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Domaine Charles Baur, Alsace

by Tom Cannavan, 05/14

the Baurs Eguisheim, one of the many timelessly beautiful villages of Alsace, is home to several wine cellars including that of Charles Baur. Here, Armand and Burgundy-trained Arnaud Baur, son and grandson respectively of founder Charles, now makes the wines from their 16-hectare estate. There are some wonderful black and white photos from the earliest days of Charles Baur's era on their website, under the charming title of "Once Upon a Time..."

In common with many producers in the region, the Baur's have mixed portfolio of products, including both dry and sweet white made from Alsace's aromatic varieties, and eaux de vie made with fruit from their own orchards. But this estate is a little more diverse than many, also producing red wines, rosés and crémants, in a range of almost 20 different products.

The Baurs' vineyards are mainly composed of limestone and clay, sited on steep slopes protected by the wind and rain shadow of the Vosges Mountains. They have holdings in several Grands Cru, including a recent purchase in one of the top Grands Crus, Brand. Fermentation at low temperature begins with natural yeasts and the wines are matured on the lees for several months in what importer Brian Peacock of Ten Acre Wines describes as "a very clean, gentle, natural process which gives full expression to both vineyard and grape."

The wines are brought in to the UK by Ten Acre Wines, who recently sent me a selection of the wines to taste.

white wines

Pinot Blanc Domaine Charles Baur, Pinot Blanc 2011, France
Bottled with a DIAM technical cork (processed to minimise the risk of taint), this from 25-year-old vines has a lovely aromatic quality, delicately exotic with mango and lychee, and a touch of mineral smokiness, there's a bright orange fruit character and a hint of flowers too. On the palate it strikes with a delicious of just - just - off-dry fruitiness, more of that exotic character, but a suggestion of honeyed richness too. There is no thickness of viscosity really, the 13% alcohol adding just enough texture into a long, nicely balanced finish. 90/100. 12.95, Ten Acre Wines.

Domaine Charles Baur, Muscat 2011, France
This blends 25% Muscat d'Alsace with 75% Muscat Ottonel, and is instantly perfumed and racy, combining the lifted, almost geranium-like bouquet of this variety with a very fresh, zesty lemon appeal. On the palate it is bone dry, the pithy lemon and apple core acidity driving across the mid-palate with a mountain-stream clarity, good levels of crisp and refined fruit beneath. Long and distinctive, this might partner Chinese or Thai food well, but really the palate and finish makes this a fish and seafood (ceviche? sushi?) option too. 88-89/100. 14.95, Ten Acre Wines.

Domaine Charles Baur, Riesling 2012, France
From 30-year-old vines grown in chalky soils, the grapes are pressed whole and the wine matures on the lees for several months. It has a delightfully aromatic nose, very youthful and apple-fruited, but with gentle notes of herbs and of smoky minerals, a suggestion of exotic lychee in the background. In the mouth there is a razor-sharp lemon and lime cut to this, but it is neither thin nor tart, just beautifully light and delicate with only 12.5% alcohol, and a dry too in the lightly mineral finish. 88-89/100. 13.95, Ten Acre Wines.

Domaine Charles Baur, Riesling Cuvée Charles Vieilles Vignes 2011, France
Assembled from the best parcels of several plots with an average vine age of 25 years, the winemaking is very similar to the classic Riesling above. Slightly more depth to the colour perhaps, and a pronounced minerality on the nose, just little hints of beeswax and parrafin over cool apple fruit and delicate floral notes. There is a lovely lime intensity of fruit on the palate, very pure, with that touch of waxiness or smokiness, even a hint of spice, but still with only 12.5% alcohol so light and refreshing in style. Undeniably more complex than the 2012 Riesling cuvée, but both have their charms for sure. 90/100. 14.95, Ten Acre Wines.

Pinot Noir

red wines

Domaine Charles Baur, Pinot Noir 2012, France
From 25-year-old vines on clay, limestone and gravel, this Pinot is matured in a mix of old barrels and steel tanks for eight months. It has a bold, medium density crimson colour, and charming, fresh aromas of cherry and light floral nuances. There is a hint of succulent, sappy character but plenty of fruit. On the palate this is dry and savoury. The balance is good, with quite soft tannins and plenty of acdiity, 13% alchohol and the dry but sweet fruit persisting. A nice and approachable Pinot with a bit of depth and substance. 89/100. 14.95, Ten Acre Wines.

Domaine Charles Baur, Pinot Noir 'Rouge d'Alsace' 2012, France
From the Grand Cru Eichberg, with vines an average of 25 years old. Bunches are de-stemmed, and the wines spends a year in barrel. The colour is not dense, but it is deep, with aromas of spices and cherry that are youthful, with just a touch of twiggy briar. On the palate this is pretty uncompromising at this stage: there's a serious, meaty core of tannin along with fairly high alcohol (14% abv), which along with spices and an earthiness makes it a considerable and grippy mouthful. There is some solid red fruit in there, but it is a touch overwhelmed by the dryness of the wine. It would be interesting to taste again in several years. 87/100. 18.95, Ten Acre Wines.