Rediscovering the Greatness of Alsace Riesling ~ Tasting the Hugel Schoelhammer Riesling 2008…

Alsace is a strange wine category in the UK. Generic promotional marketing activity has mainly been focused around the food and wine connection, thus primarily targeting the on-trade or restaurant sector. But like with German wines, dry or sweet, the regional message never seems to be communicated in a clear and digestible consumer format.


I love Alsace wines. Along with the Loire and Jura, it’s probably still the cheapest, most value for money, under appreciated, premium region in France. For goodness sake, there are 51 Grand Cru appellations to choose from after all! So today I revelled in the opportunity to hook up with Charlotte Hugel to taste their new releases. 


Some how I missed the first vintage of the incredible Schoelhammer Riesling 2007. Luckily today I got to drink the superb 2008 follow up vintage. But the Schoelhammer plot, from the Schoenenbourg Grand Cru, which overlooks Riquewihr, has always been one of Hugel’s favourite single vineyard sites and as such, was often vinified separately to the other Riesling parcels.


In 2008, climatic conditions were a carbon-copy of the excellent 2007 vintage. Budburst at the end of April was quite late, but May was warm and sunny so flowering began on 15th June and took more than a fortnight to complete. July and August were particularly cool with hardly any rise in temperature, but in mid-September the Indian Summer arrived. As a result, the grapes ripened slowly but fully, perfectly healthy and with excellent acidity. 

Schoelhammer covers a mere 6 300 square metres (67 800 square feet), 30 rows of vines dedicated to Riesling and organically farmed. Its triassic clay-marl terroir is farmed organically so as to best reveal the complexity of its rich sub-soil. Only 2534 bottles 750ml were produced with a 12.35 Abv., a 7,85 g/l TA, from vines with an average age of 23 years old, yielding 31 Hl/Ha.


Tasting Note: Famille Hugel Schoelhammer Riesling 2008 – This wine has a very pale, youthful colour despite being almost 10 years old. The nose is liquid minerality personified. Limestone, wet pebbles, and crushed grey slate marry with intense notes of dry lemon citrus, lemon grass, white pepper, spring flowers, and yellow grapefruit. There is such amazing intensity of lemon / lime cordial and green apple pastille fruits. What a profound wine with such power, intensity, breadth and length. Wow. This wine’s finesse and sophistication really leaves you breathless. 

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)