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White Alsace over £10

Find out who won the regional trophy for over £10 in Alsace. And the winner is...

Dopff Aux Moulin 2008 Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg

The impressively steep, south and southeast facing Schoenenbourg or “beautiful hill” climbs from 265 to 380 meters above the cobbled streets of Riquewihr. All the noble grapes of Alsace thrive here, but Riesling is king because of its special interaction with the complex soil structure.

The Schoenenbourg’s marly-clay soil would normally be classified as “cold”, and that would have a significant retarding effect on the véraison of grapes grown there, but it is a gypsiferous marl, permeated with Keuper or Muschelkalk gypsum fragments, which improve the soil’s heat-retention and this is overlaid with a thermal blanket of fine gravel and more Muschelkalk.

These physical properties of the soil, together with the hill’s sun-blessed aspect, counter the coldness of Schoenenbourg’s marly-clay soil, lengthening the véraison by just the right amount to achieve greatness. The effect of this and the soil’s alkalinity on the Riesling’s naturally late-ripening regime results in a fine, ripe acidity. The grapes for Dopff Aux Moulin’s Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg were picked on 24 October 2008 and yielded a wine of just 12.7% alcohol with less than 5g/l of residual sugar. Proof that Alsace Riesling does not have to be sweet.

Schoenenbourg is one of the last vineyards to be harvested in Riquewihr and at Dopff Aux Moulin, the Riesling vieilles vignes on the Schoenenbourg are invariably the very last vines to be picked. “This is the day we all get to relax” said Philippe Durst, Dopff Aux Moulin’s Export Manager, “because except for small patches of special late-harvest grapes, the harvest is over. That’s why we invite office staff to join the picking on the Schoenenbourg, after which we all enjoy a harvest lunch in the cellars. So picking Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg is always a celebration for us.”

This wine was made by Pascal Batot, who trained at Montpellier and joined Dopff Aux Moulin in 1990 at the age of just 23. Batot belongs to the non-interventionist school of wine-making, which is why he likes to work with ripe and perfectly healthy grapes. Stylistically Batot aims for purity and finesse; he certainly achieved that with the 2008 Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg which was fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel vats and racked into large, old-oak foudres, where it aged of fine lees for 8 months before being bottled in November 2009.

The longevity of Dopff Aux Moulin’s Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg is well known in gastronomic circles, such as Le Sarment d’Or restaurant in Riquewihr, for example, which list vintages 10 years apart (currently 2007 and 1997). The 1959 is still impressive and the 2008 should live even longer.

Availability UK (shipped by Hallgarten Druitt, normally sold to on-trade, but Le Vigneron, Bexleyheath: £15.10; Great Wines Direct: £21.98)
Website www.dopff-au-moulin.fr
Telephone 33 (0) 389 49.09.69

Written by Matt Chappell

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