Alsace wines represent a miniscule proportion of all bottles sold at auction, making up just 1%. And yet, what we do find from the region in these auctions is the crème de la crème of what it has to offer. The prices we see don’t tend to reflect the extraordinary quality of the terroirs that make up Alsace’s viticultural landscape, nor the meticulous work carried out by the fine figures who craft the cuvées, many of whom have adopted biodynamics in their practice. Some of the hammer prices we’ve observed in recent weeks give us good reason to take a closer look at what’s happening in this mosaic of a region.
Clos Saint-Hune, emblem of Alsace’s grands crus
Leading the way, we have the Riesling Clos Saint-Hune from Trimbach. This cuvée is a flawless demonstration of the crystalline minerality that defines the varietal, in this case grown in the chalky Rosacker grand cru, a 1.67-hectare clos that has belonged to the Trimbach family for almost 200 years. And the renown of such a historic cru has certainly not gone unnoticed. At auction, whilst all of the vintages from this property have seen increases over the past weeks, it’s the 1990 that stand out, going under the hammer for €553 (+25%). Wine enthusiasts praise this cuvée’s aptitude for developing complexity as it ages, as confirmed by the sums reached of €209 for the 2001 and €172 for the 2003 (+22%). We’ve also noticed a kind of catching-up effect when it comes to the more mature vintages, with the 1979 sold for €196 (+141%).
Another icon of the Alsace vignoble is the grand cru Rangen de Thann Clos Saint-Urbain, a volcanic terroir found in the south of the region. Olivier Humbrecht is one notable producer who works here, cultivating the region’s quintessential grapes, Pinot gris and Riesling, as well as a touch of Gewurztraminer. In its 2002 and 2010 vintages, the Riesling was sold for a price of €117, a result demonstrating a rise of over 50% on preceding value estimates. The Brand grand cru is located further north, on the commune of Turkheim, where domain Zind-Humbrecht has its precious cellar. The domain manages to draw out varying expressions of this granite-rich terroir depending on the vintage. The Vieilles vignes cuvée from 2010 was recently sold for €108 (+26%), and the 1989 Vendanges Tardives for €111 (+31%).
Prices that please
The variety of the crus, the complexity of their names, and the different levels of sweetness are all factors that make exploring Alsace wines complex, exciting…and sometimes a little bit intimidating. The extraordinary wines crafted here are sometimes unjustly underappreciated. And we see this reflected in the prices. Take the Muenchberg cru, for example, located in the north of the region. This area is notably the home of André Ostertag, a brilliant vintner who has recently passed on the torch to his son. The powerful aromatics and superb complexity that these wines draw from their volcanic terroir are delightful, and prices are indeed going up, though at a reasonable rate (€72 fro the exceptional 2009, +26%). Further south, we find the granite terroir of Schlossberg where Domaine Weinbach produces several cuvées including “Inédit”, a wine made from 60-year-old vines. This Riesling that wonderfully balances richness and finesse went under the hammer for €68 (+11%).
The unclassifiable Marcel Deiss
How can we sum up the sumptuous bottles that come out of Domaine Marcel Deiss in Bergheim? Jean-Michel Deiss and his son Matthieu are fully committed to their choice to complant different varietals, making way for an authentic expression of the terroir. Auctions are a chance to uncover collectors’ bottles, with some of them still mentioning a particular grape varietal. The grand cru Schoenenbourg, labelled as a Riesling and offered at auction in its Sélection de Grains Nobles version, has made its way to a cellar in England, having been sold for €117. The prices reached by grands crus Altenberg de Bergheim and Mambourg (sold for between €55 and €60) now provide an excellent opportunity for welcoming fine, meditation wines into a collection.
Consult our recent auction reports here
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