- Rating: 96 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: Recommended but not required
The first stop on my Alsace + Rhone wine vacation. Straight off the train from Strasbourg, I walked half a mile with all of my luggage to get here. The backwoods path was beautiful but carrying three bags will put a damper on enjoying that. Even though I was traveling in the fall and the temperature was relatively cool, the intensity of the sun was fairly strong as the vineyards of Alsace are generally planted on southern facing slopes next to the Vosges Mountain range to absorb as much of the light as possible, leading to ripe fruit development but keeping their acid.
Walking through the town of Mittelbergheim, I saw that there were at least 8 other wineries within walking distance to Albert Seltz. I did not get the chance to check if they were open / spoke English / were available for tastings, so Albert Seltz ended up being my only stop in Mittelbergheim. Though after discovering there were that many places in the area, I am emboldened to make a return visit and stay in town for an evening or two. Though, it will be difficult to live up to Albert Seltz.
The website has a quote from the owner: “The Sylvaner is a pretty girl from a poor family that does not interest the boy full of money is the disease of the 21st century.” I totally understand where he is coming from - sometimes selling wine is a popularity contest where name recognition is everything for a consumer and can transitively affect the choices of the Producer. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling… people are more likely to purchase something they have at least some tangential familiarity with. It’s a good thing I went outside my own comfort zone as I’ve had some unimpressive Sylvaner before, but these wines totally changed my opinion about the varietal. It made such an impression that I bought a few bottles with hopes of sharing with friends and spreading Albert’s message just a little further.
Heading into the winery, I was sad to find that there was (literally) no one home upon my arrival. After waiting 30 minutes in the shade with their dog, a woman returning from the field was startled to discover me standing there - I had not called ahead for an appointment. After collecting herself and learning I was an American on an Alsacian Wine Crusade, she guided me inside for a tasting. Their tasting room doubled as their office, which had several desks and a small 4-stool tasting bar where we broke out some of the wines in their inventory. NOTE: This was a family-run winery and didn’t have the infrastructure of a larger establishment. It soon didn’t matter to me as the wines were very good and all I could think about.
For the tasting, we focused on their speciality: Sylvaner. I think they are the only winery in the region that grows Grand Cru Sylvaner (I am likely mistaken there since there are so many producers), but it sure tasted like their specialty. There was no formal menu, so your menu is likely to be different when you visit.
- 2016 Sylvaner de Mittelbergheim (9.50€)
- Has a lemon/lime and mineral profile, but with strong intensity and some white spice as well. The aromas are a touch riper than the palate, but this makes a great summertime wine. No green or vegetal notes, this wine finishes very fresh with that spice. I know the notes read like a Sancerre and is similar except for the acidity (lower) and the minerality (it isn’t flint-like).
- 2012 Sylvaner Zotzenberg Grand Cru Sono Contento (16.00€)
- There is definitely some petrol on the nose and less spice character than the first wine above, but there is definitely more complexity with the undertones and less reliance on the fruit character. All of the notes are very subtle, even though the wine ambassador served this wine at the same temperature as a red wine. Still great acidity and a little more body than the previous wine - I would love to retaste this without the aerobic exercise beforehand.
- 2015 Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg (30.00€)
- Like the Zotzenberg except much more fruit/floral fragrance on the nose (e.g. in the honey/honeysuckle range). This was just an all-around fantastic wine. Really ripe stonefruit character (peach, honeysuckle) on the palate with great acidity that isn’t too soft/strong and provides structure. The finish also goes on… As someone who doesn’t like sweet wine but likes fruit (my American palate) and balance, I am really in love with this wine and would buy more immediately.
- 2013 Riesling Rebbuehl granite d’Andlau (16.00€)
- Strong varietal character as I definitely get the petrol and rubber on the nose with the light yellow fruit and strong acidity. This was served a little warmer than I am used to for Rieslings, but I think that also made the wine open more quickly. This is a classic example of terroir-driven wine from Alsace - really like the minerality as well.
- 2013 Riesling Grand Cru Zotzenberg (16.00€)
- More fruit on the nose than the last Riesling - it’s almost a bit juicier and riper on the nose than the Sylvaner Grand Cru as well. The palate is not as ripe as the nose, but there is still plenty of fruit and the finish is quite distinctive. I wouldn’t say it’s flint but there is something terroir/mineral-related happening at the end. That added complexity really stimulates the mind in a good way…
- 2007 Sylvaner Veilles Vignes Colline aux Poiriers (25.00€)
- Honey, ripe honeysuckle, beeswax, honeycomb, orange marmalade. Not overly heavy on the finish like I was expecting; there is much more acidity to keep the balance intact. That balance with the sweetness is really something something to dwell on as I’ve had many others that go over the top with the sweetness. This wine may still be a little much for friends that don’t appreciate sweet wine, but I would not classify this as strictly a dessert wine. I could easily pair this in a meal.
- 2013 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Zotzenberg (16.00€)
- The nose is not quite as ripe with honey/honeysuckle nor aromatically intense as some of the other wines, but it is definitely the smoothest out of all of them. The finish just goes on… You don’t really feel the acidity either, but that is perfectly fine since the wine is not cloying at all. This is the kind of wine you could drink multiple bottles of in one sitting and not tire of its intensity.
- 2013 Gewurztraminer Mon Ruisseau de Zanzibar (25.00€)
- Very different from other Gewurztraminers in Alsace. Not too much marmalade, nor too heavy. The nose is a little less intense than the normal varietal character, but in a pleasurable way. There is even a tickle of lemon zest too! The body and finish have a flint-like character to them and do not finish over the top - the fruit is bright and finishes wonderfully with pineapple and stonefruit. This is also an easy drinking without the feel of a sugar spike that can be utilized in many ways.
It’s a shame that I could not taste these great wines with the owner. Other online reviews tell of an intimate experience, including touring their cellars and getting more into the philosophy of winemaking. I am not the biodynamic purist that the owner is, but I would’ve really been interested in getting his thoughts on the matter, especially since all of these wines were done very well… Normally I like to let the wines do the talking, but in this case, I would’ve liked the extra background and how we can achieve the same quality with these methods in the states.
If you find yourself in Strasbourg and want to make a day trip for wine by train, you could do worse than Albert Seltz and Mittelbergheim in general. Just be sure to make reservations by email before showing up so that you get the full experience with the winery owner and check whether they speak English for the tour or not. I definitely recommend that you make your way into Alsace wine country and enjoy some really good white varietals, but especially Sylvaner since you can’t find it in the states! Cheers!!
Rating: 96 out of 100