Wine reviews

Wine Review: Blue Tie by Pfaff

The SuperValu French Wine Sale is upon us again, joined this year by some German wines from the Pfalz, so what better wine to start my reviews with than one from a French region on the border with Germany, an Alsace blend!

The Cave de Pfaffenheim is a co-operative with around 150 grower-members. It was founded in 1957 in the village of Pfaffenheim, around 15 km south-by-southwest of Colmar. The microclimate there is a little greener than other parts of Alsace which helps the vines in dry years. The Cave itself has very modern facilities with an (as far as possible) oxygen-free environment. I tasted through their standard range at the Big Alsace Tasting a few years ago and was very impressed by their clean, fruit-forward nature.

The “Tie” range began in 2005 when the winemaker was holding a tasting / blending session with the buyer from a big French supermarket chain (I’m guessing Carrefour) and they were searching for a new brand name. Seeing someone wearing a black bow tie, they agreed on Black Tie for the first wine, a blend of Riesling and Pinot Gris. White Tie, Pink Tie and Blue Tie wines followed.

Blue Tie by Pfaff 2018

Blue Tie by Pfaff 2018

So, the Blue Tie is a blend of Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer. The relative proportions aren’t given, but I think it’s safe to say they are in descending order as written – due to its expressiveness, Gewurz would totally dominate other varieties if it made up a majority of a blend. The vines are situated in the lower hills of the Vosges between 200 and 400 metres above sea level, with an easterly or south easterly aspect to get the benefit of the morning sun.

The grape varieties are vinified separately and aged on fine lees for four months before blending and bottling takes place. The wine does not go through malolactic fermentation to preserve freshness and balance the residual sugar; alcohol is fairly modest at 12.5%.

In colour, Blue Tie is lemon, but that’s not where the main action is: the nose! The nose has explosive aromas of spice, lychees, roses, mango, pineapple and grapes – such a joy to sniff!

These notes continue onto the palate, but they are a little more restrained…perhaps a little crisper than the nose suggests, which is the influence of the Muscat and the acidity.

This is a great example of an Alsace blend and would be amazing with Asian cuisine or just on its own.

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 20 g/L
  • RRP: €10.00 down from €16.99 from 1st to 21st Sept 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores

Look out for other articles on wines from the SuperValu French & German wine sale on Frankly Wines

Wine reviews

Wine Review: Gustave Lorentz Alsace Grand Cru Riesling

Before we get to the wine itself, with probably the longest name I’ve ever included (see below), let us first have a quick glance at the Alsace Grand Cru vineyard it comes from – Altenberg de Bergheim – and its producer – Gustave Lorentz.

Altenberg de Bergheim

Somewhat confusingly, three of Alsace’s fifty one Grands Crus are named “Altenberg”, but it makes more sense when you realise that the name means “Old Mountain”, and so could easily be applied to several places in Alsace. Confusion is reduced by adding the name of the commune in which the vineyard is located, hence Altenberg de Bergbieten, de Bergheim, and de Wolxheim. The first and last of these are villages in the north of Alsace, 30 to 40 km due west of Strasbourg. Bergheim is in the heart of the Alsace vignoble, just north of Ribeauvillé, and its Altenberg has been renowned for its wines since the 12th century.

This Grand Cru totals 35.06 hectares and lies between 220 and 320 metres above sea level. The soil is a rocky, fossil-laden mix of marl and limestone from the middle and lower Jurassic period. The aspect is due south, with a small stream at the bottom of the slope which slightly tempers the microclimate. All this adds up to wines which are very concentrated and mineral, often a little closed in their youth, but which reward cellaring for five years up to several decades. Riesling and Gewurztraminer are the stars here.

Gustave Lorentz

The Lorentz family count three dates as important milestones for their winery: 1650, when the first ancestor moved to Alsace, 1748 when the family moved to Bergeim, and 1836 when they began producing their own wine.

Their Réserve range is popular in Ireland and widely available. I’ve enjoyed several vintages of their Réserve Riesling and Réserve Pinot Blanc, plus their L’Ami des Crustacés blend is well worth a try. Their full range is summarised in the appendix to my review of their Pinot Blanc mentioned above, but the jewel in the Lorentz crown is undoubtedly their holdings in Altenberg de Bergheim, planted to Riesling and Gewurz. In fact, with 12.77 hectares they account for just over a third of the whole Grand Cru.

