Growing vines since 1620, the Blanck family founded their Domaine in Kientzheim only in 1921. Lead today by Philippe (sales) and Frédéric (winemaking) Blanck, the family company cultivates a total of 35 hectares of vines, of which 50% are situated in the prestigious Grand Crus Schlossberg, Furstentum, Mambourg, Sommerberg and Wineck-Schlossberg. Among the lieux-dits – or potential Premier Crus – are the Altenbourg, the Patergarten and the Rosenbourg, which add up to 30%. Only 20% of the holdings are located in unnamed vineyards that are not classified. However, just 25-30% of the annual grape production is selected for the Grands Crus, whereas the rest gives the classic Alsace wines their impressive structure and freshness. "In the classified vineyards, we work all our vines with the goal to give top quality grapes qualified for Grand Cru level. So we go for low yields thatare not higher than 40 hectoliters per hectare, but often less like in 2016 (25-30 hectoliters per hectare) or 2010 (12- 15 hectoliters per hectare). However, each vintage is different and favors its own plots inside a cru. So our Grand Crus are blends of the best parcels of a given year, whereas the lesser plots – still on grand cru level – populate our generic Alsace wines that are commercially extremely important for our domaine," says Frédéric Blanck. Striving for the highest level of complexity has corresponding consequences. For example, no 2013 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg has been bottled from 2013 simply because the final blend was not as good as 2012 or 2014. Don't forget, though, that Blanck holds no less than eight hectares in the Schlossberg (so 10% of the total surface) and the yields were very low in 2013, at 28 hectoliters per hectare. I am not sure many other producers had taken the same decision. Also, I have rarely heard producers talking about the problems of each vintage rather than the merits. To the Blancks, solving problems is one of the most fascinating challenges in viticulture. "Each vintage is different, especially in the last five years," says Frédéric. "We have to face new challenges every year here in Alsace, but on the other hand we have so many different terroirs, so many grape varieties and possibilities! Producing wine in Alsace is much more interesting than in other countries where the sun is always shining." (Should I mention that Frédéric worked briefly for Rupert & Rothschild in South Africa) You rarely hear producers reflecting on vintages so honestly like at Paul Blanck. Example? Frédéric said, "2013 was a complicated vintage. Spring was already very cold and we lost a lot during the flowering. The soil was cold and the vines never warmed up, so the ripening was very, very slow. The end of October was tricky again and we really had to fight for ripeness. In 2014 we had a cold August that kept the acidity levels high in the end. 2014 is the much greater vintage compared to 2015, which was simply too warm. The wines will develop quickly. 2016 saw a very wet spring, but a terrible heat wave of two or three weeks with temperatures more than 40 degrees Celsius. During this period, even the leaves on the trees went yellow and fell to the floor much too early. There was simply no shadow in 2016 and the sun burned many, many vines and grapes, too. In the upper part of the Grand Cru Schlossberg, there were serious problems with drought." However, the 2015s I have tasted were not that bad in fact. Open-minded readers should try the 2015 Pinot Gris Burnout, a wine that was fermented on the skins and ended up with a color that I wasn't able to define. What is the color of a wine made from pink grapes that are called white but fermented like a red wine? Orange, exactly. But this color is rather between orange and pink, and our system doesn't accept orange as a color of wine anyway. In fact, this color does officially not exist in wine. It's just the name of a trend ("orange wines") and Blanck's 2015 Burnout would be one of the finest you can find in this strange category. I like to point out that besides the famous six white Alsatian varieties, they also producer "forgotten" grapes such as Sylvaner and Chasselas, and they are cultivated with great passion and consciousness of tradition at Paul Blanck.
The 2015 Pinot Gris Burnout (93) is an extraordinary wine! Fermented on the skins in stainless steel, this garnet-colored Pinot Gris is neither a white nor a red and certainly not a Rosé, but is rather a light and delicate red wine from pink white grapes than it is anything else. The wine opens beautifully pure and intense on the nose where red and sweet cherries along with deep and fresh mineral flavors are displayed. Silky-textured, intense and elegant, with a very nice tannin grip and a warm and aromatic fruit favor, this is a very complex and persistent dry Pinot Gris. It has everything a great food wine has to have: concentration, structure, freshness and a seriously long fnish. It was aged for 12 months in a 1,300-liter oak vat, but just 30% underwent malolactic fermentation. Nevertheless, this is a great wine indeed. Anticipated maturity: 2017 - 2024.
