June 03, 2012

From asparagus to the outstanding Josmeyer wines

Asparagus was on the menu. What wine should I choose? Some say it is hard to find a suitable wine, as the asparagus’ oxalic acid, umami and bitter substances are problematic for wine. But it all depends on cooking method and what they are served together with. Salt, butter or olive oil and some flakes of parmesan will make it a straightforward and delicious dish. And at the same time wine friendly. As for the wine, Pinot Blanc from Alsace will be a safe bet.

So what has this to do with Domaine Josmeyer? Well, the asparagus made me think about when I visited the domain in Wintzenheim some years ago. Among their many fabulous wines was one that particularly was highlighted as the best companion to asparagus; Les Lutins Pinot Blanc.

As is usual in Alsace the Pinot Blanc is blended with some Auxerrois. To Les Lutins the grapes are hand picked, gently pressed and fermented with its natural yeast and then just a light filtering. The result, a lovely wine, lightly perfumed with minerality, nice acidity and good length.

Domaine Josmeyer is really one of the top producers in Alsace. Terroir-driven wines made with minimal intervention. The winemaker, a woman of the Meyer family.

The domain dates back to 1854 when it was started by Jean Meyer’s great grandfather. Jean Meyer, who brought the domain's development a great step forward when he decided to convert it to organic culture in 2000.

Today it is the daughters of Jean Meyer who is in charge of the winery, together with Christophe Ehrhart as responsible for the bio-dynamically treated vineyards. Céline Meyer is the Managing Director and responsible for the public relations and administration. Isabelle Meyer, trained in viticulture and oenology, is in charge of the vinification.

Isabelle, Céline and Christophe, that is a trio brings out the best of Alsace in Josmeyer's wines.  I guess that considerably more well-known than the Pinot Blanc I mentioned, are their great Rieslings from the grand crus Hengst and Brand.

All wines are made to express their birthplace, the terroir of each vineyard. Great grapes are the starting point. Then only indigenous yeast, no chaptalisation, no enzymes. The initial phase of the fermentation takes place in tanks with temperature control. Then the must is transferred to 100 year old, very large (1000-6000 litres) wooden casks to complete the fermentation and, after a racking, be kept there on the lees till the time for bottling comes.

An interesting, and for Alsace unusual practice, is the artistic labels for some of their wines. Jean Meyer started this tradition in 1987. A selected artist, always connected to Alsace, visualises the impression of the wine on the label. Since the start, eleven artists have contributed with their art work to the Josmeyer labels. 

Céline, who has studied both art and literature, continues this tradition and has created the new wine range “The Great Travellers” inspired by the colourful art work by Daniel Viene. Aero planes are one of Daniel’s motifs and Céline associates these to Josmeyer's wines. They too have wings. Wings that lift the wines to higher and higher altitudes, to the pleasure and delight of all wine lovers. 

PS. Noticed Jancis Robinson's award to Domaine Josmeyer as being one of the “Natural Heroes” at London’s natural fairs a couple of weeks ago. A well-deserved honour.

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