Gustave Lorentz Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2017

Gustave Lorentz Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2

Not only is this a Grand Cru wine, but it also has the designation Vieilles Vignes, or “Old Vines”. All the vines whose grapes went into this wine were over 30 years old, with a few even approaching 50. This is said to give increased concentration of aromas and flavours, so let’s put this theory to the test.

In the glass it pours a vibrant, deep lemon which is already turning to a light gold. The nose shows minerals, lime and lemon, with just a hint of richer fruits. Scientists say that there is no known mechanism for minerals to actually be absorbed by vines, and make their way to the flavours of a grape, yet here we have stark evidence that minerality can even be prominent among a wine’s aromas.

This is a concentrated, dry, fresh wine. On the palate there’s lots of texture and an underlying richness, without any exhuberance. Whereas lighter Alsace Rieslings would be paired with shellfish, white fish and the like, this Alternberg has the power and concentration to cope with richer foods; Gustave Lorentz recommend matching it with all manner of foods, from goat’s cheese, to lobster, to fois gras or even plum tart – truly a versatile wine.

At five years old this 2017 has just entered its recommend drinking window, so now is the time to start supping, but I think this has decades left it in and hasn’t got close to its peak yet.

  • ABV: 13.9% (labelled at 13.5%)
  • RS: 4.45 g/L
  • RRP: €43 – €44
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: Bradley’s Food Market, Cork; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; Morton’s of Galway; Carry Out, Killarney
Wine reviews

Wine Review: Kuentz-Bas Alsace MosaïK Riesling


Like many double barrelled producers in Alsace, Kuentz-Bas was formed by the marriage of two winemaking families – Kuentz and Bas – in 1895. The Kuentz family trace their wine heritage back a whole century earlier so it is the year 1795 which appears on labels.

A big change came in 2004 when the family sold their firm to fellow winemaker Jean-Baptiste Adam. Adam himself is the 14th generation of vignerons in his family and is passionate about the local terroir. He has introduced organic, biodynamic and natural methodologies across the estate. The vineyards total ten hectares in area, including plots with the Grands Crus of Eichberg, Geisberg and Pfersigberg, around the village of Husseren-les-Châteaux, just west of Eguisheim.

The Châteaux referenced in the village name are the ruins of three ruined castles – Dagsbourg, Wahlenbourg and Weckmund – within close promixity of each other, and known locally as Les Trois Châteaux. They also give their name to the senior range in Kuentz-Bas’s portfolio which includes Lieux Dits and Grands Crus. The more modest wine range is La 4ème Tour, “The Fourth Tower”, which includes the MosaïK Riesling below.

Kuentz-Bas Alsace Riesling MosaïK 2018

Kuentz-Bas Riesling Mosaik 2

MosaïK refers to the multitude of soil types that criss-cross the Alsatian vignoble (13 in total) and specifically the four on which the vines for this wine are grown: marl, clay, limestone and loess. The wine is therefore a Riesling blend.

And it’s unmistakeably a Riesling – pale in the glass then a nose of lemon and lime, golden delicious apples and hints of bitter almonds. It smells like a natural wine – precisely what that smell is lies beyond my vocabulary, but you know it when you smell it. As it’s a step away from the “normal” fruity flavours of young Riesling that might not suit everyone, but for me it adds an interesting extra dimension to the nose.

There’s fruit in the mid palate but the wine is super dry on the finish, which is almost – but not quite – austere. The pithy texture adds more savoury notes to the ensemble. I drank this wine on its own but I think it would shine brighter with food. It’s a great example of a different style of Alsace Riesling.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €16.95, down from €19.95 until 31st August 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and
Wine reviews

Wine Review: Domaine Muré Alsace Sylvaner Signature

Domaine Muré is based in Rouffach, not far south of Colmar and close to Eguisheim (so close, in fact, that Rouffach and Eguisheim share a local tourist office). They are also well represented by Maison Pfister wine merchants in the centre of Colmar – where I first discovered their wines in 2013.

The Domaine’s roots were originally planted (pun intended) in Westhalten by Michel Muré in 1650. The biggest step taken by the family over the centuries was the 1935 purchase – by 9th generation Alfred Muré – of the whole 12 hectares of Clos Saint Landelin, a terraced walled vineyard within the larger Vorburg vineyard. His sons Oscar and Armand moved the winery to Rouffach, just a few kilometres east of Westhalten, in 1960. The estate is now in the capable hands of Veronique and Thomas Muré, the 12th generation of their family business.

