Monday, January 17, 2011

Domaine Albert Mann & 2009 Albert Mann Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes Wettolsheim Alsace France

By the end of last April 2010, my friend Donald from Peter Weygandt Selection came with a producer that I met a few times before, who is a true inspiration as a gifted and extremely knowledgeable winemaker, but also along with his brother Maurice, a leading figure of the Organic (Biologique in French) and Biodynamic movement in France. I had the pleasure to welcome Jacky Barthelmé at the store, to taste about 11 of his wines.

We talked a lot about everything concerning Organic and Biodynamic methods and the vinification process too. Unfortunately, I never took the time to write about it before now, but I feel that I had to do it.

However, it would be too long for me to reenact our discussion with words in one post. Therefore, here is a short presentation of the Domaine Albert Mann; followed by the description of one of their wines. I will soon write another post on the other wines tasted that day.

Domaine Albert Mann

The birth of Domaine Albert Mann is the fruit of the joint efforts of two long established winemaker families, "Mann" and "Barthelmé". Mann's are winegrowers since the beginning of the 17th century and Barthelmé's since 1654.

In 1947, Albert Mann was one of the first growers in Wettolsheim to bottle his own wine, and by 1962 was marketing and selling his entire production. He died in 1994 and gave his name to the Domaine. Maurice Barthelmé married Albert Mann's daughter, Marie-Claire, and gradually took over the Domaine and fully run it by 1984. He also brought his brother Jacky into the operation in the late 1980s. And consequently, it was in 1989, when Albert son-in-law Maurice Barthelmé and his brother Jacky, with the Manns family, formed the company "Domaine Albert Mann", that the quality took on a new level.

Beginning in 1993, the Barthelmé’s started a string of dazzling successes, producing stellar wines, traditional and full of character, yet more complex than the ones previously made at the estate. Their 1998 wines had even more brilliant delineation despite a more challenging, but in turn, rewarding "vintage of the vigneron." That is how it all began and the rest is history.

Today both brothers, Maurice and Jacky Barthelmé, with their wives, Marie-Claire and Marie-Thérèse, manage the family estate and continue their ascension, with the aim of producing the best wines they can craft with the utmost respect for the environment through organic methods.

Domaine Albert Mann is now one of the few inescapable wineries of Alsace and also a quintessential winery player in Alsace, with a leading role in matter of Organic, Biodynamic and sustainable management. Organically managed and "Ecocert" certified, and better known for its whites, (its Riesling Schlossberg Grand Cru is always a standard of excellence), this exemplary Domaine also produces a tiny amount of succulent Pinot Noir and late harvest wines, which deserves more attention.

Located in Wettolsheim, a little village in the heart of Alsace just a few kilometers southwest of Colmar, neighboring the northern part of Eguisheim and the communal forest of Wettolsheim, the estate possesses about 20-21 hectares including 9 hectares of prestigious vineyards and parcels on hill slopes and in other part of the valley, overlooked by the “Col du Milsbach” shyly culminating at about 600 meters of altitude.

The vines, planted mainly between 200 and 400 meters of altitude, benefit from the ideal micro-climate of Colmar, producing wines that are rich, almost oily, but dry and mineral yet with significant residual sugar but well integrated and concentrated, usually balanced by beautiful acidity and enhanced by expressive minerality.

The Mann family possessed some Grand Cru Vineyards: Hengst, Steingrubler, Pfersigberg (for Tokay Vieilles Vignes) and the wonderful Rosenberg Vineyard. From their mother (a member of the Blanck Family of Kaysersberg), they inherited the Schlossberg and Furstentum Vineyards (as well as the Altenbourg, adjoining the Furstentum).

When the Domaine was established, the Mann and Barthelmé vineyards were reunified into the same estate. Hence, now, Domaine Albert Mann produces about 35 different wines from 20-21 hectares scattered in 8 communes with vines planted in some of the best Alsatian Terroir, including 5 Grands Crus and 3 "Lieux-Dits", one being a Monopole.

Soon after World War II, Albert Mann decided to use modern production tools, without neglecting the constraints of the soil, because it was and remain to this day the main richness for making good wines. The wine-growers are themselves the origin, they have to continue and to valorize the work of their ancestors. Domaine Albert Mann's philosophy is to make wines composed with the elements of the soil and not by fertilizers. The estate aims to produce a wine in harmony with nature while realizing an agriculture whose finality is not to treat, but to strengthen the vitality of the soil.

The grape varieties at Domaine Albert Mann and the respective vineyards are divided as follow:

Grape varieties at Domaine Albert Mann and distribution of the types of vines:
  • Pinot Blanc Auxerrois 25 %
  • Riesling 26 %
  • Pinot Gris 16 %
  • Gewurztraminer 18 %
  • Pinot Noir 12 %
  • Muscat 3 %

Description of the 5 Grands Crus vineyards, which encompass about 6 hectares in total, with the type of soil and planted grape varieties:
  • Grands Crus HENGST (Wintzenheim), calcareous-marl-sandstone soil: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir
  • SCHLOSSBERG (Kaysersberg), granitic soil: Riesling
  • FURSTENTUM (Kientzheim), calcareous soil: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer
  • STEINGRUBLER (Wettolsheim), calcareous-marl-sandstone soil: Gewurztraminer
  • PFERSIGBERG (Eguisheim), calcareous, sandstone soil: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.

