Pierre Frick Gewurtztraminer Steiner 2014
Winegrower: Pierre Frick
Sulphites: 23 milligrams per liter (total allowed under EU regulations: 210 mgs per liter)
Acidity: 5.7 grams per liter
Residual Sugar: 6.4 gram per liter
Today’s white wine is different, delicious and goes great at the table. It also comes from one of the finest biodynamic winegrowers in France. Starring in a league of its own, this Gewurztraminer is intense yet delicate, profound yet subtle, a fine balance between power and finesse.
Biodynamic wines have the flavour of devotion, and whether you believe in spiritual agriculture or think it is just voodoo, it’s the winemaker’s passion that matters. Twenty years before J.I. Rodale coined the term "organic" in the 1940s, an Austrian named Rudolf Steiner had already introduced the original holistic approach to sustainable agriculture: biodynamics. Caricatured as new-age crazies burying dung-stuffed bull's horns under the new moon, winegrowers who practice biodynamics view farms as self-sustaining organisms that interact with their surrounding ecosystems – including the spiritual and cosmic realms – and they go through incredible efforts to sustain the harmony and health of these ecosystems. Pierre Frick is such a winegrower.
Pierre has been at the forefront of the biodynamic movement for close to 50 years and makes wines that are scrupulously natural. These are some of the most terroir-driven wines in France and are legendary for their incredible flavours, purity of fruit, minerality and terroir. In 1970 he converted to organic farming, and in 1980 he became the first in Alsace to go biodynamic. His wines are as natural as they get, other than a tiny amount of sulphur at bottling (and sometimes not even that); nothing is added, including sugar, which is unusual in Alsace due to its northern latitude. The alcohol levels he achieves are all natural, which means he has to let his grapes hang on the vines far longer to develop the sugar levels, and with the sugar comes all sorts of incredible flavours.
Pierre’s wines are perfectly balanced; they have great acidity, a pronounced minerality, and they’re complex. Today’s offer, his Gewurtztraminer Steiner 2014, is a perfect example - the aromas alone are enough to make you want to enjoy a bottle all by yourself.
Alsace is heaven for terroir lovers. The best vineyards for each grape variety have been studied for centuries, and like Burgundy, the local abbeys and nobles who ruled over each village were keenly aware of the vineyards from which the best wines came, and they selected wines - and levied taxes - accordingly.
Pierre’s family has owned their estate for 300 years. His focus is on the vineyards. These are made of a dozen different soil types that are primarily calcareous, and his holdings in Steinert, Vorbourg and Eichenberg Grand Cru each have their own unique micro-climates. All work is by hand, only biodynamic preparations are used and every five years organic fertilizer is applied. Pierre mostly uses the same local grape pickers from harvest to harvest. He believes they’ll pick the best grapes from which he can produce the finest wines. He also believes this adds an important cultural element to his wines. In the winery he shows a deft touch: whole bunches of grapes are pressed, the juice is left to settle overnight then 98% is used for fermentation with indigenous yeasts. To best develop their Alsatian character the wines lie on their fine lees, without stirring, for up to two years in large, oak casks, some of which are over 100 years old. No chaptalization, acidity adjustments or cold stabilization are ever carried out, and only a little sulphur is added before bottling, if at all.
Today’s wine comes from Pierre’s Steiner vineyard, the steepest in the commune. This a relatively dry, east facing vineyard with limestone-based soils. The wine matured on its fine lees in century old oak barrels for 10 months then was bottled in July 2015. Like all of his wines, this has a metal cap closure to guarantee no cork taint. Pierre argues that all Champagne is kept under cap, some for a decade or more, prior to disgorgement, so why shouldn’t he.
Gewurtztraminer Steiner 2014 is yellow with gold reflections and has pronounced aromas of white flower, peach, aromatic herbs, tea and chalky minerality. These follow through on the palate along with ripe mango, orange blossom and pepper. The palate is fleshy and supple with perfectly balanced acidity and a noticeably long, dry, spicy and mineral finish. Serve at 8 to 10˚ in white stems with smoked fish, duck, foie gras, goose or strong cheeses. This is a classic, superb, Gewruztraminer and a great introduction to the grape.