Josmeyer – star of Alsace

The Josmeyer name is well-loved and enjoys huge respect among wine lovers – for good reasons.  Founded in 1854 by Aloyse Meyer  as an extension of the family restaurant business, the company became a very important négociant. It was renamed Josemeyer to honour the second generation, Joseph Meyer, in 1963, by which time the name was associated with quality and with building up a considerable export business.  However, it was perhaps Jean Meyer, who took charge in 1966 and died in 2016, who made the most telling steps. First, the domaine’s own vineyards became entirely, even evangelically, organic and biodynamic. Then, in an equally radical move the production of the company was halved by disposing of the négociant business and concentrating on the domaine’s own vineyards.  The result was 27 hectares near Wintzenheim, close to Colmar, under the complete control of the family and a determined focus on quality production.  From 1987 he also introduced the artistic labels with a new artist each year, an example of which you can see below.  The fifth generation of the family now runs the estate, headed up for the first time by two women: Celine Meyer (administration, CEO 2004), Isabelle Meyer, enologist.  

The winemaking here is very, deceptively, simple: gentle crush of rigorously selected grapes, no added yeasts, sugar or enzymes; fermentation is allowed to start in temperature-controlled fermentation tanks, then completed in 100-year old casks. Malolactic fermentation is blocked. The wine is aged on its fine lees and allowed to stabilise naturally.  There is no comment on the website on the use of sulfur dioxide but presumably some is added just before bottling, as is normal practice.  

Artist Series

1. Pinot Blanc, Mise du Printemps, 2016 12%, £12.95
– parcels in vineyard in Herrenweg de Turckheim, 35 year-old vines, yield 60 hl/ha (hectolitres per hectare), bottled in early spring for freshness; 2g/l residual sugar (RS), 5g/l total acidity (TA). All the Josmeyer wines here were bought from the Wine Society. 

Lightly fragrant nose with honey and white peach, then a surprisingly flavourful palate with additional savoury touches, delicious, versatile, the antithesis of the modern fruit bomb.

2. Gewurztraminer, Les Folastries, 2013 13%, £18
– parcels in vineyard in Herrenweg de Turckheim, 40 year-old vines on stony/rocky soil, 40 hl/ha, RS 8.5 g/l, TA 4.1 g/l

Classic aromatic lift but with elegance, full-bodied, subtle range of well-articulated peach, lychee and rosewater notes. Just enough acidity to hold it all together, fairly long spicy finish. Exemplary.

For the Wine Society

3. The Society’s Exhibition Alsace Riesling (made by Josmeyer) 2015, 12.5%, £13.50
– some earlier-picked and some more mature fruit from a combination of older and younger vines, including the grand cru Brand vineyard. 

This wine divided people. Some found it underwhelming and a disappointing wine for the Wine Society’s Exhibition range. Some, including me, liked the delicate, precise green apple and white flower nose and the range of admittedly medium intensity of ripe green to apple and stone fruit palate. Medium length.

Grand Cru

4. Gewurztraminer, Grand Cru Hengst, 2002, 13.5%, c. £30

– 40-year old vines, yield 45 hl/ha, RS 40g/l, TA 5,6
It was remarkable to be able to buy this wine in 2017, though needless to say it quickly sold out.  I am usually sceptical about what wine estates say about their own wines but here is an exception: ‘The combined calcareous and marl soils tend to produce rich full-bodied wines. In their youth, they have an untamed character, reminiscent of the vineyard’s name – “stallion”. They slowly mature to astonishing aromatics and fabulous richness.’

Powerful honey, spice, mushroom and toast aromatics, a satin-rich palate, a seam of acidity is still keeping this going after 15 years, mouth-coatingly full, no longer tastes sweet but rich, magnificent.  

5. Riesling, Grand Cru Brand, Josmeyer, 2011 13%, £35 
part of the vineyard is granite soils, part limestone-based; 40-year old vines, 40hl/ha (Alsace GC allows a rather generous 55hl/ha), RS 6g/l, TA 6.8

From a great vintage, a bold and layered nose, impressive breadth and powerful concentration; a combination of fresh and dried peach.  Long, tightly-packed, acidic finish.  

Selection Prestige

5. Alsace Riesling Les Pierrets 2009, 13% £25
alluvial soil and loess, clay and limestone; 35-year old vines, yield 45hl/ha; aged in old oak or stainless steel; RS 4g/l, TA 6.7

Our example was corked but you just tell that under that unappealing wet cardboard smell there had been a wine of power and substance.  

Grand Cru

6. Riesling Grand Cru Hengst Samain 2005 12.5%, £32
dry, late-harvest (October) Riesling, made in very few vintages, and named after a Celtic festival that marked the end of the fruitful harvesting period and the beginning of winter gloom. Samain is the portion of Hengst at the peak of the vineyard, limestone and marl with high percentage active limestone; 40-year old vines, yield 35 hl/ha; RS 15g/l, TA 6.4

Surprisingly muted nose but with floral notes, then a rich almost unctuous palate, ripe apple and stonefruit through to a lactic, cheesy touch.  Impressive length, off-dry (unusual for Josmeyer) but the sweetness merely amplifies the body and the flavour intensity. 

Unfortunately, I was not able to get any Josmeyer Pinot Gris, an Alsatian wine I particularly love. But we had two fine examples from other growers: 

Other Alsace producers

7. Pinot Gris Grand Cru Eichberg, Kuentz-Bas 2012, 13.5% £22
340m altitude, S and SE-facing vineyard, clay, limestone with some quartz, organic and biodynamic estate, fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks; 25-45 year old vines

Lovely apricot, honey and jasmine nose; rounded body, fruit and ginger on the palate, perhaps 15g/l RS and a long finish.  

8. Pinot Gris Sonnenglanz Grand Cru, Domaine Bott-Geyl 2004
organic and biodynamic estate, the vineyard at 250m, long slow fermentation with ambient yeasts, bottled after a year

Honeyed and harmonious, big volume, gorgeous spice, honey, fresh and dried apricot. Great length, outstanding. It really is worth keeping these wines to drink at their peak.  

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