Zind-Humbrecht is, in our opinion, (shared by many others among the wine cognoscenti) one of the top wineries in Alsace. And due to its powerful style and the endless energy of its current winemaker, Olivier Humbrecht, it’s also probably the most iconic Alsace winery.
The origins of Zind-Humbrecht date back to 1620. Since that time the winery and its vineyards have been passed down from generation to generation in the Humbrecht family. In 1959, Geneviève Zind married Leonard Humbrecht, each coming from Alsatian winemaking families. With their marriage the two wineries merged creating Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, now located in the village of Turckheim.
Our visit to Zind-Humbrecht was arranged by the fantastic folks at Iberian Wine Tours, who always seem to have a way of getting us into the best houses. Visiting Zind-Humbrecht truly is a delight for the senses. First, Turckheim is a beautiful Alsatian town. It lies just a few kilometres west of Colmar at the base of the Vosges Mountains. It has that classic Alsatian look: cobblestone streets that meander rather than go in a straight line, 2-story buildings with steeply pitched red roofs, shutters on the windows….it has a fairy tale feel to it. But the real sensory delight comes from experiencing Zind-Humbrecht’s wines.
Olivier Humbrecht makes hand-crafted wines in the most un-intervening way possible. Attention is paid to the smallest detail. Farming is organic and, since 2002, certified biodynamic. Alsace as a region is known for keeping yields low, and Zind-Humbrecht’s yields are low even by Alsatian standards. Ripeness is easily achieved in this sunny, dry, semi-continental climate. As a result, these wines are powerful with rich textures and intense flavours.
Zind-Humbrecht has 42 hectares under vine. Among them are some of the region’s top Grand Cru vineyards: Rangen, Brand, Hengst and Goldert. 6 other vineyards not designated as Grand Cru fill out the portfolio. Among the more famous include Rotenberg, Clos Jesbal and Clos Windsbuhl. This amount of acreage and the quality of these terroirs instantly places Zind Humbrecht in the upper echelons of Alsatian wineries.
That leading role is further supported by the man setting the direction for the winery. Olivier Humbrecht is a leading light among winemakers worldwide. He is a relentless champion of the biodynamic method of farming.
This somewhat controversial practice is a form of organic farming that embraces an ideology that the farm is a complete whole and does not need anything new to be introduced to it to perform at its best. Complimentary plants are grown alongside grapes to promote biodiversity. Teas and composts made from plants on the vineyard replace the need for fertilizers to nourish the vines. Animals roam the land naturally till the soil as they do. (Fore greater depth on this subject, see our article here.)
Olivier consults to numerous wineries around the world (including BC’s own Phantom Creek Estates) to help them farm better and improve practices in the winery. He is also one of the few winemakers to have obtained his Master of Wine (MW). Only about 400 MWs exist today. The level of study and rigour in blind tasting is set at an impossibly high level resulting with a discouragingly low pass rate for first time exam-takers. You only get the designation if you really know the wines of the world.
But of course, the real test of any Domaine is the quality of the wines they produce. That is how Zind-Humbrecht earned its vaunted reputation.
These are unique wines that reflect their Alsatian terroir and also reflect the Zind-Humbrecht house style. The Zind-Humbrecht signature is a fully ripe, richly textured, and powerful style. Often, but not always, there will be some level of residual sugar. These wines have incredible flavour intensity that is carried on a viscous frame.
Powerful? Absolutely. Out of balance? Never. Acidity is well-judged which keeps definition and precision in the wine. The power of Zind-Humbrecht needs to be carefully matched at the dinner table, as it could easily overwhelm more delicate dishes. But with rich or spicy food they will be a compliment to, rather than a distraction from, the meal. Or if you just want to sit in your comfy chair, beside the fireplace and have a glass that will make you think about and deeply contemplate what you are drinking, then the wines of Zind-Humbrecht will be deeply satisfying.
2020 Zind-Humbrecht Zind
This is a great and quite affordable introduction to the hose style. The fruit is all sourced from the Clos Windsbuhl vineyard and is a blend of Auxerois and Chardonnay. Since Chardonnay is not a permitted varietal for still wines in Alsace, on the label it merely says “Vin de France”. This wine shows flavours of citrus and melon that served up on a medium body. A streak of minerality and moderate acidity contribute to a sense of freshness. Hints of green apple add to the complexity of the wine.
2017 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Roche Calcaire
The beautiful medium gold colour speaks to the age of this wine. The 1.5g/l of residual sugar is not detectable as the wine comes across as completely dry. Medium+ body with intense apple flavours along with wet stone create a lush, complex wine that is just delicious! The medium acid brings precision and form to its rich texture.
2009 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Brand
Brand is a Grand Cru vineyard with vines that are up to 69 years old. Even with 60 g/l of residual sugar, this comes across as only lightly sweet. Lots of tropical fruit flavours along with apple make for a very complex palate. The intensity is dialed way up and has to be experienced to be believed. This is rich and unctuous and has a wonderfully decadent mouthfeel. This is a powerful wine that has such precise balance that it shows gracefulness and elegance as it sensuously crosses your palate.
2007 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Grand Cru Rangen Saint Urbain
Another treat from deep in their cellar, this slightly off-dry wine shows notes of pear and spices. The spicy notes really pick up on the long finish. Wonderfully intense, the body is enough to carry all of that fruit flavour. A decadent wine that even at age 16 shows lots of youthful freshness.
2015 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst
Gewurztraminer must be one of the most exotic tasting varieties in the wine world. But when it is crafted under the hand of Olivier Humbrecht, it takes exotic to the max! Rich and viscous, the lychee and apricot notes are intense and very seductive. Full body with medium acid, this rich and powerful. This is a highly unique wine with tremendous texture, full throttle flavours and a nice spicy streak to add ot the complexity.
2012 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Vendage Tardive Clos Jebsal
Deliciously sweet and tropical, this is a full, rich, decadent wine showing apricot, peach, guava and a panoply of other tropical fruits with hints of spice and imbued with the flavour of fresh honey. Mouth-filling with intense flavours that stay on your palate long after you have swallowed the wine.
2009 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Selection de Grains Nobles Clos Windsbuhl
A truly amazing wine that has all of the dials turned up to max! SGN is the sweetest designation and this wine simply electrifies your senses as soon as you taste it! Imagine a bowl of tropical fruits with a few peaches and apricots thrown in for good measure then doused in honey fresh from the hive and somehow liquified. That begins to take you toward the indescribable sensory experience that is this wine. Complex, rich, decadent, intense, this wine has everything and in huge quantities! The finish must go on for than a minute. Incredible.
4 Rte de Colmar
68230 Turckheim, Alsace
T: +33 3 89 27 02 05