The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Apparently baby trumps blog when it comes to using free time. It has been a long time since my last post, but with the little feller perched on my shoulder, drooling, I can still cobble this account of a great Biodynamic find from France.

I first tasted these wines in a German WWII-era submarine base that was hosting an organic wine show. It was an eerily appropriate venue; the submarine bays are still filled with water that flows in from the Atlantic, the water’s presence cooling and calming on a sticky June day. The cavernous space was barely lit. Floodlights threw crazy shadows along the corridors and recesses of the slowly crumbling concrete bunker. The large building made it possible to grab a glass, walk away from other humans and really focus on the flavors of the wine, which is basically all that having a “palate” for wine requires. Good wines, layered wines like this one, offer a lot to drinkers willing to give them a little attention.

The Klur estate consists of 7 hectares of vineyards divided among 20 parcels surrounding the Alsatian village of Katzenthal. To further subdivide their labor, the family farm six different grape varietals in these fields. Alsace is France’s driest grape growing region, thanks to the Vosges mountains located directly to the west. They buffer the region from rainfall and block strong winds and most potentially ruinous inclement weather. In some part due to the fortuitous local geography and also because of the style of wine bottled here, Alsace (along with Champagne) has the highest “normal” yield per acre from its vineyards. While I would contend this is generally a dubious honor, it does have some positive effects. In 1999, after years of planting cover crops, composting, working the soil, the Klur family decided to become fully biodynamic. Régine told me this led to an immediate loss of 1/3 of their tonnage per acre, as vines ceased overproducing and nature drifted back into balance. Given their small acreage, elsewhere in France this sort of loss of yield could have proven financially ruinous. In Alsace they survive, producing without chemicals a normal amount of fruit per vine while many of their neighbors continue to reap a greater monetary reward through overproduction. The Klurs take the long view. Not only is their approach the ethically correct way to farm, it also raises quality so that in the future, as interest in cheap mass-produced wine from their region wanes, the Klur label will survive as a sought-after source of quality reds and whites.

Biodynamics requires effort. The Klur family maintain fruit tree stands along old stone walls surrounding their vineyards in order to preserve biodiversity and give nature a chance to deal with pest and other vine issues. These trees aid in the creation of a balanced ecosystem. They also (of course) make the standard biodynamic vine treatments utilizing nettles, willows, etc., and plow and work the vines at the proper times in according to the lunar calendar. All fruit is harvested by hand, from parcels of 40% grade, containing 35-60-year-old vines. The fruit is picked in three successive passes to optimize ripeness.

Katzenthal lies on a 500 million-year-old fault line. Because of this anomaly, the Klur family has two parcels growing in granitic soil similar to the composition of the nearby Vosges massif, and only a few hundred meters away they have parcels growing in limestone from fossilized mussel beds and other vines growing in marl. Because of this uncommon geologic diversity, the vignerons of this area can successfully plant a diverse group of vines and make wines with a startling range of expressive flavors.


Post a Comment

<< Home