Good Lord! A lovely Zind-Humbrecht wine

Now, let us make one thing abundantly clear, I have loathed Zind-Humbrecht wines with furious intensity since about 2005. At my own urging I purchased piles of 1989, 1990 then 1995 – largely Riesling but I had a little flirt with Pinot Gris as well. Then, at the urging of *spit* Robert Parker, I threw money at anyone who would sell me some 2000 or 2001 Riesling Grand Crus.

Now I aged all these bleeders in the best locations I had access to. I would whip one out to wow my chums when they were between 7 and 12 years old. Every Pinot Gris was utterly shagged out with all its charms long since decayed.

Riesling has better longevity than Pinot Gris’s couple of months. I would guess that about 6 out on the 7 bottles I opened had totally fallen apart. They had no acidity, no fruit, just a bastard load of oxidation, shit loads of alcohol and often a whiff of a filthy wine making/ageing facility.

It is true that the one out of seven was really quite good, but by the point of me calculating this lamentable score sheet, I had learn to detest and generally hate Zind-Humbrecht wines.

Then, a few weeks back I saw that the Wine Soc had bottles of the 2013 Grand Cru Goldert Muscat on their list. Now I knew that Zind-Humbrecht had paid over the odds for the plot of Grand Cru Goldert in order to make the best Gewurztraminer and Muscat in Alsace, and so therefore, one presumes, in the world.

I have tried many Goldert Gewurztraminers, including a notably emetic bottle that clocked in at 16.5% – hell’s bells! However, I had never managed to score a bottle of Grand Cru Goldert Muscat – until this Wine Soc offer passed through my usually disinterested hands. Well, I had to, do not you think? It may have been a grotesque, hideous monstrousity of Muscat; but I can manage the tiniest bits of self-flagellation (before I throw the sommerier’s recommendation of Muscadet at the back of the his head). How bad could it be?

Zind-Humbrect Grand Cru Goldert Muscat 2013Muscat Grand Cru Goldert 2013, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Bugger me backwards! This does not smell like any other Zind-Humbrecht wine I have had previously! It is not anaesthetically alcohol, it is not thick or dense and it is squeaky clean. This is a revelatory experience for me!

Rather than all those things that Zind-Hunbrecht normally smell of, this has a winsome nose of delicate beauty. It invites you to revel in its paddling pool full of flower petals and a few lemon balm leaves in it.

What is not in that paddling pool is a shit-load of nose burning alcohol. It claims 12.5% on the label and, by god, I think that is really what this Zind-Humbrecht wine is. I have had Z-H Riesling at over 15% and Gewurtztraminer at 16.5%. They were vile. This is scrummylicous!

The nose is delicately floral, with a hint on the lemon balm leaves I mentioned. I seem to remember smelling them in the last Grand Cru Goldert Muscat I had from Ernest Burn – the great exponent of Goldert wines. So it could be vineyard character or it could be my whimsical imagination.

‘Pretty’ would be damning this wine with faint praise. It is certainly attractive, like the good looking girl that Richard Dawkins used to include in the selection of a new year’s students. But also, like the yearly pretty New College student, it is sophisticated in its charms – the more you examine, the more you find.

The floral and leafy character grow in the glass as it warms up. Fortunately, unlike so many Italian Moscatos, there is not the slightest hint of detergent aromas.

It tastes pulchritudenous, sculpted, and incredibly drinkable. There is nothing heavy or overblown here – it lithely stimulates every tastebud in your mouth, caressing them to a very charmed state of loveliness.

Flowers fill your cakehole, but it also has another aspect I do not expect from Z-H, it has an exciting level of acidity. Muscat is not known for acidity, but this is vivacious and perfectly harmonious

The palate awakes memories of Ernest Burn Goldert Muscat, but this is incomparably more svelte, sophisticated and stylish. It really is a stunner – I would happily buy it again.

So I have had a Zind-Humbrecht that I like, and is stunningly good. I cannot think of a better dry, non-sparkling Muscat. It is also good with delicate food. So have Zind-Humbrecht managed to make the best dry Muscat in the world with their purchase of a Grand Cru Goldert plot? I admit I am more than a little stunned saying this, but in 2013 they manifestly stand at the zenith of dry Muscat wines.

