Riding the train to Colmar from Strasbourg, the tracks wind down the eastern side of the Vosges Mountains, the very mountains that play such a key role in the terroir of the Alsace wine region. They block the vineyards from strong western winds and cast a rain shadow over the area – meaning Alsace is one of the sunniest and driest growing regions in France.
There is something almost imposing about the way the mountains swell up from the plains. It’s not like in the Alps, where tiny foothills mask the majesty of what is behind them. Rather, the steep slopes of the Vosges draw themselves up right before you, insisting you take note of their splendor and power.
Our partner winery that we work with to make The Furst…, Cave de Kientzheim-Kaysersberg, is found in the tiny village of Kientzheim, nestled up against those slopes. The business structure is a cooperative, but their team shows the passion for viticuture and winemaking that one would expect to find in the most prestigious family owned properties. They are the last cooperative in Alsace to only make what they (their member growers) produce – they refuse to buy in bulk and risk comprising their level of quality and style. Nearly all of their vineyards are on the slopes as opposed to the flat plains falling away from the Vosges Mountains. They harvest by hand and work in sustainable agriculture.
15 growers represent about 80% of the production, making their jobs a little bit easier, but they still manage of 1,000 plots. Their winemaker, Olivier Riffain, is meticulous about the way he makes wines from these plots. Hundreds of mini vats allow him to vinify all of the parcels separately – and Olivier even said he would like more vats, and smaller ones!
During our recent visit, I was constantly impressed by the attention to detail and began to understand how hard Olivier and his team work to achieve the stunning quality of the Furst…. For them, attention to detail and going the extra mile makes all the difference. For example, in Alsace, crémant must sit on its lees in bottle for at least 12 months before being disgorged. At Kientzheim, they leave all of their sparklings for at least 18 months and the cuvee for the Furst… is left for a full 36 months on the lees before disgorgement, giving the wine more texture and finesse. They also let us taste a new sparkling rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir… perhaps a new item you will see coming from The Furst… soon?