This Zind-Humbrecht tastes of shit

It is a Saturday, there is cricket on, Riesling is called for! Last time I tried these two Zind-Humbrecht Grand Crus they were rather good, this time… deary me… Zind-Humbrecht wines, particularly the flasher Grand Crus, do strike me as being rather unstable beasts and so it is somewhat of a lottery ageing the blighters. These two bottles had been kept in precisely the same conditions as the last two, just been in the wine-fridge since their liberation from the long-term cellar. There is no excuse for them being so shocking; I’m severely vexed, I don’t mind telling you.

So as the cricket approached the point of England winning the match and series against Sri-Lanka I really needed a decent drink to match my ebullient mood. Luckily, Willi Schaefer almost invariably delivers the goods. I’ve often thought of 2002 Mosel Rieslings as lacking a shade of acidity; not a hint of that here. I am chuffed as ninepence with how this bottle is pleasuring me and good German Riesling is definitely a top-hole accompaniment to cricket. And we won, wehay!

Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2001, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2001, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Hell’s bells, how much more orange can a wine get? None, none more orange. Sadly, this is rarely a good sign. Indeed, now I’m smelling it I am reminded more of something one might put on chips rather than drink – it is so totally oxidised the only aromas are of vinegar. This is an expensive wine that is claimed will age gracefully for an extended period of time, so I am really florid with discontent that it is so utterly dead and undrinkably vile. What happened, M. Humbrecht? Fall out with the sulphur supplier that year? If you are making a wine with claims of cellar-worthiness you need to make sure your bottles are consistently biochemically stable so that you don’t irk those who have stumped up the not inconsiderable pile of readies required to obtain some when they find that half their bottles are the colour of Tizer and have the flavour of malt vinegar. Bad show, Zind-Humbrecht!

Riesling Grand Cru Rangen Clos St. Urbain 2001, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Riesling Grand Cru Rangen Clos St. Urbain 2001, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

I can hardly begin to describe how mind-shatteringly disgusting this smells. It is not just tainted, it is not just dirty, it smells about as faecal as a sun-ripened cowpat from a cow that has a really serious dose food poisoning. It is worse than when I was visiting Indonesia and had to share a hole in the ground with a couple who had dysentery. To cut to the chase, this nose tells me there has clearly been some kind of nasty bacterial growth in this bottle which could have been avoided if M. Humbrecht has given a tinker’s cuss about protecting his wines from such taints and used some sulphur. I really, really don’t want to put something that smells so noisome in my mouth. There is not a single redeeming feature about this nose that makes me feel I might get a vague approximation of anything more pleasant than total revulsion if I taste it. I feel I should, though, for the sake of completeness. Even though I’ve never tasted one, the cowpat suggestion seems accurate – it tastes of filth of supremely rancid character. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bacterially spoiled bottle quite so nasty as this one in my rich and broad tasting experience.

Riesling Spatlese Graacher Domprobst 2002, Willi Schaefer

Riesling Spatlese Graacher Domprobst 2002, Willi Schaefer

This smells delightfully accessible. There is a load of ripe, almost luxurious citrus fruit here and it has an intense minerality that is distinctly complex. Highly attractive, still with plenty of life and energy, but also showing some maturity. This smells at a deeply enjoyable stage of its evolution. Tastes like that, too. Lots of good fruit, plenty of minerality and a perfectly bright and lively acidity. There is enough complexity and I think the flavours persist for a decent length of time. Perhaps not the most ultimately thrilling and exciting Riesling Spatlese I’ve ever had, but it slips down a treat. Drinking well now.


5 Comments

  • David Strange wrote:

    Ah yes, I forgot to add:
    Sometimes the smell of bacterial taint can blow off a wine if you leave it for a while. Sadly, the Rangen just got more odious as time went on.

    I used to love Z-H wines and go to serious lengths to score them; that flame has definitely died for me.

  • Ian Black wrote:

    Oh dear. That sounds a bit pricey.

    I must admit that I have similar reservations over some of these late-picked, low sulphur regime Alsatians of not inconsiderable cost. I’m pretty brassed off at the way my ’96 Weinbach Cuvée Catherines are going over the hill and down the other side, and you can read of plenty of other similar experiences with that one.

    Problem years like 2006 I could understand, but 2001? It’s not even 10 years old, and surely wine of this potential quality ought to be cellared for this sort of time, unless you are into drinking rieslings with mostly primary characteristics.

  • David Strange wrote:

    Well quite, Ian, ten years isn’t so long for wines of this supposed pedigree which have been stored impeccably. I was totally incandescent with righteous fury when I popped them and found the appalling condition they were in. They should have been so much better than this – there is no excuse for them falling apart so dreadfully.

  • Richard Brooks wrote:

    David, do you know the AP number for the Schaefer? He made two Graacher Domprobst Spatlesen in 2002, one was no. 09 and the other no. 12. The 09 is slightly brighter and less ripe, and coincidentally I drank one just last week. I think I liked it slightly better than you, but then I hadn’t just been smacked in the face twice by Mr Humbrecht.

  • David Strange wrote:

    Hello Richard,

    The bottle we popped was the No. 12. I really enjoyed it, but was perhaps so florid with anger at having to pour away roughly one hundred fun tokens worth of supposedly flash Alsace kit my critical faculties were not at their usual level of focus. I was really livid.

    I was even more livid when I looked through the wine fridge to decide on a bottle to pop tonight only to find two 2000 Z-H Rieslings sitting in there sniggering at me. I will pop them soon, and report as honestly as I can manage.

    Tonight’s wine was utterly, movingly, wildly brilliant. I’ve typed up the note and will hit the publish button when I can gather the strength tomorrow. Sleep has been avoiding me once more and (if I am honest) I’m really worryingly insane at the moment. Having a bottle like tonight’s makes it worth while to keep on fighting the demons.

    On my next encounter with M. Humbrecht I shall pass on a few demons for him to fight, or make him try his own wine – whichever seems the cruellest at the time.