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31st May 2018

Mann alive!

The superlative wines of Domaine Albert Mann in Alsace

Revelatory Alsace Pinot Noir (the best I have ever tasted, and the equal of Burgundy) and exquisitely precise Rieslings characterise this producer.

A few weeks ago, I , along with a number of MW candidates, was treated to a compelling, fascinating and wonderful masterclass from Jacky Barthelmé of Domaine Albert Mann, organised by my friend Jérémy Cukierman MW in Paris

I have known the wines of Domaine Albert Mann for a long time, as they were a staple of the Oddbins range (well, the Oddbins 'Fine Wine' range at any rate). My over-riding memory was that theirs was the best dry Muscat wine I had ever encountered, and it certainly was, and very probably still is - despite my having tried a great many other examples since.

But the real thing, and I suspect that this is a more recent development, or perfection of the situation, is their red wines.

Alsace Pinot Noir has always been something of a novelty. For 'novelty' read - often - 'waste of grapes'. I have had examples that tasted like the water in which cabbage had been boiled, and sometimes without a great deal more colour either. But this tasting changed all that...

Domaine Albert Mann is one of the most famous estates in Alsace. It is also a very historic name - the first vintages were made in the late 17th century. They are based in Wettolsheim, in the Haut-Rhin, just south of Colmar. Managed by the two extremely tall brothers Jacky and Maurice Barthelmé and their wives Marie Thérèse and Marie Claire (the daughter of Albert Mann), they farm 23 hectares of vineyard biodynamically, including five Grand crus (Hengst, Scholssberg, Furstentum, Steingrubler, Pfersigberg) and 1 monopole Clos.

Pinot Noir Grand H 2013
This vineyard is located on the Wintzenheim parcel of the Grand Cru of Hengst. Pinot Noir cannot be Grand Cru in Alsace, hence the designation Grand H. Perhaps this would not compete with Grand Cru red Burgundy (although I have tasted several less inspiring wines from Clos de Vougeot, and even the odd Echezeaux), but in every other way it is the equal of Burgundy, except price. At around €40, it's a complete steal - if you can get any. Deeply coloured (for Pinot Noir certainly) with lively berry and cinnamon spice aromas and flavours, a silky texture and multi-layered finish. 18

Pinot Noir Les Saintes Claires 2013
From a small parcel at Sigolsheim, near an old monastery. The vines are just over 25 years old, and the wine spends sixteen months in oak, of which a fifth is new. It is as a result a more spiky and tannic wine with lots of spice and some woody characters to accompany its bright raspberry fruit. This would repay further keeping - which is not something that can often be said of red wine from Alsace. Around €50. 17.5

Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2014
Pure granite soils at Kientzheim in this famous Grand Cru. Exquisite presentation of the mineral, salty edge that Riesling can convey. Crystalline acidity and depth of citrus and floral flavour. I seriously think that dry Alsace Riesling would be one of my desert island wines, and this is part of the reason why. Around €40. 18.5

Riesling Grand Cru Furstentum 2014
This is from very nearby the Schlossberg vineyard, also in Kientzheim, but the soils are calcareous and the wine is in consequence fully, richer and more candied in its fruit profile - crystallised grapefruit and even straw and fig like flavours abound. There is a hint of citrus salinity - like the edge of a margarita glass - which completes the complexity on the finish. About €35. 18

Riesling Rosenberg 2014
On limestone and clay soils, near the winery in Wettolsheim, the Rosenberg is richer still, and shows some definitive lees character as well as the slightly earthy nature of the wild yeasts used in its fermentation. There is a core of nectarine and lime fruit with a pith-like bitterness underscoring everything, and a fresh acidity to balance the richness. This is definitely a seafood-worthy Riesling and would go well with scallops or lobster. About €50. 17.5

Riesling Vendanges Tardives Altenbourg 2014
This sweet Riesling is from the Altenberg Grand Cru in Kientzheim. On calcareous soils, the grapes have been given a lovely sur-maturité but without any evident botrytis. 2014 was a truly great year for the late harvest wines at the Domaine. Piercing crystalline acidity punctures the sugar leaving a fresh and moreish sweet wine that - like a great many sweet Rieslings - is delicious on its own. Flavours of pear, tangerine, lime and elderflower liqueur. Around €40 for a 50cl bottle. 19

Alsace is a must visit place for wine lovers, with its Hansel-and Gretel-esque break-a-piece-off-and-eat-it architecture and exquisite food culture, amiable people and gorgeous scenery. Wines like those of Albert Mann and people like Jacky Barthelmé are the reason why...


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