- Rating: 91 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: 10€
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: false
Before visiting Alsace, I had not heard of Domaine Dopff au Moulin. I have now… As much as I was excited to taste the wines at Hugel et Fils, German tourists were as excited (if not moreso) to visit Dopff au Moulin and walk off with a case of wine. The town of Riquewihr is nestled on a hill that reaches 300 meters in altitude in the shadow of the Vosges mountains, with most of the town being inaccessible by car during the day (since the streets are filled with people). This means that the foot traffic is greatest at the bottom of the hill, which is accessible by motor vehicles, and decreases as you go up the hill. Coincidence or not, Dopff au Moulin is located right next to the traffic circle at the bottom of the hill and sees a lot of foot traffic. It also sees a lot of people exiting their doors carrying boxes of wine…
Searching for the entrance to the wine shop, I thought to myself that they had to have been around for a long time to get such a premium location for their storefront. That is an understatement. It all started in 1574 for the Dopff family, who now have three generations (including the 13th generation) of their family operating the winery. At 70 hectares, they are the second largest family-owned winery in all of Alsace (behind Domaine Weimbach I believe), producing around a million bottles of sparkling wine and still wines. I appreciate how they consider themselves wine growers rather than winemakers as it emphasizes their dedication in the vineyards to ensuring that they are producing natural wines, with traditional means, that meet their high standards.
In addition to being part of the fabric of Riquewihr for so long, Dopff au Moulin has achieved much over the years and serves as an example to many other producers. It’s biggest claim-to-fame is “inventing” Cremant d’Alsace. In the early 1900s, Julien Dopff attended a practical demonstration of the Champenoise method at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Inspired by the demonstration, he went to Epernay (an AOC in the Champagne region) to train for a couple years before returning to Alsace and producing a sparkling wine with Pinot Blanc (the varietal is prone to a natural effervescence too). Although Cremant d’Alsace didn’t achieve its AOC status until 1976, Dopff au Moulin was the beginning. It even says so on Wikipedia!!! Today, Cremant d’Alsace represents nearly 25% of Alsatian wines - if you haven’t had one before, you need to try it!
Julien Dopff was also the first person in the region to begin commercially selling their wines in the long stemmed bottles. Today, these bottles (known as Flûte d’Alsace) are part of the region’s branding effort and is mandatory for all still wines bottled in the region! As a student of wine history (for my WSET Diploma), I was a bit ashamed that I had not heard of them or their achievements before arriving. But observing their sheer throughput throughout the day, it all makes sense now. I also feel like this winery really tailors itself to Germans as much as the French; a vast majority of their wines are varietally named (as is tradition in Germany) and the wine ambassadors speak German fluently (if not also English). The wine ambassador pouring for me received her French wine certification, which is a three year joint school + internship program, so you know they hire the best people too.
Because the tasting room had a high throughput of customers, I was generally left to my own devices in the corner to taste and take notes on the wines. I believe a normal tasting is the customer’s choice of 4-5 wines. Since I tasted more than that, I paid double, though the wine ambassador was shocked as if I had tipped her way too much… I didn’t mind since it was a pleasure to be able to taste a good part of the portfolio. Now then, to the wines!
- NV Cuvee Julien (9.90€)
- A young blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxeroiss. In order to integrate the bubbles and flavors better, the sur lie age the wine for 2-3 years in barrel. Ripe apple on the nose but green/yellow apple on the palate. Good acidity and length, but the flavors on the palate and finish aren’t my favorite.
- 2015 Chardonnay Brut (12.50€)
- In Alsace, you can’t make a still AOC Chardonnay; it can only be used in Cremant (sparkling wine). 2015 was a really ripe vintage for Alsace, which isn’t great for most varietals going into a Sparkling wine. But when it happens with Chardonnay, you can get complexity on the palate (like almonds) without lees aging the wine. Along with some barrel age character, this Brut has lighter green/yellow apple and some almond character on the nose. The palate is composed of flavors similar to the nose with aggressive but medium-sized mousse and high, mouthwatering acidity on the finish.
- 2015 Chardonnay (15.95€)
- 3g/L of residual sugar (RS). As I mentioned in the last note, there is no AOC that allows a still, varietal Chardonnay in Alsace, so this is called a Vin de France. I believe the Dopff Chardonnay is the first varietal Chardonnay to be produced in Alsace. The nose is quite light, though definitely has some almond character and minerality. The acid is medium because 2015 was a hot year. There is ripe lemon on the palate, but the nut and minerality are what dominate the palate.
