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Etienne Simonis Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes


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Vintage: 2019
Region: Alsace, France
Viticulture: Biodynamic
Grape varieties: Sylvaner

Etienne Simonis Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is a refreshing and concentrated old-vine Sylvaner from 7ha of vines in the heart of Alsace.

Song: Palace of the Brine by The Pixies

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About Etienne Simonis Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes

Etienne Simonis Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is a refreshing and concentrated old-vine Sylvaner from Étienne Simonis who works seven hectares of vines in the heart of Alsace, located in the northeast of France. Hand-harvested from a cool-climate vineyard site, the grapes are direct-and-slow-pressed. Fermentation is kickstarted solely with native yeasts before being racked months later to separate the heavy lees. The wine ages for several months after on the fine lees before bottling. No additional SO2. Unfined and unfiltered.

Electric acidity, this wine carries the typically pleasant perfume of drier Alsatian whites though there is distinct pomme fruit here. The older vines structure the lively acid and create this bottling, the perfect floral, brambly white that can easily pair with light charcuterie, raclette, or white fish.

About Etienne Simonis

When Etienne Simonis in 1996 took over the primary responsibility for the family’s vineyards from his father René he entered on the same path as so several others of his generation: organic farming, reduced yields, extremely gentle pressing, reducing sulphur levels, long ageing “sur lies fines” and a careful balance between oxidative and reductive conditions. After arduous years he is about to become certified as biodynamic, the domaine ranks among the best in Alsace by La Revue du Vin de France and it has a solid reputation among the local nerds.

But what strikes one at a visit to Simonis is the friendly and gentle impression, from the family as well as from the wines. Here, in a humble small residential area on the outskirts of Ammerschwihr, there are no extravagant premises, no head high and absolutely no inflated prices. But knowledge, commitment and quality are abundant!

The basis for Simonis’ production is a series of very good vineyards. Flagship are the Grand Cru Kaefferkopf (Riesling and Gewurztraminer), and one of my favourites, the resurgent Grand Cru Marckrain in Bennwihr. Another outstanding terroir is Lieu-dit Vogelgarten in the valley between the neighbouring villages Kientzheim and Sigolsheim, a vineyard dominated by clayey and calcareous marl. The actual geology is of Grand Cru standard, but the climate is cooler. Result: a deliciously aromatic and focused Gewurztraminer, less charged with and sugar than many Gewurztraminer from the Grands Crus.

About Sylvaner

Silvaner is an underrated, neutral-scented, white-wine grape used widely in western Germany, and just across the Rhine in Alsace where it is spelt Sylvaner. Tiny quantities can also be found in Alto Adige, northern Italy, where it is a speciality of the Isarco Valley.

One of the world’s less-revered wine grapes as its reputation falls far behind that of other Germanic varieties such as Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, Silvaner is something of a quiet achiever. It has its devotees in various countries outside of Germany including Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria and the United States.

In Alsace, Sylvaner wines have a distinctively full-bodied style with a whiff of earth and smoke on the nose, highlighted at the expense of the scant fruit flavors the variety manages to muster. Some of the finest examples come from Alsace’s Grand Cru sites, although most cannot be labeled “Grand Cru” because the variety is almost entirely excluded by Alsace’s Grand Cru appellation laws. Only one Alsace Grand Cru vineyard – Zotzenberg – is officially permitted to use Sylvaner in its wines. Other notable Alsace wines using Sylvaner include Muré’s Cuvée Oscar Sylvaner from the Clos Saint-Landelin vineyard, Domaine Ostertag’s Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes, and the intriguingly titled ‘Now & Zen Wasabi White’ (a Sylvaner-dominant blend).