Domaine Ginglinger is a family estate, located in Eguisheim, near Colmar, in Alsace. Did you know that, in addition of being elected “Most Beautiful Village of France” in 2013, this little town was also the inspiration for the decor of the Disney movie “Beauty and the beast”?
QUICK FACTS ABOUT ALSACE
The region of Alsace is the smallest viticultural region of France, and yet, it is the richest, geologically speaking. The vineyard is only 105 miles long and 3 miles large, and there are 13 terroirs, split in 51 identified Grands Crus! It is also the driest region of France, because it is located between two mountain chains (Vosges on the French side, and Black Forest on the German side). They are blocking the rain, whether it is coming from the East or the West: it makes the organic viticulture easier, because there is no humidity, and therefore, no cryptogamic diseases!
As you enter the little city of Eguisheim (by foot, no cars allowed!) and you go towards the Place Saint-Léon (from Eguisheim, he was a Pope in the 9th century), you will find a little label on your left saying : Domaine Pierre-Henri Ginglinger, wines from Alsace and host rooms. In the courtyard in front of you is a little house, very typical of Alsace, where you can rent rooms and experienced the real Alsace tradition. The wine cellar in on your right and is located above the winery. The first thing that you notice by entering the room: the scent! Old wood, a little smokey, like an old cabinet from your grandparents’ place. You are already in the ambiance! The wine cellar is a mix between the past and the future: composed of old barrels turned into seats and table, many objects from the family of the estate and a modern bar where you can taste the wines. It makes you feel at home. Mathieu Ginglinger, 12th generation, is a very nice person, who loves to talk about his family, that dates back to 1684 (as a proof of that, it is curved in the headstone above the door)! He and his wife Stéphanie (he calls her Schatzi, which is “Honey” in Alsatian) run the estate since 2001. At the beginning, like many wineries in France, his grandfather starts to make wine with less than a hectare. His father managed to increase the size of the vineyard to 9 hectares, and Mathieu to 15 hectares!
Very much involved in their vineyard and into the fight for the environment, they are certified “Organic” since 2001: back then, it was very rare, and winemakers who dared to agreed to these principles were commonly taken for fools! They were part of the 1st 20 Alsatian winemakers that decided to farm their vineyards organically (and there are 4700 domains in the region!)
The range includes the 7 grapes varieties authorized to be grow in Alsace : Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat are whites, and only the Pinot Noir is allowed as red. That is why we called Alsace “The Land of Great Whites”! At Domaine Ginglinger, they are declined as Alsace classic, but also Crémant d’Alsace and Grands Crus. In the Grands Crus wines, only 4 of them, which are called noble grapes, are allowed! They are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewürztraminer : you will never find a Pinot Blanc Grand Cru.
Little particularity: The Grand Cru vineyard is around 3 hectares, which is a lot for a small family winery from Alsace! Plus, they have vines on four of them, which means 4 different terroirs!
Grand Cru Pfersigberg, which means the Peach Hill in Alsatian, is located between Eguisheim and Wettolsheim, the village 2km East. It is a clay-loam terroir on a clay bedrock : the color of the soil is very clear, and the sunray will bounce back on the grapes, leading to a very early ripening. This is the preference terroir for very aromatic Gewürztraminer !
Grand Cru Eichberg, which means the Oak Hill, is around Eguisheim, exposed South, protected by the Vosges and benefiting from a micro-climate dry and hot. The nature of the soil is heavy and very complex (chalk, marn, sandstones pebbles, clay, silica) : the combination of the soil and the climate gives very complex, powerful and elegant wines, specially for the Riesling.
Grand Cru Hengst , «The Stallion”, is in the village of Wintzenheim, 5km East of Eguisheim. The terroir is composed of marn, clay and loam, and the particularity of this terroir is the acidity that you have in the mouth. It gives wines with an amazing ageing potential, specially for the Pinot Noir! Which is unfortunately not allowed to be labelled as Grand Cru.
Grand Cru Ollwiller is located in Wuenheim, 20km South of Eguisheim : this terroir is marn-loam on a chalk bedrock, which is perfect for the Riesling! The minerality found in these wines is exceptional : delicacy and elegance are what described very well Riesling from Grand Cru Ollwiller.
This is the description of the 4 Grands Crus owned by Domaine Ginglinger, and there are 47 others. The geology of Alsace, which dates back on several thousands of years is very complex, and one of the most interesting of France if you are a geology history lover. It is very interesting to be able to taste the difference between the soil : a Riesling from Grand Cru Eichberg will be totally different from a Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg, even though these two terroirs are just few hundred meters apart.
The harvest is entirely done by hand, and the pressing is done in whole grapes. As for the vinification, Mathieu explains that he adds no sulfites at the harvest, to keep the expression of the fruit. That is why he is also uses stainless steel tank, a way to let the grape variety and the terroir speak, especially for the Grands Crus, which are already very aromatic. Only the Sylvaner, which is not an aromatic grape, is having an ageing on lees with batonnage to add some texture in the wine.
He also has the old traditionnal barrels from Alsace, called foudre : these are huge oak casks, old enough to have no impact on the taste of the wine, but you have to keep them full at all times. For instance, for the vintage 2021, 6 of his 10 casks are filled with water due the low yield. The wines are aged in stainless steel tank or foudre for about a year, before filtration and bottling.
Ageing wines in oak barrels is not something very common in Alsace, but Mathieu does it for his special cuvees, which are more confidential:
Oll’Nature is a blend of Riesling and Pinot Gris made with wild yeasts, in the Champagne way : only the first 100 liters of the press are used, and the grape juice is going directly in the barrel. It was aged for 2 years, on lees to add some fat texture, and give more amplitude. Ambre is a blend of Pinot Auxerrois (another name of the Pinot Blanc) and Pinot Gris, aged in barrel for about a year and half, and they were blended at the press: they fermented together for more complexity.
Alsace is an unknown region of France: Mathieu is an experienced winemaker, that loves to try, and he is never out of ideas. We really believe that his wines have a place in the US, and on your table!
When I worked in the family Domaine in Meursaut in the 80s, I had the good opportunity to meet
Alain Chapel, an incredible chef who in turn, inspired a generation of chefs. Twice a year, Alain would
invite winemakers for what one could say..