From gravelly alluvial soils, the 2015 Riesling Patergarten (90)comes from a very warm and early ripening potential premier cru. It offers a very clear, intense and aromatic as well as flinty bouquet. On the palate this is a ripe and intense, yet fresh and very finessed Riesling with juicy fruit and a piquant, very promising finish. Anticipated maturity: 2017 - 2028.
The 2015 Riesling Rosenbourg (91+) is from an east-facing slope on granite soils and opens with a very clear, fresh and flinty bouquet that dominates the clear fruity aromas and vegetal flavors (carrots). On the palate this is a very mineral and piquant Riesling with intense and ripe white fruit flavors, as well as a rather silky texture thanks to the ripe and round tannins. The salinity here is enormous and gives a lot of tension and finesse. Exciting! Anticipated maturity: 2020 - 2030.
Sourced from different plots and terroirs, the 2015 Riesling Schlossberg (93) opens with a clear, deep, ripe and intense bouquet with floral and flinty aromas. Full-bodied and highly elegant on the palate, this is an enormously complex, rich and persistent Riesling with the generous and almost hedonistic finish of an intellectual wine. Impressive! Anticipatedmaturity: 2023 - 2030.
From predominantly very old vines (planted in 1923) on weathered granite, the 2015 Riesling Sommerberg (92) has a fascinatingly deep and complex bouquet of herbal and purely stony flavors. Full-bodied, rich, very dense and concentrated, due to a low yield of just ten hectoliters, this is a very concentrated, dense and powerful Riesling of
remarkable elegance and provided with fine tannins. The fnish is very lush and juicy, but the tannin structure keeps the tension. Keep this wine for at least ten years, the more so since no more than 900 bottles were produced. Anticipated maturity: 2025 - 2040.
The 2015 Riesling Wineck-Schlossberg (92+) is cool, precise and herbal/flinty on the very precise nose, which reflects the fact that the vines are more protected from the sun here than the Schlossberg. Rich, intense and juicy on the palate, this fullbodied, elegant and complex Riesling develops a great depth, vitality and tension. Yielded with just 20 hectoliters per hectare, the extract-rich 2015 has an excellent aging potential.
From limestone/sandstone soils, the 2014 Riesling Furstentum (95) has a fascinatingly deep, complex and smoky/mineral bouquet intermixed with ripe Riesling flavors and prominent flintstone aromas. The palate is very elegant, highly complex, full of minerals and tension, very concentrated and firmly structured by fine butprominent tannins. This is great Riesling to be cellared at least for ten years. Anticipated maturity: 2024 - 2034.
The 2014 Riesling Patergarten (91) has a clear and slightly flinty bouquet with ripe apple flavors. On the palate this is a very pure, elegant and salty Riesling with a silky texture, a piquant acidity and a nice tannin grip. Anticipated maturity: 2022 -2030.
Served from the magnum, the 2014 Riesling Rosenbourg (93) offers a deep, coolish and flinty bouquet with concentrated white fruit aromas and herbal flavors. On the palate, this is a very pure yet complex and tension-filled Riesling with explosive fruit on the palate. Although, this wine keeps a straight, lean and dry mineral character until the finish. Great complexity, finesse and tension. Great ageing potential. Anticipated maturity: 2020 - 2034.
The 2014 Riesling Schlossberg (94) has a very deep, rich and mineral, as well as herbal bouquet of ripe Riesling and lemon aromas. Full-bodied, rich and intense on the palate, this is a very elegant, complex and concentrated, stimulatingly piquant and persistent Riesling. It has an explosive and very juicy fruit, with firm yet fine tannins. A great Schlossberg! Anticipated maturity: 2022 - 2034.
The 2014 Riesling Wineck-Schlossberg (89) has a dark yellow color and displays a pretty oxidative bouquet of ripe apples. Full-bodied, rich and provided with firm tannins, this is a bit of a Jura-styled Riesling that might be fascinating in another context, but is certainly a foul of the house style. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2026.
Intense yellow in color, the 2011 Riesling Furstentum (94) is super deep, intense and complex on the nose, with ripe lemon flavors and melting stones. This Riesling is full-bodied, round, rich and piquant, with firm yet fine tannins; it also has great vibrancy and a long, intensely flavored and lush finish. This is a great yet still very young Fürstentum with excellent expression and a very promising finish. Anticipated maturity: 2021 - 2030.
