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Meet The Winemaker: Olivier Humbrecht

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is owned and run by father-and-son team Léonard and Olivier Humbrecht. Olivier was an early adopter of biodynamics, and was instrumental in founding Biodyvin, the certifying body for biodynamics in viticulture.  Not only that, he was the first Frenchman to qualify as a Master of Wine.

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Talented guy, then! Olivier runs the Domaine alongside his wife Margaret, and there’s little doubt that he’s a Olivier is one of the leading lights in Alsace, if not the wine world. He is a firm believer in making wine according to both organic and biodynamic principles; he is the president of Biodyvin, a certifying body for biodynamics especially for viticulture. Terroir is important to him and following these principles allows him to express a sense of place in every wine he makes.

So, biodynamics. Cow-horns and voodoo for wine?  Well, not a million miles off.  For those unfamiliar with the term, biodynamics is the principle of planting, tending and growing using a holistic approach to agriculture.  It’s a very spiritual way of growing,  following an astrological calendar, but it centres around the idea that that the vineyard should be a carefully managed, self-sufficient ecosystem. It features the use of herbal and mineral preparations (so yes, cow manure) buried in cow horn for a period before being sprayed or sprinkled on the vineyard.  Even if you think it’s hoodoo, it’s hard work and the results are worth it – the care and attention lavished on the vineyard and in the winery often produce exceptional results.

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Alsace? That’s the bit of France where everyone is German. There’s a long history between France and Germany here, and it has been contested territory in a few wars.  Geographically it’s important for viticulture because of the Vosges mountain range which acts as a rain shadow, and also the presence of the Rhine.  Olivier’s Domaine stretches over 6 communes within Alsace, and comprises of 40 hectares of vines in a patchwork of different terroirs. 2009 came off the back of two exceptional Gewurtz vintages (07 and 08) and Olivier made the choice to blend Goldert Grand Cru and Heimbourg fruit to make a particularly fine expression – which he dubbed the Calcaire.

Traditional Alsatian oak fermentation casks

The wine is a bit good, then? We certainly thought so! That’s why we jumped at the chance to snap up a parcel of his Gewurtztraminer Calcaire and offer it as an online exclusive.  Harvested late, with a touch of delicious botrytis, it was too good an opportunity to pass up, especially given the quality of fruit produced in the Goldert Grand Cru and Heimbourg vineyards.

Olivier says: “…it is powerful, dense, and spicy with a little petroly character that originates from the calcareous vineyards and some noble rot. On the palate, the wine is generous and rich, long lasting with some obvious density and sweetness. It is a very forward wine that does show a nice minerality.”

We say: Delicious, fruit-led with ample spice and tropical fruit, lychee and heady rose-petal fragrance. Turkish delight, and evidently late-harvest. Please pass the panna cotta, creme brulee, and possibly some trifle. It’s going to be a very pleasurable night.

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