It’s fair to say that all châteaux, castles and palaces have history – they’ve generally been around a long time – but some have more than others. The first recorded mention of Château d’Orschwihr dates from 1049 – almost a thousand years ago, and even before the Battle of Hastings – so that’s old in anyone’s book. It has changed hands many times over the centuries, but one notable owner was royalty: at the end of the 13th century it was bought by Rudolf Habsburg, founder of the Habsburg dynasty, King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor.
Wine has been made in the area since Roman times, but the earliest existing record of wine made at Château d’Orschwihr is from the 16th century. Viticulture waxed and waned over the years, but the Hartmann family reestablished it in the 1950s (Martin) and significantly expanded it in the 1980s (Hubert). Gautier joined the family business in 2006 and took over as head in 2011.
The Alsace Wine Hierarchy
Most wine lovers know that there are three appellations in Alsace, namely:
- AOC Crémant d’Alsace
- AOC Alsace
- AOC Alsace Grand Cru
Since 2011 each Grand Cru has its own AOC rather than just being mentioned after Alsace Grand Cru. Other changes were introduced in the same year; unknown to most, there are three “sub-divisions” of AOC Alsace which have increasingly stringent regulations to improve quality. They are:
- Regional – just AOC Alsace
- Communal / Inter-communal – AOC Alsace followed by a name (normally that of a commune)
- Lieu-dit – AOC Alsace followed by the name of a specific vineyard
There are around 130 of the communal labels – they are specifically mentioned by name in the regulations – but there is no official list of the lieux-dits. The best and most consistent of them have the chance to be part of the future Alsace Premier Cru designation, whenever that comes to pass!
Château d’Orschwihr Alsace “Bollenberg” Pinot Gris 2014
Bollenberg is a lieu-dit, and is one of the highest climats in Alsace at 363m (see also Agathe Bursin’s L’As de B, Assemblage de Bollenberg). Château d’Orschwihr make five different varietals here including this Pinot Gris and an excellent Riesling. The Gris vines were planted in 1963 (80%) and 1990 (20%) so a Vieilles Vignes bottling would certainly be possible!
When poured it shows as medium gold in the glass, mainly due to age as it sees no new oak and is dry. The nose is complex and spicy, with hints of lemon and lime twisted around quince and peach. These notes continue onto the palate where they are joined by (preserved) mixed peel. The wine is technically dry but has a real richness about it that comes with top drawer Pinot Gris. This wine would definitely deserve a Premier Cru label!
- ABV: 13.5%
- RS: 2.4 g/L
- RRP: ~ €20
- Stockists: currently unavailable in Ireland