Since 1999 the estate has been farmed organically, and biodynamically since 2013. By both ploughing between the rows and planting densely the family encourage the vines to send their roots deep. Yields are kept low which also preserves quality.

The Domaine now totals 28 hectares, of which Clos Landelin covers 12, all within Grand Cru Vorbourg. The remaining 16 hectares include Grand Gru Zinnkoepflé (for Riesling and Gewurz), other parcels of Grand Cru Vorbourg, some Lieux-dits and other plots around Rouffach.

Like most Alsace vignerons, Muré produces a broad range of Alsace wines including Crémants, dry whites, sweet wines and reds. There are a few other wines in their range which deserve a mention:

  • Pinot Noir “V” which is made from grapes grown in the Grand Cru Vorbourg, but cannot (currently) be labelled as Grand Cru as Pinot Noir is not permitted to carry that appellation in Alsace
  • Gewurztraminer Maceration, an amber / orange wine with ten days of skin maceration
  • Riesling Côte de Rouffach sans souffre ajouté, a Riesling with no sulphur added
  • Sylvaner Cuvée Oscar Clos Saint Landelin, a Grand Cru Sylvaner in all but name, as this variety also cannot be labelled as a Grand Cru (with the exception of Zotzenberg)

So now some notes on a Muré wine that I tasted recently:

Domaine Muré Alsace Sylvaner Signature 2014

Muré Sylvaner

If you didn’t spot the vintage on the title then the colour of the wine drops some strong hints; Sylvaner is usually drunk young (more on which another time) and is generally very pale, so the deep lemon to light gold colour of this Sylvaner is a sign of decent ageing.

The nose is quite expressive; Sylvaner isn’t that aromatic but this had some nice “toasty” notes, very reminiscent of Riesling, actually, but none of the kerosene aromas that Riesling can express*There’s no oxidisation here, however; it’s still perfectly clean and sound. The palate is gently fruity, though still with plenty of acidity. This is far from being a “lesser” wine; it shows that Sylvaner can excel in the right hands and can age as well as “better” grape varieties.

  • ABV: 11.0%
  • RRP: approx. €16
  • Source:  Purchased from Mitchell & Son

* Much to Jim’s disgust

Wine reviews

Wine Review: Wolfberger W3 Alsace Blend

As you get older, birthdays generally become less important, unless it’s a multiple of 10. When you have young kids and your birthday’s on Halloween, it’s even less important when you have young kids. Thus it was for me this year (I know, I’m drying my eyes) and so I didn’t even open a particularly fancy wine from my humble collection. However, with my Chinese takeaway I did pop open a modestly-priced bottle – an Alsace blend from Wolfberger…and it was delightful!

Wolfberger is a significant presence in Alsace as they are one of the largest producers. I will delve more into their story in a future article, but for now let’s take a look at one of their Alsace blends. This bottle was one of several samples kindly sent over for the second Alsace Wine Week in Ireland which took place in May 2019.

Wolfberger W3 Alsace Blend 2017

Wolfberger W3 Alsace Blend

W3 (or W³) is a blend of three out of Alsace’s four “noble” grape varieties: Riesling, Muscat and Pinot Gris*. Being made from these varieties would allow the wine to be labelled as a Gentil; however, these traditional blend names are sometimes eschewed by producers in favour of a more modern presentation – in this case W3 (or W³ as it appears on the front label.) For more information check out my article on Alsace Blends.

In the glass the W3 is a light lemony-gold. The nose has a real story to tell: flowers and grapes with hints of orchard fruits and a dash of citrus. Methinks Muscat is the boss on the nose. The palate somehow manages to be round and linear at the same time, slightly (fruitily-) sweet yet tangily sour. Pip fruits and grapes open the scene, then grapes and stone fruits add depth, and finally zesty lime brings it home.

This is a brilliant example of how good Alsace blends can be, even when modestly priced. Each of the three grapes has a turn to take centre stage, but it’s a cohesive performance rather than a clash of personalities. And the wine is more than the sum of its parts!

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • RS: 6.5 g/L
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: not yet available in Ireland – but hopefully sometime soon!

*The fourth noble variety not included in this blend is, of course, Gewurztraminer.