Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Evening with Etienne Hugel

On Tuesday February 10, I had the pleasure to spend some time with and attend a seminar conducted by Etienne Hugel of the Hugel & Fils Winery in Alsace, France. Etienne is full of energy, which is definitely reflected in the wines.

The event included a mix of wines from the classic selection, the Jubilee line and the final wine was and extraordinary Vendage Tardive from the 2001 vintage, a wine that even Etienne was excited to try. All of the wines were paired with small plate selections that were inspired by the cuisine of Alsace.

One of the perennial challenges for any winery from Alsace is the simple fact that in the US, the wines are almost universally (but mistakenly) perceived as being sweet and German – due entirely to the shape of the bottles. The fact of the matter is that the Hugel line, from top to bottom, exhibits great balance and in many vintages (with the exception of the VT, of course) are quite dry. The wines – particularly from the stellar 2007 vintage, are racy, clean and well suited for the dining table; food is their friend.

The classic range tasted with this event included the Gentil, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir (yes Pinot Noir); all currently available in the CT market. Also tasted were the Jubliee Riesling and Pinot Noir. The difference between the classic range and the Jubilee range is that the latter is produced exclusively from the Hugel family vinyards (ie: estate wines), while the former does include some purchased fruit. With around 110,000 case total production this is a large, but not gigantic winery.

The final wine of the evening was the 2001 Pinot Gris VT – a wine that scored 95 points in the Wine Spectator. Rich and aromatically intense the wine showed very young – this will age for many, many years to come. Etienne was quite pleased that we could show this wine as he stated the winery only has a handful of cases remaining. Truly a gem and a rare treat. Very limited quantities are available upon request.

Etienne described the 2007 vintage as being one of the best three of the past 25-30 years. These wines are just now beginning to enter the market – making this a great time to familiarize yourself with this tremendous region.

Alsace tends to get over-looked here in the US, but if you are willing to try you just mind find that these wine are quite well made and in many cases under-valued compared to teir counterparts from Burgundy and Germany. Hugel is a perfect entry point to familiarize yourself with the region – it is always good to start at the top.

Check their website http://www.hugel.com/ for all the details on the history and other info about Hugel & Fils. I particularly liked the link for Hugel-Earth. BCM

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