The first Grand Cru d’Alsace was the Schlossberg de Kaysersberg, a sort of test balloon for the category which began in 1975. Since then, 50 other Grands Crus have been created. jacques de lait take a closer look at the top 10 bottles of Grand Cru wine.
When it comes to French wines, the term Grand Cru has a magical connotation. But how much the name of a particular Grand Cru vineyard and the wines that bear its name really depend on the region. Both in terms of notoriety and for your wallet, it makes a huge difference whether a Grand Cru white wine is from Burgundy or Alsace.
Let me give some concrete examples. The most expensive dry white wine in the world is Montrachet Grand Cru from Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy, which Wine finder price at US $ 12,750 for the 2015 vintage (the latest available) and US $ 19,590 for the 2014. On the other hand, even the most expensive Alsatian grands crus are those from the Rangen Grand Cru site in the town of Thann, produced by Zind Humbrecht Estate, and they’re just under $ 100 for the 2019 vintage. That’s more than a hundred times the price difference.
The question is whether this price difference is reflected in the quality of the wine. For us, the answer is… not necessarily. Certainly, the best dry white Grand Cru de Bourgogne are amazing wines, and for sommeliers and collectors around Planet Wine, they remain the benchmark of the Chardonnay grape variety. The Montrachet Grand Cru is an example of how the huge worldwide demand for very limited production combined with high quality is driving stratospheric prices for some Burgundian grands crus.
For Alsace, demand is hardly ever so strong, but what about quality? Recently, we tasted the 2018 and 2019 vintages of Zind Humbrecht Rangen Grand Cru wines and rated them just as well as the best Grand Cru whites in Burgundy. This creates a golden opportunity for savvy consumers, and our Top 10 is designed to help you make the most of it.
There is another important reason to take these wines seriously. Many consumers wonder what that “mineral character” looks like so often sommeliers and wine critics talk about it. Alsace Grand Cru is an ideal way to discover it.
The #alsacerocks hashtag is a marketing tool for the wines of the region, but it is appropriate, as the best Grands Crus d’Alsace have intense notes of flint, chalk, wet stones and dry earth. This, added to the combination of generosity and freshness typical of Alsace whites, makes it a category apart.
“A true Grand Cru, it is a singularity of character with an always high quality”, explains Marie Zusslin, of Domaine Valentin Zusslin. “That’s why my idea is to show the uniqueness of each site. His Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Pfingstberg 2017 is a magnificent expression of this idea.
“Alsace has enormous geological diversity in a small area, and each Grand Cru has its own identity,” explains Eric Kientzler from the Kientzler estate in Ribeauville. “For example, the wines of our three Grands Crus de Riesling are very different, while the sites of Osterberg, Kirchberg de Ribeauville and Geisberg are neighboring. Combining elegance and minerality, its Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauville 2018 is an ideal introduction to the Alsace Grand Cru category.
The Grands Crus d’Alsace are almost always white grape varieties, with the grape variety named on the label: gewurztraminer, muscat, pinot gris or riesling. Riesling is the most successful Alsace Grand Cru grape on the market because these wines are always dry and their lively acidity accentuates it.
For us, Domaine Weinbach Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Ste Catherine is an almost perfect example of an Alsace Grand Cru, combining mineral subtlety, great concentration and length.
Top 10 Grands Crus d’Alsace
These wines which illustrate the greatness of Alsace Grand Cru are all either currently on the market or on the verge of appearing.
DOMAINE WEINBACH RIESLING ALSACE GRAND CRU SCHLOSSBERG CUVÉE STE CATHERINE 2019
An enveloping and sensual bouquet of a thousand yellow fruits and a few wild berries which is just beginning to reveal its depth. Gigantic concentration, but which remains as light on the feet as a ballet dancer.
FAMILY HUGEL RIESLING ALSACE SCHOELHAMMER 2010
One of the unique dry whites in the world. It’s so deep and spicy with a ton of candied citrus. Superb concentration, power and structure on the palate.
DOMAINE ZIND HUMBRECHT PINOT GRIS ALSACE GRAND CRU RANGEN DE THANN CLOS SAINT URBAIN 2019
So spicy and smoky with a hint of mushroom, this is an extremely deep and concentrated dry pinot gris that’s just starting to open up.
TRIMBACH RIESLING ALSACE GRAND CRU GEISBERG 2014
Aromas of limestone and earthy notes. Wet forest floor in the morning. From the vines of the convent of Ribeauville, it has been produced separately since 2009. All in organic farming.
DOMAINE VALENTIN ZUSSLIN RIESLING GRAND CRU PFINGSTBERG 2017
Dip your nose into a glass of this amazing dry white wine and let yourself be carried away in a cloud of smoke. Then when you are there, the subtle, lemony beauty of the wine will unfold and you will realize that it can only be riesling.
DOMAINE MARCEL DEISS GRAND CRU SCHOENENBOURG 2017
Super fresh for three years – the floral, honey and beeswax aromas are particularly appealing.
DOMAINE PFISTER RIESLING ALSACE GRAND CRU ENGELBERG 2018
A masterpiece of cool elegance, even if it is the warmest vintage in living memory! Impeccable with crystalline purity and a totally mineral personality.
PINOT NOIR MURÉ CLOS SAINT LANDELIN 2018
The astonishing balance of very fine tannins and delicate “sweetness” that permeates the long, super silky finish reminds me of the Grand Cru Musigny de Bourgogne.
KIENTZLER RIESLING ALSACE GRAND CRU KIRCHBERG DE RIBEAUVILLÉ 2018
A complex and elegant dry Grand Cru Riesling with lots of wet stone character, combined with lovely aromas of lemon and fresh herbs.
DIRLER-CADÉ GEWURZTRAMINER ALSACE GRAND CRU SAERING 2018
Tons of Turkish spices and delicacies here, but it’s anything but opulent. Powerful and rich, but also mineral and very dry.
This story first appeared on Prestige Hong Kong.