1998 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris, Clos Windsbuhl Monopole, Hunawihr, Alsace, France.
This fully mature and perfect aged Pinot Gris from the prestigious Zind-Humbrecht and winemaker Olivier Humbrecht, the 12 generation proprietor, is one of the finest examples of this grape I’ve ever had, it even rivals their Grand Cru Rieslings for depth, pleasure and impact. This wine stands out with a sublime golden/amber hued in the glass and a remarkable almost full bodied mouth feel and opulent textural quality with layers of baked apple, peach, tangy quince, dried apricot and pear butter along with subtle mineral tones, wet flint, lemon curd, fading of wilted rose petal oil and secondary elements of wild mushroom, earth and spicy cloves. The 1998 vintage is about as good as it gets right now, it is undeniably hedonistic for a dry Pinot Gris, a hallmark for Zin-Humbrecht, who started during this period to pick later and allow for a little extra residual sugars in the musts, all of which benefits a wine such as this, that is like a Spatlese at this stage with the obvious sugar (sweetness) all but faded away now, so that the wine feels impressively dense, exotic and complex without any cloying effect. Zind-Humbracht’s winemaking for these Cru wines is more luxurious in style than some of their contemporaries, preferring to use native yeasts and long fermentations on the lees in oak barrels rather than stainless steel tanks. Only the oldest vines (over 40 years old) from the hillside Monopole Clos Windsbuhl Vineyard, set on calcareous marl, rich in chalky limestone and clay soils, very much the same as the Rosacker Grand Cru that sits just below and is the source of Alsace’s most famous cult wine, the Clos Sainte Hune Riesling, were used to produce this wine that saw a full 18 months on the lees in 40 year old French oak casks. I will note that Pinot Gris and Alsace have had their stars fade in recent times, but this wine, along with Domaine Weinbach’s Pinot Gris Altenbourg and the Marcel Deiss Mambourg Grand Cru, which is made Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir (with no skin contact) are wines that will thrill even the most jaded of wine enthusiasts, and when aged, even more so!

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht has been making some of Alsace’s best wines since 1620 with an unbroken lineage of Humbrechts making the wines here. Olivier Humbrecht, is the General Manager of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, is the second winemaker in the world to attain Master of Wine status, and is now joined by California winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company in this extremely rare community. Domaine Zind-Humbrecht came by its current name in 1959 when Leonard Humbrecht married Genevieve Zind and through the 60s and 70s Leonard invested in top sites expanding the wineries collection of Grand Cru parcels, making an already world renown property even better, and under Olivier things have only got better still, in fact by the late 90s these wines were as sought after as many prized Burgundy and Bordeaux estates. When I was wet behind the ears in the wine business, selling collectable wines, Zind-Humbrecht Grand Crus were highly coveted and received near perfect scores, making them almost unicorn offerings that were highly allocated and when you opened a bottle for people it was like driving up in new Ferrari! Zind-Humbrecht’s Rangen, Hengst and especially Brand, in Turkheim, Grand Cru Rieslings are legendary wines, not far off Trimbach’s iconic Clos Sainte Hune, mentioned above, but maybe lesser known is their Clos Windsbuhl lieu-dit in Hunawihr, where this wine comes from, it’s like all of Zind-Humbrecht’s sites, all farmed to organic and biodynamic principles and with exceptional low yields to promote richness and concentration, while retaining energy and natural acidity. I tasted this fantastic and expressive 1998 Clos Windsbuhl Monopole along side the slightly more subtle, but almost equally good, Rotenberg Vineyard, also from 1998, that is named for its red, iron-rich soils, and with its cooler climate shows a bit more taut character, both delivering world class performances. This wine restored my faith in Pinot Gris and that of the region, after years of tasting mediocre stuff it is great to see more serious versions of this grape re-imagined and or in this case finding an aged treasure, I would easily recommend this terroir driven wine, regardless of vintage, but if you see this one, I’d grab it!
($55-120 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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