  • Sorry it has been ages since I last posted before this post. I’ve been quite wobbly on the ‘insanity’-front. I’ve been sleeping erratically which has contributed to the large number of psychotic experiences I’ve been having. Little sleep and lots of psychotic experiences lead one down the path to depression. I’ve been lead even further down that path because, for a long time now, I have found it extremely painful to eat as I have a stricture in my oesophagus. I love food so much, so if eating hurts I feel like I’m being punished for doing something I love. My back is shit-painful. I’m broke too which makes me really unhappy.

  • That about captures how surprised I would be to come across an enjoyable Z-H wine….
    Never had their muscat though. I think Ezio Voyat gets my nod as the best dry muscat I’ve had.

    • Never heard of the fellow. The thing is with dry Muscat, even really good ones like this, how often do you really want to drink it? Moreover, how good are the best ones, and how nice are they really, compared to other wines of the same price? I can get JJ Prum Auslese for the price of this and I know which is the ultimately fine wine.

      Muscat, just say “No, I can’t really be bothered.”

      But it is possible I am being excessively down on the dreary stuff because I am so unhappy.

  • Richard Brooks

    Nice to see you back in the critic’s chair David.

    Aromatic wines from the Alsace lose out to Germany’s best for me about 99% of the time. It’s the alcohol / acid thing that’s the problem. However, I did have an absolutely stunning, crystalline Trimbach CFE 2001 on Friday.

  • I agree absolutely, Richard. This purchase was a mixture of experimentation and self-flagellation. I really didn’t expect it to be this nice. But as I said, when it comes to dry Muscat, I really cannot be bothered. If the Win Soc ever let me buy wine again, I’ll be buying as much JJ Prum as I can afford.

  • I could add that Trimbach wines went through an amazingly bad patch in the 90s, every bottle seemed to be oxidised even after minimal ageing. It was really upsetting to spend so much money on bottles of Clos St Hune only to find them completely oxidised. My chum Paul Day poured thousands of pounds ‘worth’ of CStH down the drain.

    I don’t know the reason for this, but 01 was a new dawn for Trimbach. I’ve had lots of good bottles of CFE since then. No, I am not going to buy a case of their Muscat!

  • Richard Brooks

    I’ll bring you a bottle of the 01 CFE… I think it’s up your street.

  • Richard, no need, old bean! I’ve had the ‘basic’ CFE 01 and the special bottling in memory of FE loads of times. CFE 01 is back to how I remember it when buying 80s bottlings, CFEFE is distinctly cracking. I’ve got a magnum of CFE 04 in the hall, I don’t know whether to age it or take it to one of the mass piss ups I often seem to find myself in the middle of…

  • Tom Blach

    Not really my area but a couple of friends have a lot of mature Z-H and some have been absolutely spectacular. As with some German wines, which are otherwise so different as not to be really comparable, the sweetness and heaviness often seem to come into balance with age. They do go better than anything else with rich and fatty foods, particularly pork, goose and duck and their fat livers, and of course with delicious onion tart, smoked fish and munster. One thing Z-H can never be accused of is the feebleness that one so often finds in Alsace.

  • Doctor No

    I am merely shocked that you would even bother to purchase a bottle of Z-H- a clear sign of decline in mental health or willful lack of judgment. My experience is far less than yours but similarly disappointing. A fun review to read as always!

    Well done with a rare usage of “emetic” in its adjectival glory.

  • Doctor No,

    I have been told that in recent years Zind-Humbrecht have cleaned their act up (literally as well as figuratively). A chum who recently attended a tasting of their range was staggered that the wines are now lighter in alcohol, have good acidities, are generally not sweet, and do not stink of some deranged bio-technologist’s favourite petri-dish of rare, incurable diseases (well, I don’t think he put it quite like that). If they are anywhere how improved this Muscat tasted, and surely Muscat is generally a drink for little girls, then it might be worth trying a Riesling from a decent vineyard again. When I last had a flash bottle of Z-H Grand Cru Riesling it would have delighted a slurry fetishist; it would be nice if Olivier Humbrecht had ratherised he was an arse who had been engaged in ego-massaging for the past N years.