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Zind-Humbrecht ’05s and ’06s: Premox and other concerns

August 9, 2010

ZIND-HUMBRECHT ’05S AND ’06S: PREMOX AND OTHER CONCERNS – Vin Vino Wine, Palo Alto, California (8/3/2010-8/4/2010)


Vin Vino’s Rebecca

This was a troublesome tasting. I’ve had numerous delicious, concentrated Zind-Humbrecht SGNs and Vendage Tardives over the years, which have aged well. I’ve also had a lot of semi-dry Zind-Humbrechts that aged well. Nonetheless, in this tasting, over two days, of 14 recent vintage Z-H Muscats, Gewurzes, Rieslings and Pinot Grises, at least six were showing signs of premature oxidation, and only a couple of them were really superior examples of the region and style. in searches since this tasting, I’ve seen several notes from others referring to premox problems with Zind-Humbrechts in the past several years. Is there something going on with this estate, much like so many white Burgundy producers, that we need to worry about? This tasting suggests there is.

I’ve scoured Olivier Humbrecht’s annual vintage reports for some clue as to what was wrong with the wines in this tasting that showed so poorly, and I can’t come up with any real clues. Olivier’s notes suggest that they’re all high acid winners, regardless of the residual sugar content–that they’re all simply brilliant. That just wasn’t my experience, though, with this line up. Is his complete change to biodynamic principles creating problems; is there too much batonnage and lees stirring (the latest theory for so much premox amongst white Burgs); or were the ’06 and ’03 vintages just way, way worse than Olivier indicated in his annual reports?

Vin Vino buys a lot of its stock through Kermit Lynch, and Zind-Humbrecht got a divorce from Kermit Lynch, signing up instead with importers and distributors The Sorting Table for the ’07 vintage. So Vin Vino stopped carrying them. As a result of the distribution channel disruption, I haven’t had much chance to taste recent vintage Zind-Humbrechts for the last few years before this tasting. The following excerpt from Vin Vino’s current newsletter, however, suggests even deeper problems than the change in distribution with recent vintages of Z-H: “Zind-Humbrecht used to be highly sought after. No more. No one has inquired about the last two vintages, which we had the wisdom not to buy. Looking back, three factors derailed Zind-Humbrecht. First, Robert Parker stopped reviewing Alsace wines. His love of Zind-Humbrecht, and plethora of scores in the high 90s for them, drove many wine lovers to collect them, many hwo didn’t buy any other Alsatian wines. Second, prices went way, way up. What had been bargains became precious collector’s items. Finally, Olivier Humbrecht’s winemaking became less steady, to the point one no longer knew what to expect stylistically, a big departure from the consistency of earlier years. It’s killed the brand, at least for now.” Vin Vino was offering their remaining stock of Zind-Humbrecht for 50% off.

As always, I’ve got to be honest and tell you exactly what I’m tasting. I’d much rather these be delicious wines I could recommend, and that would justify their high scores over the years. Unfortunately, with the exception of the two decent Pinot Grises at the end of the tasting, that just wasn’t my experience with these wines. I’m putting this post out there as a “buyer beware,” and as a call for readers who have had any premox experience with recent vintage Z-H’s to please share that with the rest of us.

Pinot d’Alsace

This one was oxidized and played out on the palate. After only three years?

  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot d’Alsace – France, Alsace, Alsace AOC (8/3/2010)
    Light medium golden yellow color; tart pear, mineral, baked pear, baked lemon, cheesecloth nose; oxidized, baked pear, tangy pear nectar palate, lacking the expressiveness of the nose; medium finish (83 pts.)

Muscats

Neither of these were very good. The ’06 was oxidized and downright awful. Say it ain’t so, Mr. O.

  • 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Goldert – France, Alsace, Gueberschwihr, Alsace Grand Cru AOC (8/3/2010)
    Light canary yellow color; floral, ripe grapefruit, ginger, apple cider nose; tangy, tart apricot, tart apple palate with a bitter note toward finish; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Goldert – France, Alsace, Gueberschwihr, Alsace Grand Cru AOC (8/3/2010)
    Medium golden yellow color; cling peaches syrup, canned apricot, fuzzy peach skin nose; cling peaches syrup, canned apricot, fuzzy peach skin, oxidized palate; medium finish (82 pts.)

Gewurzes

These Gewurzes, from three different vineyards and two recent vintages, were just a little above average, when I expect a lot more from Z-H Gewurzes. The ’05 Hengst was oxidized and low in acid for a recent vintage Grand Cru. None of them were worth the high prices that Z-H currently charges for these wines.

