- Rating: 96 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: No
- Reservation Required: false
The thing I love about Alsace is that most of the production comes from small, family-owned wineries. This can be seen as a double-edged sword because while the styles and varieties on the market can be very different, the quality of production can be very different too. Luckily, that isn’t really an issue in Alsace as the quality is consistently pretty high across the board. Though you do find some wineries that just seem to be on another level. Bott Freres may be my favorite winery in all of Alsace when you factor in the that none of the wines I tasted were above 20 Euros. The Quality-Price Ratio (QPR) here is just astounding. I know that is a strong statement and I truly hope that gets you to visit the winery if you ever find yourself in the Alsace region.
If it hadn’t been for my waiter at lunch, I might not have discovered Bott Freres! I hadn’t seen the winery during my earlier walk through the city center. Unlike many wineries in the Alsace region, the storefront for Bott Freres isn’t along the main street in town, nor does it have a huge building or signs in town pointing to it like Cave du Ribeauville or Domaine Trimbach. You need to walk a little ways (half a mile) off the main street to find the storefront. During my walk, I was a bit unlucky because the skies opened up and it felt like the city was going to flood for a good ten minutes.
I was a bit of a mess upon my arrival, but Gladys (their wine ambassador) was kind enough to find me a towel so I could clean myself up as much as possible. Having done so, I started telling her my story and explaining why I had no vehicle with me… As we chatted, we started nerding out about all things wine and she was happy to share more details about Alsace that I hadn’t picked up from other wineries, hence the picture with the map above. Gladys hadn’t traveled outside the country yet, but I think she was paying it forward to a wine traveler and took the extra time to discuss why she decided to join Bott Freres over any other winery. It turns out she had joined the wine business straight out of high school and while her parents own a vineyard, they sell the fruit they cultivate to bigger wineries. It’s too bad we didn’t swap contact info - her dreams of getting into the production side of the industry are very similar to my own.
Like other wineries in the region, Bott Freres has been family operated for quite a while. In fact, the Bott family have been winegrowers in the region since 1835! Back in those days, being a wine grower was a tradecraft passed down from parents to children, with skills and practices developed and honed over the course of time. These practices include sustainable agriculture (see: Biodynamic/Organic) and respect what nature gives you, rather than exerting your will upon the land. The tasting room and building share that same vibe/feeling. Though, Bott Freres can accomodate up to 50+ people at a time - there is lots of room in the back!
After the pleasant conversation and no longer feeling like a wet dog, it was time to start the tasting. I want to point out that there are times when my palate is a little off after a meal where wine (especially sparkling / white wine) is not as enjoyable as they normally are. I had no issues with that during this tasting after lunch, which I think is further proof to how good these wines were.
- 2017 Muscat (11.00€)
- A 50/50 blend of Muscat d’Alsace and Muscat Ottonel. Very fragrant with notes of the usual aromas (e.g. orange, blosson, etc.). The mouthfeel is very nice with medium(+) acidity, medium body and a long, lingering finish of white flowers and honeysuckle. The dryness and high acid makes the flower and honeysuckle feel very pronounced on the palate. A solid Muscat rendition that has no flaws, is very well balanced and dry.
- 2015 Riesling Reserve Personnelle (11.60€)
- The nose is a little restrained for a Riesling. The palate is driven by green fruit and high-pitched yellow fruit, with little petrol influence. Adding to the complexity is a minerality and touch of spice. Because the wine has a lower intensity, I feel like this could be an easy drinking wine on a hot day with its rounded palate and medium(+) acidity for that crisp finish.
- 2016 Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauville (23.30€)
- More fragrant than the Reserve Personnelle, the Kirchberg emphasizes stonefruit and some petrol. The body is also a bit more viscous, but the main differentiator is the salinity (Kirchberg is primarily limestone). That salinity and yellow fruit linger for 30+ seconds on the finish, which is very impressive. The rest of the flavor profile and acidity are similar to the Personnelle above.
- 2016 Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg (21.30€)
- Similar to the Kirchberg, but more rounded and less pronounced. According to Gladys, the diurnal range for Kirchberg is greater than Osterberg, which is why you perceive more acidity and greater intensity in the Kirchberg. While I would serve the Kirchberg to friends with dinner, the Osterberg is the bottle I’d open if I wanted to enjoy a bottle without a food pairing.
- NV Blanc de Noirs (16.10€)
- Solid body with aggressive, mousy bubbles. The palate has trace of red fruit, but the high acid and rampant bubble make it tough to feel out the full range of flavors. I doubt it’s undergone MLF because of the acidity, but some lees aging makes sense. Not my favorite sparkling wine from the Alsace region.
- 2016 Gewurztraminer Reserve Personnelle (15.50€)
- Aromatic and pronounced on the palate, but very smooth. The full range of flavors from the Gewurztraminer varietal are on display in this wine up to orange marmalade. The acidity isn’t noticeable until the finish, but it helps shape the round body. The finish also goes on for 20+ seconds with white spice emerging as well. The balance on this Gewurztraminer is what impresses me the most - normally something feels out of place but all of the parts fit together perfectly in this wine.
- 2011 Riesling Vendanges Tardives (31.70€)
- This wine is just stunning. I daresay it surpasses all the other VT and Selection Grain Nobles Rieslings that I have had in terms of flavor intensity (ripe peach and stonefruit) and acidity. The prominent acid leaves you with a tingling sensation that surpasses the duration of the 30+ second finish. No noticeable petrol notes or they take a back seat to the fruit at least. This needs to be a dessert wine at a Michelin restaurant.
If I had to sum up the experience, the style of Bott Freres lies in the purity of expression. This applies to both the varietal character that their sustainable agriculture nurtures and the sense of place described in the terroir driven tertiary notes. You hardly notice any human intervention in these wines which is quite the achievement.
Unfortunately, I could not purchase all of the wine I wanted thanks to the expensive shipping costs; it’s 202 Euros for shipping and taxes to ship a case to the USA directly from the winery. Their distributors in the USA (at the time of this writing) are Wine Universe (NY) and DB Wine Selection, who is based in the Northeast USA and is both an importer and distributor. Of the wines I tried, their Muscat, Reserve Personnelle Gewurztraminer and Riesling Vendages Tardives were the ones I craved multiple bottles of.
Again, if you are in the area, Bott Freres is a must visit. Please take the opportunity to explore off the beaten path (or in this case, the main road in town) and enjoy!!
Rating: 96 out of 100