Dirler-Cadé 2014 Riesling Kitterlé (Alsace) — Aromatically delicate, but the palate is intense raw iron. Long and linear. (5/16)
Dirler-Cadé 2014 Riesling Spiegel (Alsace) — Thirteen grams of residual sugar. Broad, floral, wet steel, but also very slightly oxidative. Weird. (5/16)
Dirler-Cadé 2001 Riesling Spiegel (Alsace) — Beautifully knit, soft cotton, iron flakes. Fully on form. (5/16)
Dirler-Cadé 2014 Riesling Belzbrunnen (Alsace) — Nine grams of residual sugar. An intense whack of minerality, dust, and slate. Intensely aromatic. (5/16)
Dirler-Cadé 2014 Sylvaner “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) — From a plot of vines planted in the Kessler in 1957, with some other sources blended in. The varietally typical tomatoes are, here, fully ripe, but there’s more mineral depth and vegetal richness than usual. (5/16)
One by one, the pinnacles of Alsace crumble. Sometimes it’s unexpected tragedy — I still have trouble believing that Laurence Faller is gone — and sometimes it’s the fickle winds of the marketplace. But mostly, it’s climate.
Global warming is ruining Alsace. Actually, let’s make that more strident: global warming has ruined Alsace. The region’s “best” vineyards — the solar-collector grand crus of the Haut-Rhin — are often too hot for anything but slow-ripening riesling (sometimes) and grapes that wine law prefers to dissuade from those notable slopes (like sylvaner, or even pinot blanc). Gewurztraminer? Pinot gris? Forget it. Vendanges tardives-level ripeness is sometimes achievable from a good grower’s first harvest, these days. Yet far too many wines are sweet, alcoholic, and just generally huge, lacking any sense of acidity or freshness such behemoths require.
Saving graces could be coming from the cooler Bas-Rhin, where many sites are fully entwined with the lower arms of the Vosges and their cooling breezes, but a majority of the northern producers seem ill-equipped to handle the change in fortunes. While it’s far from clear that the sites in the north are capable of reaching the same heights as their southerly brethren, it also may just be that producer inexperience with making world-class wine is holding back the quality. Loew manages it. So does Gresser. Kreydenweiss is capable of it, but the wines crack up far too quickly. There aren’t all that many others. And even if there were, who would buy them? The market for Alsatian wines has cratered.
Still, there are holdouts. Trimbach, obviously…though the techniques that preserve their house style are a matter of some debate. Lorentz. Blanck. Mann. Some of the (semi-)non-interventionists (Josmeyer, Barmès-Buecher) manage thicker styles with grace. It’s too early to know what’s going to happen at Weinbach.
I’ve been visiting Alsace off and on for almost twenty years, and the options for something local that I actually want to drink with its already weighty cuisine diminish every year. But there’s one producer I return to again and again: Dirler-Cadé.
Sineann 2014 Gruner Veltliner (Columbia Gorge) — Lima beans & Skittles. Entry-level grüner. Fun. (5/16)
JB Becker 1993 Wallufer Walkenberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken 010 94 (Rheingau) — I’ve had this at three different trade events over the last year or so, and the only thing I can be definitive about is that it’s highly variable; some bottles are totally oxidized, others are full of sweaty, almost meaty bass thud. This is one of the latter, and though there’s a brace of acidity helping it cling to the memory of when it used to be able to hit the high notes, this is definitely a band who’s had to take everything down a half-dozen steps. When it’s good, though…it’s OK. (5/16)
Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) — Even when these aren’t fully dry (as I’d guess, due to the richness, that this isn’t), there’s so much acid and structure that they act dry. More pear and metal than spice — that will change over time — and still swaggering and vibrant. I can’t believe I’m writing this about a 16 year old pinot gris, but: while it’s drinkable, I’d hold it longer. (5/16)