I waited a long time before bringing in a producer from Alsace. In the past, the region has not excited me as much as other parts of France. But, when the opportunity to work with Jean-Pierre Frick presented itself, I could not pass it up as they are the style of wines, and Jean-Pierre is the kind of winemaker, I’ve been looking for since starting Return to Terroir five years ago.
Pfaffenheim, the winery and the family with Pierre, his wife Chantal and their son Thomas
After meeting Jean Pierre Frick you feel like you have had an experience. Spending several hours with him in his cellar almost two years ago left me with an indelible impression of the man and his wine. He has a kind and gentle demeanor and speaks with great passion about his wine, and philosophy of winemaking. The reasons he pursues biodynamic viticulture and natural winemaking are abundantly clear as he discusses the cosmos, polarity and yin and yang. His ability to speak so eloquently, along with the transformative wines we tasted turned my head- this was a side of Alsace I had not tasted before.
Cellar at Domaine Pierre Frick
Jean-Pierre’s wines are understated. More delicate than a lot of their neighbors, they present an introspective side to Alsace. Part of this is no doubt a result of his ardent dedication to his property.
Alsace was one of the first regions in France to employ biodynamic viticulture and Jean-Pierre was there from the beginning. His father converted the land, which had been in the family for 12 generations, to organic viticulture in 1970. In 1981, Pierre finished where his father left off, getting Demeter certification.
One of the foudres at Domaine Pierre Frick
Since they have been proponents of biodynamics for so many years, Pierre has become an elder statesman in a sense to younger vignerons. He is very active in Renaissance des Appellations, an organization that facilitates the exchange of ideas between biodynamic winemakers, and holds high standards of viticulture and winemaking. Even with his extra curricular activities, he, along with his wife, Chantal and son, Thomas, continue to farm his land meticulously.
Pierre Frick, La Composition du Monde [the Compositon of the World]
by Thierry Weber, Denis Pérez and Christophe Bohème
With 12 hectares (30 acres) of vineyards in 12 villages, the family’s work is arduous. Biodynamic preparations are made between the end of harvest and next season’s bud break. He stopped using rotary tillage tools in 1999 because he felt they were not gentle enough on the soil. If needed, he will use copper on the vineyards but that is rare. The fruit is hand harvested in several tries, even for the dry wines, to ensure all grapes reach optimal ripeness.
While the vineyards are most important, Jean-Pierre’s purist philosophy carries over into to the winery. The grapes are pressed whole cluster using a pneumatic press and the juice sits overnight to clarify, at which point they are racked into 3000L old oak foudres, some which are nearly a century in age. The juice ferments with native yeast. In the event of a stuck fermentation , Pierre patiently waits it out through the chilly Alsacian winter until the weather warms in Spring and the fermentation finishes naturally. only. The wine is racked again (into large foudres) and left on its fine lees for five to nine months. It undergoes a light filtration before bottling.
In 1999 Jean-Pierre started making some wines without SO2. Like most Alsace vignerons, he makes nearly two dozen wines using all of the Alsatian grape varieties and three Grand Cru vineyards. To start off, we are working with three of his wines, the Crémant d’Alsace, 2010 Riesling and celebrated 2009 Riesling Grand Cru Vorbourg.
Crémant d’Alsace, 2011
50% Riesling, 50% Auxerrois
The grapes for the Crémant are harvested before the still wines. It is sourced from clay and limestone soils. The secondary fermentation is made with the addition of organic acacia honey. The only time SO2 is added is right before bottling. No dosage is used so it is bone dry with aromas of white flowers, tobacco and coconuts, and citrus, peach and roasted almonds on the palate.Best Price: $17
Made from an eastern facing plot underneath the Grand Cru Vorbourg with marl and sandstone, this entry level Riesling from Pierre is from a very good terroir and offers much more complexity and personality than the basic Alsacian Riesling. Sulfur added at bottling only. Lively with floral, citrus, honey, and stone fruit notes; backed by hints of ginger, saffron and peat. Thought it tastes nearly dry, there are 6.2 g/l residual sugar. Best Price: $17
Riesling Grand Cru Vorbourg, 2009
Meaning literally “before or in front of the mountain”, Vorbourg is a southeast-facing vineyard with limestone and marl topsoil on a base of sandstone. It is located between the towns of Westhalten to the West and Rouffach to the East. The earliest records of Vorbourg date back to 762. One of the sunniest and driest sites in Alsace, it often has botrytis and can be used to make late harvest wines (this cuvée is dry.) Sulfur added at bottling only and it has just 2 g/l RS. Intensely stony and powerful, it is brimming over with ripe peaches, yellow flowers, lemon peel, grapefruit and honey. It offers all of the complexity of Riesling, yet is dangerously easy to drink, and will evolve for many years to come. Best Price: $23
Pfaffenheim and the Grand Cru vineyard of Vorbourg, in Southern Alsace.