Region: Alsace Grand Cru, Sommerburg, France
Varietal: Pinot Gris
96+ Points, Ian D’Agata, Vinous: “Bright pale golden yellow. The intensely smoky nose offers aromas of apple pie, pear nectar, white truffle and honey. Enters dense and rich, then turns lively and penetrating. Harmonious acidity nicely extends the rich apple pie and pear nectar flavors on the long, suave finish. This was harvested 15 days later (on October 19) than the regular 2017 Sommerberg Wibtal Pinot Gris, and 40% of the grapes (at least) were hit by noble rot. Made from the highest part of the Wibtal, it’s a very steep site where noble rot hits often. One of the best Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives I have tasted in years. Well done.” 1/19
Pairing: Classic pairings include local Alsation foods like chestnuts, aged cheeses, foie gras and terrine. With a medium to full body and a touch of sugar, these wines can often can stand up to the spice of Asian and Indian cuisine. Serve with Chestnut Honey Squares by Patricia Wells to end, perhaps a Thai meal, harmoniously.
About: Niedermorschwihr. Jean Boxler, many generations removed from his ancestor of the same name that moved here from Switzerland in 1673, currently rules the roost at this humble yet incredibly exciting domaine. Intense and serious about his land, his craft, and his wine, Jean is the genius behind what are certainly some of the finest white wines in Alsace (and the world).
World War II brought Jean’s grandfather Albert back to Niedermorschwihr from Montana, where he was busy enjoying the natural gifts of big sky country. After the war Albert returned to the family domaine in time to harvest the 1946 crop. He became the first generation to bottle the family’s production himself and commercialize it under a family label. The wine still wears a label drawn by his cousin in 1946. Albert’s son Jean-Marc continued the tradition for several decades until passing the baton to his son Jean in 1996.
The family’s holdings are centered around the ancient village of Niedermorschwihr in the Haut-Rhin, dominated by the imposing granite hillside grand cru, Sommerberg. Jean vinifies micro-parcels within this cru separately, de-classifying some into his Réserve wines and producing multiple bottlings of Sommerberg from the different lieux-dits depending on the vintage. Sommerberg gives racy, intensely structured, very long-lived wines. Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc are the specialties of the domaine, Jean also produces one of Alsace’s best Crémants (and Edelzwickers), an incredible Gewurztraminer grown in limestone, and some of the most hauntingly pure Vendanges Tardives and SGNs in all of Alsace. If that weren’t enough, the Boxlers also own land in the powerful grand cru Brand, the ultimate counterpart to their holdings in Sommerberg.
The Sommerberg hillside terminates in Jean’s driveway, making it easy to basically live in the vineyards, ensuring exceptionally healthy fruit year after year. After harvest, the wines are vinified and aged in old foudres in a small cellar underneath the family home until bottling. Not much has changed over the centuries; not much has needed to. Tasting through the entire range of Boxler’s wines is ample proof of the fact that Alsace, along with Burgundy, is the source of the world’s most complex, exciting white wines, and will probably always be.
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