- Rating: 92 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: 10€ for 5 wines, waived with 6-bottle purchase
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: Recommended but not required
Andlau may be a small town, but its vineyards and views are second to none in the Alsace region. In addition, it is home to some of the most interesting Grand Crus of Alsace, which make it a must visit when traveling through Alsace. There are a few wineries to possibly visit for a tasting in Andlau, but none have as comprehensive of a wine tasting menu as Domaine des Marronniers. Their social media presence and website are also more up-to-date and accessible than many of its peers. As luck would have it, I was staying in a hotel next door to the winery, so it only made sense for me to arrange a tasting and talk through their portfolio.
Like many others in the region, Domaine des Marronniers is a family operation. In fact, many entities (including Google) still refer to the winery as Domaine Wach (its owner Guy Wach changed the name from Domaine Wach in 1980). But unlike many other wineries in the region, their ties to the world of wine go all the way back to 1748, before there was even a USA! While their ancestors have long been barrel makers as their trade, more recent generations of the family have transitioned towards wine growing and making. And they couldn’t have found a better place to settle down; of the quality land that surrounds them, Domaine Wach owns 17.8 acres, of which nearly 3 acres are Grand Cru classified. Even more impressive is the average age of their vines (40+ years), which you’d more likely find for Old Vine Zinfandel, not Riesling and other white varietals.
To make sure that my palate was in top shape to enjoy the experience, I made a morning appointment. Jessica, the wine ambassador, was very generous to open a little early for me so that I could catch my scheduled taxi to Ribeauville. Jessica is a certified sommelier from Montreal, meaning that she is fluent in English and French. This of course meant that in addition to talking about our shared love of wine and her chance meeting with the winemaker while working in New Zealand (which is how she ended up in Alsace), we had to talk about my love of hockey.
After the fun chat, we both got strangely serious as she poured the first wine. It was gametime and I was ready:
- 2016 Andlau Muscat d’Alsace (9.50€)
- A blend of Muscat d’Alsace and Muscat Ottonel. The intensity of the nose is light for a Muscat, but its notes are in line with the varietal character. The interesting thing is the palate, which stays crisp, dry and feels like a light white wine, rather than the traditional renditions of Muscat. The balance between the aromas and mouthfeel without either feeling too big/heavy are what make this different. Drink it cool while outside on a hot summer day. The flavors dwell around the citrus range, leaning towards oranges.
- 2016 Andlau Riesling (9.00€)
- Slight petrol on the nose, but the aromas were a bit muted overall. The flavors are a tad underripe (think grapefruit) with high acidity on the palate. Their best QPR bottle in the Wine Ambassadors opinion - they opened a bottle of vintage 1998 recently and thought it aged fairly well for a non-Grand Cru bottle. This is for those that don’t like their Rieslings too ripe. Or in my mind, a “without wine, it’s just breakfast” type of bottle.
- 2014 Grand Cru Wiebelsberg Riesling (16.50€)
- The nose is clearly more fragrant than the Andlau with white flowers and stonefruit coming out. It also has a tad more flesh on the body, less noticeable acidity and more intensity on the palate. This was just really smooth and a pleasure to drink; you can have this all year round as it doesn’t need to pair with any particular temperature or meal to get great enjoyment.
- 2014 Grand Cru Moenchberg Riesling (16.50€)
- The Riesling and Pinot Gris from Moenchberg are the first to be ready for harvest each year where limestone permeates the soil. This combination results in less fragrance and less fruit on the nose, though more white flower than the Wiebelsberg and tiny amounts of petrol. The mouthfeel also has more mouthwatering acidity to go with the medium(-) intensity stonefruit. While this wine is also very easy to drink, I would pair it with fish and enjoy closer to the summertime than the Wiebelsberg.
- 2014 Grand Cru Kastelberg Riesling (18.50€)
- The star of the still white wines. As mentioned above, the limited acreage means only 5 wineries get to work with these grapes that are grown on blue schist. The QPR for this bottle is off-the-charts. The salinity and minerality on the nose and palate are quite something and had me craving seafood for lunch… Those notes paired with the acidity stimulates the cheeks for more than a minute on the finish, like something touched the funnybone of your cheeks. You can cellar this for 20+ years and it will still be good, though obviously with more petrol notes. I normally prefer fruit forward wines, but I had to have multiple bottles of this wine.
- NV Cremant d’Alsace (9.50€)
- Alsace is the largest producer of cremant in France, with cremant representing over 20% of Alsace’s total wine production. This one is 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc. The winemaker wanted to produce a bottle that pairs well with meals without relying on high acidity (ie. didn’t want to use Riesling). This spends 24 months on the lees gaining texture and flavor and is finished at 6 g/L RS (residual sugar), adding to the balance and body. The nose immediately brings up thoughts of delicate cream and MLF. The palate is voluminous with creamy mousse and the flavors are consistent with the nose plus flavors of semi-ripe green/yellow fruit and medium(+) acidity.
- 2006 Grand Cru Wiebelsberg Riesling Selection de Grains Nobles (32.00€)
- Using Riesling for an SGN is unusual - most of the SGNs I came across while in Alsace were either Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer, so this is was a happy surprise! I really liked this wine because of the additional acidity provided by the Riesling that helped to balance and cut through the sweetness on the finish. Also, the nose was very aromatic with the petrol and botrytis notes basically leaping from the glass. Those flavors carry onto the palate with some honeyed notes as well. Of note, the body isn’t unctuous like other SGNs. The varietal character just adds another dimension and balance to this SGN making it hard to resist.
Similar to Marc Kreydenweiss, even though this is one of the larger producers in the area and has a good portion of the coveted plantings in Kastelberg, its production level is still small by American standards (their total production is roughly 45,000 bottles annually). That is a real shame because the QPR on all of these wines is really good, even for the SGN in my opinion. But the biggest shame is that I don’t believe there is an American distributor for this winery and the shipping cost per case to the USA is 180€ - nearly 15€ a bottle!!
I highly recommend stopping by Andlau in Alsace for a day if you have the chance. And make sure you have some space in your luggage, because if you love any of the bottles you taste here, that’s the likely way you’ll be able to bring the bottles you like back home with you, haha. Cheers!!
Rating: 92 out of 100