Château d’Orschwihr, Alsace Tokay-Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 1999
Tasting Notes : Appearance is at once striking with its pronounced yellow gold, reminiscent of autumnal golden harvest colors. Nose is acacia honey and spicecake, both emblematic delicacies of the Eastern France Alsace region. As it ages it takes on more of the white flower notes becoming delicately perfumed. Light botrytis gives the wine its silky, supple, opulent mouthfeel (55g. sugar) and taste of oranges, honey, and white fruits, notably white bosc pear stewed in its own juices with an accent of acacia blossom honey. 13.4% alcohol.
Price: € 18.50 (good value)
Production Notes : This Pinot Gris, known as Tokay-Pinot Gris because of its lushness, is grown on the slopes of Pfingstberg, Grand Cru terroir. Age of the vines are an average 36 years and there were only 1800 bottles produced. This 1999 vintage is perfect for opening and serving now. Wine’s optimum serving is 8 – 18 years and can keep up to 20 – 25 years. No chaptalization during vinification.
Pair With : Particularly wonderful with chocolate desserts such as chocolate ganache torte. Also as aperitif alone or accompanied by foie gras. Serve at 14 – 15 ºC.
This historic Alsatian château was once owned by the Habsburgs. It was Rudolphe Habsburg who acquired the château in the late 1200’s, before he became the Roman Emperor and founded the Habsburg Empire, which lasted into the early 20th c. But the château itself dates back even earlier, to 1049 when, local legend has it, Pope Leon IX of Eguisheim stayed when he consecrated the church in the neighboring village.
The Hartmanns own the Château now, an acquisition the family made in 1854. In1934 a fire completely destroyed the château, and it wasn’t until 1973 that the cellars were restored and only since 1987 that the barn was converted into the château cellars. In 2001 these were extended and an entire Western Wing added.
History of Wine at Château d’Orschwihr
It’s thought that wine has been in production at the Château throughout its existence, even if the wine produced was only for personal consumption. The first record of commercial wine production dates back to the 16th c. when historical public records reference the sale of a barrel of wine to the Murbach Abbey. Hubert Hartmann took over management of the family wine estate in 1986 and increased the vineyards under cultivation from 6 ha. to 25. It’s these 25 ha., and the wines produced therefrom, that Gautier Hartmann now oversees.
The Château’s AOPs
The Grand Cru Pfingstberg sits at about 300 m. altitude and is a pretty hillside that dominates most of the village of Orschwihr. The slopes are so steep here that it was necessary to terrace the vineyards, in some places reinforced even by stone walls. It is mostly planted with Rieslings and the ‘Noble Grains’ of Tokay-Pinot Gris, which yield their sublime Late Harvest Wines.
AOP Bellenberg is said to be an ancient place of sun worship. The hill of Bollenberg covers 300 ha. and is one of the biggest limestone hills; it’s also a protected area. It enjoys a micro-climate in that it gets the lowest levels of rainfall in Europe and gets more than its share of sunshine.
AOP Echenberg’s entire 4 ha. are now owned solely by Château d’Orschwihr. The hillside is fully southfacing and has grown grapes since the 16th c., though it was abandoned briefly after WWII because of its steepness and altitude. The Hartmanns terraced the vineyard plots which they now use for growing Riesling and Pinot Gris exclusively. They say that this harsh terrain is what gives the grapes their mineral richness and elegance “worthy of the great vins de garde.”
Alsace Grand Cru Protected Designation of Origin (AOP) Label
It is mandatory for the label to indicate, in addition to the grape (only Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat are permitted), the year, one of the fifty Grand Cru, and one of the specified lieux-dits (vineyards) awarded this appellation. As much as the grape it is the characteristics of the terroir that makes each Alsace Grand Cru wine unique. [Château d’Orschwihr currently has 5 Grand Crus.]
Philosophy of Friendly [to The Environment]
The Family Hartmann believes that sustainable and “reasoned” agricultural farming methods produce the raw materials that grow the best grapes for the finest wines. As such they have in place numerous practices: Non-use of toxic products, as much for the farmers as for the grapes and vines; low – moderate use of fertilizers; low use of “improvers”; no chaptalization for their wines; labels made of recycled paper; and their own electricity production (a surplus of their own consumption in fact) since 2011.