Spotlight on Alsace: Barmes-Beucher Hengst Grand Cru Riesling 2005

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This is the final post in my Alsace series, ending on a contrast to yesterday’s exceptional offering from Zind-Humbrecht. For a wine made in the same soils as Zind-Humbrecht’s Clos Hauserer, Barmes-Beucher’s Hengst Riesling is of a completely different ilk. While the wine is minerally, it lacks acidity and doesn’t have the same level of balance as the ZH. This is strange given that the Barmes wine is far more restrained overall compared to the Clos Hauserer – but it goes to show that balance more than alcohol and ripeness is the key factor to great wine.

This comparison is all the more stark considering that both wines are from the same vintage. The flavours are similar to the ZH, with classic slight petrol and quinice, lime, minerals. However, the contrast comes, despite the decent aromatic expression, from a lack of lift and freshness. The palate is strange, perhaps flawed in some way and the flavours are extremely interesting, but the wine seems to be somewhat all over the place. It lacks real balance and finesse even as it offers an interesting flavour profile. The wine is quite minerally, almost chalky, with background lime and grapefruit. It’s tasty but I’m not sure it quite hits the mark at this price point.

$60 at Marquis
Very Good

Concluding Thoughts

Alsace has proven to be the source of many extremely tasty white wines, but consumers will be hard pressed to know what they are buying without learning about the style of individual producers. Wines range from steely dry to opulent and sweet and given the completely different expressions of competing producers making wine from the same vineyards it may be true that Alsace is currently as much style as it is terroir. Time may start to differentiate the terroirs more distinctly, but it seems to me that the stamp of a particular winemaker supersedes the soil. Nonetheless, it is clear that the best wines tend to be made in the Grand Crus, with some (good value) exceptions, and that the best grape is Riesling. There are a few interesting Pinot Gris also being made, but even in Alsace Gewurztraminer has a hard time becoming more than its goopy low acidity self. Even the G-wines of the best producers, which are undoubtedly good, do not measure up to those same producers’ Rieslings.

Alsace should be on the radar for most wine geeks as its wines fill a niche that very few others do. With the right pairing, these beauties can bring life and joy to simple moments, and that’s what great wine is all about.


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