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Zind-Humbrecht 2009 vintage

by Tom Cannavan, 01/12

Olivier The Alsace estate of Zind-Humbrecht remains one of the leading lights of the region, and indeed of world wine. Olivier Humbrecht (right) carries on the very highly-focused, quality-driven business from his father Leonard, producing wines that in some ways are controversial: a strictly biodynamic estate, the wines are frequently high in alcohol due to Olivier's hands-off approach and belief that great wine is all about balance rather than simple ABV. And indeed these wines, some of them topping 15% ABV and some of them abundantly rich, always offer fantastic expressions of both grape variety and vineyard site, from some of the finest Grand Cru slopes in Alsace. These wines are packed with substance, but genuine elegance and freshness too.

I recently had the opportunity to taste through several wines from the 2009 vintage, and my notes are presented below. Prices are not cheap, beginning at £14.99 for the three wines currently stocked by Majestic, rising to £50 and over for the Grands Crus, but really the quality is outstanding.

the wines

Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling 2009
Leafy nose, a touch of waxiness and bold apple skin bite and lemon peel intensity. The palate has lovely fruit: it is pure and ripe, with a softening edge of fruit sweetness to the mid palate, but a pristine, razor-sharp finish where the acidity flashes through. 90/100. £14.99, Majestic.

Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2009
Lovely richness and depth with lots of honey here and lots of ripe apricotty depth. Some floral notes too. Fabulous minerality. The searing core of grapefruit and lemon pith minerality really streaking through. Extremely young and tight, but what balance and what shimmering structure. 93/100. Around £40, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2009
Broader, seems fleshier than the Brand, with tiny nuances of flinty and petrolly minerality, but only glimpses. The palate has a broad, juicy but rich character, with a broadening palate of juicy, peach-ripe fruit. But this is constrained by that wonderful mineral acidity. Long, tight, very young. 94/100. £47.50, Berry Bros & Rudd. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2008
The 2008 vintage of the Clos-Saint-Urbain slipped in for comparison has more developed honey on the nose with delicious richness and ripeness, with the mouth-watering juiciness. Absolutely delicious. Grapefruit and tangerine, but also a broad, nectarine-skins and ripe pear fruit depth. 94/100. £45.60, James Nicolson. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris 2009
Rich, ripe, racy, with quite fat, honeyed and baked apple aromas and a nutty background. The palate has delicious, juicy, nectarine flesh richness. This has a chewiness on the mid palate, with a broad texture and delicious tang, the orangy zest of the finish giving lovely succulence and edge. 91/100. £14.99, Majestic.

Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Rotenberg 2009
Ripe, elegant lightly smoky nose, with touches of oatmeal richness and a broader, ripe apple and even lightly toffee fruit. The palate has a hint of residual sugar, with a much broader, fleshier mid-palate than the Rieslings, but that scything acidity sweeps through, filling the mouth with minerals and citrus and a real spiciness too. Long, lip-smacking stuff. 94/100. £25.50, Berry Bros & Rudd. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2009
Very open, generous nose, honeysuckle and honey, white fruits and very juicy melon, again that oatmeal richness. Off-dry, the rich, silky texture and the pure, ripe fruit filling the mouth, the pithy nature of the citrusy finish keeping it fresh. More direct that the Rotenberg, though not quite so seriously pitched for me. 92/100. £34.50, Berry Bros & Rudd. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Zind-Humbrecht, Gewürztraminer 2009
Lots of luscious ripeness here, a geranium leaf lift and plenty of lychee and mango character to the exotic fruit. The palate is very tangy, very vibrant. There's a real concentration here, the grippy, spicy finish showing huge fruit impact, but that unwavering line of acidity too. 92/100. £14.99, Majestic.

Zind-Humbrecht, Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain 2009
Wonderful lift of lychee and geranium, the full old roses nuances of the Gewurz beautifully pitched. Spicy too, and has a solidity to it. The palate has plenty of sweetness, with spices adding little pin-points of flavour in the mouth and the silky richness of the sweet fruit persisting. Powerful stuff, with the acids and grip of the fruit concentration prominent in the finish. Needs some spicy Szechuan food. 94/100. £140 x 6 IB, Fine + Rare Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

See also my in-depth report on the biodynamic wine of Alsace with visits to top estates, including Zind-Humbrecht.