hint of the steely acidity you expect from an Alsace Riesling on the palate. This wine would do very well on a restaurant wine list.

*91 Points – Lucien Albrecht Riesling Grand Cru Spiegel, 2019. The Spiegel has a good typical Riesling nose with lots of citrus fruit. This carries onto the palate with good minerality and balance. A very interesting feature that I noted was that the wine tasted both sweet and dry at the same time, something I have rarely seen. This conveyed a sense of power, structure and depth. I would want to taste this wine again in 5 years to see how this feature evolves.

*91 Points – Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Grand Cru Pfingstberg, 2018. This wine has great legs in the glass, minerals and flint on the nose, smoke and spice on the palate. Full, round and plump, with a complex and well-structured body. Although a little short on the aftertaste, this should evolve over time as the wine is still quite young.

*91 Points – Arthur Metz Riesling Grand Cru Florimont, 2017. This wine is made from grapes from the Domaine Viticole de la Ville de Colmar, where the soil is mostly clay and stone. The result is classic Riesling, with typical citrus, peach and apricot on the nose and palate with that steely minerality that shines through into the aftertaste. A classy and delicately balanced wine.

*91 Points – Gustave Lorentz Pinot Noir La Limite, 2015. This was the top scoring Pinot Noir red wine in our tasting. Great legs in the glass, deep ruby red in color. Very fragrant on the nose with vanilla, spices, coffee, and ripe black cherries. Well rounded, full body, smooth and nicely balanced on the palate. The finish is lovely with lots of spice and flint. So well made!

*91 Points – Dopff Au Moulin Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Brand, 2018. The wine displays your typical Gewurztraminer characteristics of lychees, exotic fruits, and spices on both the nose and palate. When you add into the mix lemon rinds, licorice, and smoky flavors on the palate, you might think the wine becomes overpowering and confusing. However, it manages to stay rich, clean and multidimensional. A lot going on in this wine, a tribute to both the Brand vineyards and good wine-making skills, bravo!

*91 Points – Charles Baur Riesling Grand Cru Brand, 2017. Great legs in the glass, a delicate citrus nose, lovely smoky fruit on the palate. This wine has a cultured feel and finish to it, and good minerality. It may be the Grand Cru Brand vineyard speaking, but this wine is also also well-made and very promising.

*91 Points – Pierre Sparr Successeurs Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mambourg, 2018. This wine has a sweet Gewurztraminer nose, leading one to expect the same or more on the palate. Clear orange and tangerine on both the nose and the palate, with lychees and exotic fruits on the palate, that actually get better on the aftertaste. This wine has power to spare, and suggests it will get better with another 5-10 years of age. Nicely done!

*91 Points – Domaine Edmond Rentz Muscat Vieilles Vignes, 2019. This was a very nice wine, with a very floral nose, lychees, papaya, and mango on a smooth and spicy palate. The aftertaste was long and very pleasant. The wine is still young and should age gracefully. I would buy this wine if I could find it.

*90 Points – Dopff Au Moulin Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg, 2017. Great legs in the glass, citrus, pineapple and mineral on the nose. Dry and full bodied on the palate, the right balance of acidity and a lovely salted, buttery aftertaste.

*90 Points – Jean-Baptiste Adam Pinot Gris Letzenberg, 2019. A dry, rich wine with toasty and smoky notes on the nose and the palate, balanced nicely with the aromas and tastes of dried pears and apricots. Cloves join the mix on the aftertaste, a great success.

*90 Points – Leon Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg, 2013. This wine has great legs in the glass, green apples, nectarines, minerality, flint, honey, peaches, and other fruits on both the nose and the palate. There is great concentration of taste, but smooth and polished, gently giving way to a lemony and flinty aftertaste, and that transition tastes so natural and effortless, wow! This wine is so well built, and should evolve beautifully for the next 20 years, and get better in the bottle for at least the next 10 years.

*90 Points – Maison Paul Gaschy Riesling, 2015. Another strong effort by rising star Paul Gaschy, this 2015 Riesling tastes like it should be a Grand Cru. The wine is a golden yellow color and has great legs in the glass. Citrus, menthol, anise and smoke on the nose. On the palate the wine is dry, fat, full bodied with finesse as it evolves into smooth butter on the aftertaste. Believe it or not, this is not a Grand Cru wine, but it should be.

*90 Points – Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Noir Les Princes Abbes, 2017. This wine is another very well made Pinot Noir. Great viscosity in the glass (legs), deep cherry red in color, plenty of intensity on the nose showing ripe cherries, blueberries and blackberries. The palate is smooth, round, and nicely balanced. The aftertaste lingers on with a delicate, spicy note indicating finesse and balance.

Reading my comments above, it is clear that Arthur Metz, Hugel, Gustave Lorentz, Leon Beyer, Lucien Albrecht, Schlumberger, and Dopff au Moulin are top producers making great wines. That does not mean that these are the only top producers in Alsace. Zind Humbrecht are top producers, and they did participate in the tasting, but I could not taste their wines because they were already fully subscribed by the time I registered. Some great producers like Trimbach did not participate in the show at all. With 100 producers participating in the show, I missed 78 of them, and I am sure there were several good ones that, for now, shall remain unknown to me.

Pleasant surprises and rising stars were Paul Gaschy, Ruhlmann-Schutz, Charles Baur, Pierre Sparr Successeurs, Edmond Rentz, and Jean Baptiste Adam. Some of these producers, like Paul Gaschy, are so small that they are not known outside of France, or even outside the Alsace region itself. These producers are making good wine, and this kind of wine show offers a great opportunity to taste the wines of these unknown producers, those who have no export markets.

The Salon Millesimes Alsace 2021 Digitasting was, in my opinion, a huge success for several reasons. They brought most of the region’s wine producers together for one online event. We were able to taste the wines in the comfort of our own homes, and able to do so while speaking live with the producers. This far and away surpasses in value, to the taster and the consumer alike, the traditional wine show, where the exhibitors are often just local agents for the producer, and not the producer themselves. This format also removes all the hustle and bustle at the tasting booth where upwards of 10 people are all mobbing the booth looking for a refill, and wondering aloud what happened to your bread and cheese supply.

Not everything was perfect, a few of the wines did not travel well, and those of us without a camera built into our computers (like me), had difficulty with the online, one on one, sessions, and had to resort to Zoom or Face Time. But mark my words, this is the future of wine shows, and I certainly expect to see many more wine shows go in this direction. Congratulations to the Salon Millesimes Alsace 2021 Digitasting team for a job well done. I can hardly wait for their next Alsace wine show, I still have 78 other producers to cover!

Reg.