  • 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Heimbourg – France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC (8/3/2010)
    Light golden yellow color; old roses, baked apple nose; concentrated, apricot, mineral, applesauce, lychee nut palate, not going much further from this point; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Hengst – France, Alsace, Wintzenheim, Alsace Grand Cru AOC (8/3/2010)
    Light golden yellow color; oxidized, old roses, fuzzy peach nose; pear nectar, tart apricot palate with some concentration, but lacking acidity; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl – France, Alsace, Hunawihr, Alsace AOC (8/3/2010)
    Light medium golden yellow color; peach, and apricot nectar, fuzzy peach skin, old roses nose; best of the Gewurzes in this tasting, old roses, tart apricot, mineral palate with some acidity and balance; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

Riesling (mainly Clos Windsbuhl)

These were very disappointing Rieslings. The ’03 was flat and boring. The ’06 Clos Windsbuhl, from Z-H’s third greatest Riesling vineyard, was oxidized. I buy much more enjoyable German Rieslings for much less money year after year. I think there’s a serious problem here.

  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Turckheim – France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Light medium golden yellow color; nice apricot, orange rind nose; focused, tart lemon, ripe lemon, clementine, very tart apricot palate in a dry style with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2003 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Windsbuhl – France, Alsace, Hunawihr, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Bright canary yellow color; baked lemon, baked apricot nose with a hint of petrol; flat, ripe stone fruit palate with no acidity; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Windsbuhl – France, Alsace, Hunawihr, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Bright canary yellow color; baked lemon, clementine, tart citrus nose with a vague sense of witch hazel; tangy, tart citrus, baked lemon, tart tangerine palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Clos Windsbuhl – France, Alsace, Hunawihr, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Medium canary yellow color; candied lemon, ginger, lemon peel, cantaloupe nose with oxidation; tart baked lemon, clementine, grapefruit skin palate; medium-plus finish 87+ pts. (87 pts.)

Pinot Gris

The ’06 Clos Winsbuhl Pinot Gris was the best of this tasting, and the ’06 Vieilles Vignes wasn’t far behind. The ’03 Heimbourg was oxidized and flat. Have we been oversold on this producer? There are better Pinot Grises available in Alsace for much less money. I believe the SGNs and VTs from this estate are probably just as great as always, but Z-H is producing, on average, about 35 different wines a year. This tasting was strong evidence that Olivier has gotten complacent, and/or somehow let things slip with the middle range wines from this estate. After this tasting, I could no longer buy Zind-Humbrecht with any confidence, and would definitely need to taste before I bought.

  • 2003 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg – France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Light medium orange color; ripe tangerine, cantaloupe nose; mature, flat, oxidized, tangerine, mineral, cantaloupe palate; medium-plus finish (81 pts.)
  • 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg – France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Light orange color; focused, tart apricot, baked peach nose; ripe apricot, mineral, apricot syrup palate with some acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Vieilles Vignes – France, Alsace, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Light orange color; odd, orange rind, pink grapefruit rind, mineral nose; tart orange, tangerine, apricot, mineral palate, juicy, with sweetness and bite; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl – France, Alsace, Hunawihr, Alsace AOC (8/4/2010)
    Light medium golden yellow color; aromatic, grapefruit, grapefruit rind, lemon rind nose; concentrated, pear nectar, baked lemon, grapefruit, apricot, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. JIM CHRISTENSEN permalink
    August 10, 2010 6:24 am

    RJ,

    Noticed you didn’t taste any VT – do you think the problem of premature oxidation affects these wines, too? – I, too, read Oliver’s reports and he literally gushes about some of the wines – Tanzer initially liked some of them, as well – so, drink ’em if u got ’em?

  2. August 10, 2010 10:25 am

    Jim,
    I hope the premoxing doesn’t affect the VTs and SGNs. They’re usually released a year or so after the rest of the wines from the vintage, and there have been virtually no Z-H tastings in my area before this one at Vin Vino, due, I suspect, to the change Z-H made in its importer in ’07. The most recent vintages I’ve tasted of the VTs is ’02, three different bottlings, and they were all very good. The most recent vintage SGN I’ve had was ’03, the Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal, and it was pretty great all 5 times I’ve tried it.
    Vin Vino is doing another double tasting of Zind-Humbrecht later this month, which I plan to attend, so I’ll expand the sample size on ’06 and ’05 by tasting several more then, but none of the VTs.
    –Richard

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