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: Gustave Lorentz Alsace Pinot Blanc

Irish supermarket chain SuperValu are currently holding their French Wine Sale and, as in previous years, there’s an Alsace wine included in the “Guest Wines” which are only stocked for the sale and not at other times. The event gives wine drinkers a chance to try wines that they might not normally get a chance to taste, and it’s always good to see Alsace wines being distributed more widely.

If you haven’t already then do check out my other articles over on Frankly Wines covering 4 Bordeaux Bargains from De Mour and 4 Louis Latour Whites which are also included in the French Wine Sale.

Maison Gustave Lorentz

The Lorentz family can trace its roots back to Ribeauvillé in the second half of the 1600s, already involved in the wine trade as barrel makers and wine merchants. It was Jean-Georges Lorentz who made the move four kilometres north-east to Bergheim. He was both a winegrower and blacksmith – it was much more common for people to have more than one trade or profession back then. Maison Lorentz was founded by his descendants in 1836, though it did not come to bear the name of Gustave until he took over towards the end of the 19th century.

After the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine  at the end of the Franco-Prussian war the grapes grown in Alsace were mainly blended into German wines. This was followed by the catastrophe of Phylloxera which devastated Alsatian vineyards from 1905. The family’s fortunes were revived by Charles Lorentz Senior and his son Charles Junior.

Senior put a huge emphasis on quality, including grapes bought in from contract growers, and expanded the family’s holdings on the renowned Altenberg de Bergheim (1) vineyard. Junior took over at the end of World War 2 and expanded production while modernising all the facilities in the winery. Charles Junior was instrumental in the inclusion of Altenberg de Bergheim and Kanzlerberg in the second wave of Alsace Grand Cru vineyards classified in 1983.

Since 1995 Maison Gustave Lorentz has been run by George Lorentz, the seventh generation. He has continued the Maison’s modernisation and expanded purchases from local contract growers to 120 hectares worth. Owned vineyards now total 33 hectares of vines, of which 12.8 hectares are Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim and 1.75 hectares Grand Cru Kanzlerberg. George has emphasised the focus on export markets (to over 60 countries including Myanmar) and converted the family’s own vineyards to organic, certified from 2012.

The Gustave Lorentz Portfolio

As with many Alsace producers there are a substantial number of ranges within the Gustave Lorentz portfolio, covering different types of wine, different quality levels and different terroirs. Here is my attempt to summarise them:

Dry, still wines

  • Grands Crus: Riesling Kanzleberg, Pinot Gris Kanzleberg, Riesling Altenberg de Bergheim, Pinot Gris Altenberg de Bergheim, Gewurztraminer Altenberg de Bergheim
  • Lieux-Dits: Riesling Burg, Pinot Gris Schofweg, Gewurztraminer Rotenberg, Pinot Noir La Limite
  • Cuvées Particulières: Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Oak-aged Pinot Noir
  • Evidence (Organic): Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir
  • Réserve: Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc (2)
  • Special wines and blends: Fleurelle, Pinot Blanc L’Ami des Crustacés, Pinot Noir Rosé

Sweet wines

  • Sélection de Grains Noble (SGN): Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling
  • Vendanges Tardives (VT): Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer

Sparkling Wines

  • Crémants d’Alsace: Brut Blanc, Brut Rosé, Zéro Dosage

Gustave Lorentz Alsace Pinot Blanc Réserve 2020

Gustave Lorentz Alsace Pinot Blanc Réserve 2020

And so we come to the wine in question, the Pinot Blanc Réserve. As in previous vintages this wine is actually predominantly Auxerrois Blanc, a longstanding variety which was thought to be a different clone of or even the same as Pinot Blanc. Due to this historical link, wines made from Auxerrois can be labelled as Pinot Blanc. For more information see my article on Alsace Blends.

85% Auxerrois gives this wine a rounder profile than a predominantly true Pinot Blanc wine. The nose has aromas of pip (pear) and stone (peach) fruit with just a hint of lemon. The palate is juicy and full – almost voluptuous – yet clean and refreshing. The texture with acidity make this a remarkably food-friendly wine, from aperitifs and nibbles to seafood, poultry and salads. At €18.99 it is a good value wine but at €12 it’s an absolute steal.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.99 (3) down to €12.00 from Thurs 2nd Sept to Wed 22nd Sept 2021
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and


(1) The full name of the Grand Cru is Altenberg de Bergheim to distinguish it from the other Altenberg Grand Cru, Altenberg de Bergbieten. The later is around 50km due north of Bergheim, just to the west of Strasbourg.

(2) For some reason the Pinot Blanc Réserve is missing from the Gustave Lorentz website

(3) The Riesling Réserve and Gewurztrainer Réserve retail for over €20 in Irish independent wine shops so €18.99 appears to be a very reasonable “normal” price.