Names of the other vineyard's area or "lieux-dits", which encompass about 3 hectares, with the type of soil and planted grape varieties:

  • ALTENBOURG (Kientzheim), calcareous-marl soil: Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Muscat
  • ROSENBERG (Wettolsheim), clayey soil, oozy with calcareous tendency: Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer
  • CLOS DE LA FAILLE (Wintzenheim), a vineyard monopole of the estate, the upper part of the "Clos" encloses shingle of rosy Vosges sandstone of the Buntsandstein and shingle of calcareous sandstone. In the middle, you see the calcareous shingle of the Muschelkalk, grey with very fine grain, and yellow shingle of the Jurassic. In the lower part, you find a mixture of shingle of Vosges sandstone and of white and rosy quartz: from the Pinot Noir grapes planted there results a great wine that you should deserve more attention.

Constantly well rated by the trade, critics and press as one of the top tier of Alsace producers, the Domaine and more importantly the Barthelmé brothers, winemaker Jacky and viticulturist Maurice, have now attained the recognition they deserve. From the Pinot Auxerrois, through all their expressive Grand Crus, to their rich, Selection Grains Noble, they portray their unique style consistently with beautiful delineation of flavors and precise textures, never heavy, clumsy or out of balance.

I highly recommend to discover the various wines of Domaine Albert Mann if you never tried them before. They represent some of the best wines out there, which can easily rival with some of the more established Alsatian producers on the market.

Here is a good one to start with:

2009 Albert Mann Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes Wettolsheim Alsace France
Suggested retail price $17-$20
Imported/Distributed by Peter Weygandt Selections in NYC

Albert Mann Pinot Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes is part of the range of the “Terroirs wines”, one of the numerous lines or labels produced by the Barthelmé brothers. The “Terroirs wines” are usually coming from the Altenbourg and the Rosenberg vineyards and/or part of the “spéciale Cuvée Albert”. They are famous for their great quality. The characteristic soil and micro-climate of each give them an incomparable touch. These are wines which will find, without any problem, their place on gastronomic menus.

The label was created by François Bruetschy. This particular label destined for the noble wines presents itself as a part of the sun, a planet where everything organizes itself according to its own laws. The striped square which symbolizes the soil where the vineyards are growing thus became the logo or the « brand » of the Domaine Albert Mann. On both sides of this square where the plant springs up, some kinds of “menhirs” appear (“menhir”, which is usually a large granitic stone manly sculpted, a bit like those used for “Stonehenge” monument in England, signifies the man, which signifies Mann) and which are the abstractive figuration of the two families whose talent and ardent search for quality are an integral part of the excellence of the wines.

Auxerrois Blanc or Auxerrois Blanc de Laquenexy or also Pinot Auxerrois, is a white wine grape that is mainly planted in Alsace, and is also grown in Germany and Luxembourg. It is a full sibling of Chardonnay that is often blended with the similar Pinot Blanc grape variety. Auxerrois Blanc is thought to have originated in Lorraine, rather than near Auxerre in the Yonne. Recent DNA fingerprinting suggests that it is a cross between Gouais blanc and Pinot noir, the same ancestry as Chardonnay. The name Auxerrois Blanc has actually been used as a synonym for Chardonnay in the Moselle region in France, which explains why there is also a longer name (Auxerrois Blanc de Laquenexy) for the grape variety. Although, it produces great wines on its own, especially when issued from "Vieilles Vignes", the "Auxerrois" grape is mostly blended into wines called "Pinot Blanc" (which may actually consist of Auxerrois Blanc, the variety Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir vinified white). It is also an important component of Crémant d'Alsace.

2009 Albert Mann Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes shows a bright, pale gold yellow color with white golden reflects on the rim. Discreet yet expressive, the nose is fresh and mineral with ripe and unripe white core fruit, peach, citrus and earthy tones complemented by floral, blossom hints. The palate is quite silky, oily or waxy, nicely filling, full of white core fruit, peach, grapefruit and unripe pineapple, with floral hints and loaded with enhancing minerality. It drinks like replenishing mountain spring water, with "fat", nutritive and needed mineral components. The finish is focus and long with great acidity, wet-stone minerality, fresh green almond and citrus peel notes.

Although not necessarily as complex and long as some of the Grand Crus from this estate, which is totally normal and it will be a mistake to compare it to them, this Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes is a beauty of a wine that is really enjoyable, mouth-coating and balanced. It surprisingly showed even better the next day (IMO). Versatile and easy-going, enjoy this wine on white fish and shellfish with sauce, or even poultry, veal or pork. Juicy and somewhat fruity, it also pair well with cheese.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the winery website at, the importer website at and Wikipedia for the grape variety description at

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