Domaine Albert Mann: innovative and friendly
Enjoying annual open doors – and trying 2015s
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
5 May 2016
You want great wine at a good value?
Sure, you can find that in many wine regions. But in Alsace, where so many grands crus exists, so many complicated names, and confusion over whether a wine is sweet, off dry or dry, it can be a more difficult exercise.
Basically, as one does in Burgundy, one should rely on the producer.
And one producer I recently visited offers both high quality and fair prices: Domaine Albert Mann, whose winemakers Maurice & Jacky Barthelmé were named (justifiably) “Winemakers of the year 2012” by the leading french wine magazine Revue du Vin de France.
Jacky concentrates his work in the vat room, while Maurice is co-winemaker and vineyard manager. They make up a great team.
First off, their dry Rieslings are amazingly long lasting, pure and focused in expression and remarkably consistent year in, year out. Their whole range is excellent. For example, they make some of the best sparkling wine in Alsace, known as Crémant. So much so that when I was once buying wine for the Council of Europe – my employer here in Strasbourg – I bought some Albert Mann Crémant that was served at official Council of Europe functions. It was always a hit.
Lately I have found much to love in Pinot Blanc, a somewhat underrated grape, widely cultivated in Alsace. It can yields dry and – when well made – flavorful white wine that provides much fun in food pairing or just enjoyed on its own. Or when taking a walk, as Domaine Albert Mann’s talented winemaker Jacky Barthelmé says in this video. He is making terrific Pinot Blanc, and I was happy to try some in early May 2016, when the domain organised its annual open doors.
Each year they invite friends and merchants (including important Alsace based restaurateurs) to sample their latest vintage (this year, 2015) as well as enjoy a great lunch with older vintages. Each year, they have a guest of honor and this year was amazing because we enjoyed the great wines of Domaine Ramonet from Burgundy! Here is my essay on that tasting: http://www.wine-chronicles.com/blog/burgundy-ramonet-in-alsace/.
The video below is a detailed account of the open doors that Domaine Albert Mann organized two years ago.
Over lunch, participants enjoy a wide variety of wine to taste, often in larger formats, and one bottle that simply amazed me was the Riesling Schlossberg Grand Cru 1994. Over 20 years old, this white was fresh and pure and tasted far younger than its vintage. Bone dry, but rich on the mid palate, it went down so well with the super tasty pig that had been barbecued on the spit. It was a lovely spring sunny day, and the 1994 did not last very long. Understandably…
It is also really cool to know that the Barthelmé family has been part of Domaine Albert Mann since … 1654. Talk about long-term family commitment. But just because the Barthelmés have been tending the vineyards of Albert Mann for literally centuries, does not mean that they are closed to innovation.
Since the vintage 2004, they use screw caps on their ”Tradition” wines and on some wines of the range “Vins de terroir”. The wines bottled with this method are fruity ones that should be drunken within 4-6 years, they explain. “The evolution of a wine doesn’t require oxygen. The wine develops its organoleptic capacities in a reductive environment where it acquires superior properties of quality.” That comment from Pascal Ribéreau Gayon (treatise of oenology, 2000) should disrupt stereotyped speeches that make the oxygen the only element for the improvement of the wine. Indeed!
Since 2000, the wines of Albert Mann have been organically certified by Ecocert. And the family has been a pioneer before organic became fashionable in France. They began biodynamic viticulture back in 1997, in three Grands Cru vineyards. Over the following years, they have applied biodynamics across the entirety of their 21-hectare estate, and since 2010, they have been in the process of receiving biodynamic certification from Biodyvin.
Such viticultural is labour intensive and more costly, but it gives the wine the purest reflection of its terroir and its own identity. In plowing the vineyards, they manage to make the roots go down to a maximum depth to capture the minerals of the rock degradation.
Some tasting notes of Albert Mann wines tasted at the open doors. It is important to stress that not all the grands crus from the 2015 vintage were available to taste. For example, the bone dry style of the Schlossberg – my overall favorite at Albert Mann – was not yet available. For those concerned about sweetness levels, Albert Mann provides index levels, as you can read here: http://www.albertmann.com/site/Grands-Crus-261.html. Wines in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. And when underlined, too, a sort of wine nirvana.
- 2015 Albert Mann Pinot Blanc Élevé en Barrique – France, Alsace
What can I say! This is gorgeous Pinot Blanc. The oak is not new, but somehow its use adds extra texture to this grape, which comes across perfectly dry, ripe and juicy flavorful in 2015. Jacky Barthelmé explains in the video (in my website review) how it is only made in certain years. So glad it was done in 2015. Not an expensive wine, so go buy it. I will. (91 pts.)
- 2015 Albert Mann Muscat – France, Alsace
As far as Muscat goes, this delivers the goods and more. Very grapey in flavor, with a brisk attack and vinous mid palate. A terrific aperitif wine to start off a summer party. (88 pts.)
- 2015 Albert Mann Riesling Cuvée Albert – France, Alsace
Clean, crisp if a bit round on the mid palate. Yes, 2015 was a more solar vintage, with lower acidity than, say, 2014 and 2013. Happily the richness does not come across as too much, and there is vivacity throughout. (90 pts.)
- 2015 Albert Mann Pinot Gris Cuvée Albert – France, Alsace
As with the Riesling, a selection of old vines from Wettolsheim and Kientzheim, of clay and limestone soilds. I often have difficulty with Pinot Gris as being too “sticky” for my dry white wine tastes, but here we have a pure expression rather dry and balanced of quince and orange rind, the residual sugar not too dominant. (90 pts.)
- 2015 Albert Mann Riesling Rosenberg – France, Alsace
The 20 grams of residual sugar are in evidence for me on this one… I prefer a more bone dry style of Riesling. There is no denying that this is very well made, and lovers of off dry will find much to love here because the wine has a very vinous nature, full bodied palate and a long finish.
- 2015 Albert Mann Riesling Furstentum – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
An excellent Riesling in the context of the richer style 2015 vintage. Why? There is much balance here. The wine has opulence, yet the limestone like freshness of the terroir of Furstentum balanced the residual sugar nicely. Full body, long finish. I was thinking of pairing this with fettuccini alfredo with shrimp and mushrooms… (92 pts.)
- 2015 Albert Mann Pinot Gris Furstentum – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
Here again a balanced expression of Pinot Gris from a grand cru vineyard dominated by limestone, lending needed freshness, especially in 2015. Full bodied, lip smacking, juicy white stone fruit flavors, some yellow melon aspects, a touch of sweetness but well balanced by acidity. Long finish. (92 pts.)
- 2015 Albert Mann Pinot Gris Hengst – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
Here we have an example of a somewhat too “sticky” Pinot Gris for my tastes, but lovers of this style will enjoy this wine!
- 2014 Albert Mann Riesling Schlossberg – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
Wow, what precision and brightness. It is rather too young to my mind, because the acidity is quite prominent at this stage, and the flavors dominated by citrus aspects. Don’t get me wrong, it has much body and vinosity on the mid palate, but great wines only achieve true aromatic complexity with age. Indeed, this needs a bit more time in bottle in order to get some tertiary aspects. Great potential for aging. (94 pts.)
- 1994 Albert Mann Riesling Schlossberg – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
Dry, fresh lime and light notes of gunflint – really just suggesting tertiary notes at over 20 years of age – with high acidity but balanced by excellent dry extract and ripe fruit, long clean and pure. Lovely wine! (94+ pts.)