Aged 14 years now (and under screw cap), Blanck's golden-yellow colored 2002 Riesling Schlossberg (92) has a very clear, complex and beautifully matured bouquet of dried apricots intermixed with orange and herbally/stony flavors. Fullbodied and elegant, this is a rich, medium - sweet and lush, but also piquant and salty Riesling. It has a very nice tannin structure and refined, as well as mineral acidity, with lingering salinity. The finish is long and aromatic, again herbal and piquant, and the aftertaste displays stewed peaches, apricots, quinces and minty flavors. This is a perfectly matured 2002 whose botrytis portion gives the wine a seductive texture and roundness. Even though the wine does not seem to be fully dry, the finish tastes pretty dry, but also aromatic. Drink this beauty now and over the next 10+ years. Anticipated
maturity: 2017 - 2026.
From a very warm and dry vintage with just a little bit of botrytis, the golden-colored 1997 Riesling Furstentum Vieilles Vignes (94) (which was released as Vendange Tardive in 1999) offers a deep, very clear, mineral and flinty flavored bouquet with caramel, honey and toasted apple flavors. Full-bodied, piquant and salty on the palate, this is a highly complex and elegant Riesling whose residual sugar of roughly 30 grams per liter is perfectly integrated, thanks to the richness and firm tannin structure of this VT. The finish is pure and salty, full of finesse, vitality and minerality.
From a warm vintage without any botrytis but with raisined fruits, the 1990 Riesling Furstentum Vieilles Vignes (89) displays a pretty clear bouquet with some champignon flavors. Round and elegant on the palate, this full-bodied wine is dry and shows firm tannins along with a stimulating acidity. However, from today's point of view the tannins should be finer and less dry. Anticipated maturity: 2017 - 2024.
The 2015 Pinot Noir (87) is from red sandstone soils in St Hippolyth, the gravelly soils in Hardt near Colmar, and the marl/red sandstone and limestone soils in the Furstentum. Bottled in September with a total of 40-45 milligrams of sulphur, this is an intensely aromatic and fleshy Pinot with ripe cherry and plummy flavors. Full-bodied, fresh and intense, this is a fleshy, fruity, well-structured Pinot with an intense fruit but also nice purity and a terroir-driven style. Very attractive and pure, but really ripe and concentrated. Aged partly in stainless steel, partly in traditional oak casks. Anticipated maturity: 2017 - 2024.
Fermented and aged in barriques for one year (without sulphur) plus another six months in traditional oak casks, the 2014 Pinot Noir Furstentum (90) displays a very fine, pure and fresh bouquet of dark berries and cherries along with flinty flavors. Full-bodied, concentrated and silky textured, this is a ripe, well-structured and very authentic Pinot Noir with firm tannins from the grapes. The finish is fresh, dry and firm, and indicates very good potential. There were absolutely no problems with drosophila, says Fréderic, since the grapes were ripe pretty early. Excellent in its freshness, purity and tannic grip! Anticipated maturity: 2018 - 2026.
The 2013 Pinot Noir Furstentum (91+) has a very delicate and elegant, pure, fresh and floral-flavored bouquet of wild strawberries and dark cherries. Still a bit reductive, this is a cool vintage Pinot Noir that is very elegant and finessed on the palate, and a rather medium-bodied but highly delicate Pinot. It has a silky texture but a good concentration and really firm tannin. It is robust and pretty closed at the moment, but really promising in its concentration, vitality and grip. This will turn out as a great Alsatian Pinot Noir one day. You just have to be patient. Anticipated maturity: 2019 - 2030.
"From an ideal vintage without any extremes," Fréderic Blanck says, the 2012 Pinot Noir Furstentum (90) has a deep, pure, intense and slightly spicy bouquet of dark ripe fruits. It also shows a concentrated and a bit malty flavor. Full-bodied, ripe and concentrated on the palate, the tannins are a bit hard even though the wine has a high ripeness and some medicinal notes in the finish. "Our goal isn't to make a Burgundy; we want to show the character of the Furstentum," says Fréderic who prefers old Barolo and Barbaresco to Burgundies. Anticipated maturity: 2020 - 2030.
The 2011 Pinot Noir Furstentum (92) has an open, elegant and floral, as well as flinty flavored bouquet of perfectly ripe and nicely concentrated cherries and red berries. Full-bodied, finessed and elegant, with fine and juicy tannins, this is a an excellent, silky textured Pinot Noir from a very warm vintage. The tannins are ripe, finely-grained and very elegant, and they intertwine with a very delicate mineral acidity. This is a gorgeous Alsatian Pinot Noir. Anticipated maturity: 2017 - 2027.