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Domaine Rieflé (Alsace, France)

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Dating back to 1850, Domaine Rieflé represents six generations of winemaking tradition in the Alsace wine-producing region of France. The family’s 20 hectares of land are divided among over 70 parcels, including holdings in the Grand Cru vineyard of Steinert. Domaine Rieflé dedicates itself to organic viticulture, paying close attention to the soil, flora, and fauna of the family’s vineyards. One of my favorite quotes goes, "We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children," which directly aligns with Domaine Rieflé’s agricultural practices.

The host for our private tasting was Annick, who owns the Domaine with her husband, Jean-Claude. Annick provided us with a complete overview of the winery's history and a comprehensive description of the various terroirs. She used maps to show the holdings and had rocks on hand from the actual vineyard sites to demonstrate the diversity of the soils. During our seated tasting, Jean-Claude and one of their sons made an appearance, answering a few questions we had about the family's viticulture practices.

Annick poured nine wines for us to taste as a representation of their entire line, including their Riesling and Pinot Gris from the Grand Cru Steinert vineyard. We really enjoyed these top wines, though our favorite from the range was the Crémant d’Alsace Brut Alpha. In France, Crémant is the term used for sparkling wine in Alsace, Burgundy, and the Loire made it the same method as the wine from the Champagne region. It is important to distinguish among sparkling wines: Champagne is produced in France's Champagne region, Cava is from Spain, Prosecco is made in Northern Italy, and Crémant is French. Unfortunately, some regions and producers globally continue to challenge these trademarks, and they are nearly always met with lawsuits from the protected wine regions.

Back to the Crémant – the first thing I noticed in the Crémant d’Alsace Brut Alpha was the pronounced aromas of bread, biscuit, and apples. And so, my first question to Annick was how long the wine was on its lees before disgorging and bottling. Six years minimum!!! I was floored as Crémant from Alsace is generally aged around 12 months on lees, with premium examples at 24 months or more. So, what are lees? During the traditional winemaking process used for making both Crémant and Champagne, a lower alcohol base wine is produced without pronounced aromas and flavors, and generally produced with a high degree of refreshing acidity. In the case of the Brut Alpha, the base wine consisted of a blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir grapes.

The base wine is then bottled, and a mixture called liqueur de tirage consisting of wine, sugar, yeast, and other ingredients are added. The bottle is then sealed using a metal crown cap, similar to a soda bottle, and laid on its side in the winery’s cellar. While lying to rest, a second fermentation occurs in the bottle whereby the additional yeast and sugar transform into alcohol and carbon dioxide... the bubbles!!

Once the yeast finishes, it dies and falls to the bottom of the bottle. The dead yeast is called the lees. Without getting too much more wine-nerd, the longer the wine rests on the lees, the more bread, biscuit, and pastry aromas and flavors in the resulting wine. These aromas and flavors will eventually overpower the fruity flavors of apple and pear, typical of an Alsace Crémant. So the winemaker's job is to determine the exact time for bottling to achieve the desired style of wine.

The Crémant d’Alsace Brut Alpha demonstrated an outstanding balance of the lees characteristics with the primary fruit aromas and flavors of green fruit. The high acidity gave the wine an amazingly refreshing structure, and the flavors of the wine lingered on the palate for what seemed like forever. The Crémant d’Alsace Brut Alpha was likely the best Crémant from Alsace that I’ve had the opportunity to taste to date. At 28,00€, I highly recommend!

Experience Rating: 3 Stars

Brodi’s Rating: 1 Paw Up

Pet-Friendly: Yes

Experience Vibe: Private Experience, Seated Wine Tasting

Reservations Needed: Yes

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