- 2014 Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenberg (19.20€)
- 5.5g/L of RS. White peach, petrol, white flowers and minerality - the first two being the strongest. The palate emphasizes the minerality more than anything else with ripe yellow fruit and peach coming afterwards (the petrol is absent for the most part). The acidity continues to tingle the cheeks for 15 seconds on the finish. Because of the strength of the flavors, I think this could pair well with fish or even light white meat (e.g. Chicken).
- 2014 Pinot Gris (Coeur de Barrique) (21.90€)
- 2.4g/L of RS. They cannot call this a grand cru even though it is grown in Schoenenburg Grand Cru soil because barreling the wine is not allowed under the AOC Grand Cru designation. Do not make the mistake of passing over this wine because of that - the time in the wood has accuentated the smoke that was already part of the varietal flavor for Pinot Gris, though it’s only medium(-) intensity in the glass. There is also almond and toast in the aromas. The palate has all of that plus some coconut and the slightest bit of salinity. Very interesting wine.
- 2014 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Schoenenbourg (19.90€)
- The only difference from the Coeur de Barrique is that this wine is not done in oak barrels and therefore can carry the AOC Grand Cru designation. Its nose is much brighter than the barreled rendition - I can almost smell more acid in this wine as well. The palate feels as if it has a higher RS too, which is probably intentional on the winemaker’s part (during grape selection between the two wines at the very least). I also get more fruit on this wine, with ripe yellow fruit and some lighter stonefruit the most prominent. There is salinity in the undertones of the wine, but the story is definitely the ripeness and the fruit (its primary flavors).
- 2015 Grand Cru Vorberg Gewurztraminer (19.70€)
- 34g/L of RS. Only made in 2011 and 2015 because they wanted a balance between the normal (20 g/L) and the late harvest (60g/L) RS levels of Gewurztraminer and these years were the ones that fit the requirements. This is one of the first Gewurztraminers I’ve smelled where the primary note wasn’t honeysuckle and other exotic fruit. It smells predominantly like a dry white wine with white flowers and spice. On the palate, the honey/honeysuckle comes out in force and moving the wine gets the white flower and spice notes to come out more which is a quality that I really like… It finishes drier than I was anticipating and I really like the acidity level. One of my favorite wines from the Vorberg AOC.
- 2015 Grand Cru Sporen Gewurztraminer (26.90€)
- 50g/L of RS. This is the wine that scored a perfect 3 stars in a famed German Wine Review Journal. The nose is similar to the last wine in that the honey is pulled back on the nose, but there is more brightness to this nose. There is even more ripeness on the palate and indexes more on exotic fruit than pure sugar with orange blossom, starfruit, and lychee leading the way. I can see why people consider this wine “balanced”; the ripeness and acidity makes this a delicious wine that is smooth all the wine down and lingers on the palate. I wish the spice was a little more prominent, but this is still really good and I wouldn’t argue with the German journal’s rating.
- 2015 Pinot Noir du Domaine Familial (12.90€)
- An interesting nose of lighter intensity red fruit, but with a brooding aspect and some spice. Aged in old/used barrels, there are several earthen and wood-driven notes that come out on the palate more than the fruit Though the medium(+) acid and medium tannin maintain some freshness, I am surprised that the palate is so tertiary / terroir-driven given the age of the wine. Admittedly, the bottle was nearly empty when I received my pour and the oxygen exposure over the course of the day probably played a part. So drink this wine in a single sitting!
- 2014 Pinot Noir Coeur de Barrique (21.90€)
- The Coeur de Barrique is similar to the previous wine (again, possibly because of oxidation during the day), except there seems to be more wood tannin and the cedar / other wood flavors are more prominent in this wine. The lack of vanilla and other character makes me think they re-used older oak barrels. The palate had more earth-driven flavors as well - very different than the fruit-driven Pinots I am accustomed to.
As you can tell, there were many wines to taste and I only scratched the surface! I think I tried maybe a third of the wines on their menu, though I did get to try many of their Grand Crus, which was a real treat. I love that the portfolio is balanced between classical renditions of varietals and what effects aging, barrels and intervention by the winemaker might have on the wines. The wines were also not overtly fruit-driven for the most part, letting the wood and terroir do more of the talking, which was very different than many of the places I visited in the area (especially Hugel et Fils, which was right up the hill).
Although I did not walk away with any bottles, I did come away with an appreciation for their commitment to quality and tradition, as well as a new take on the wines of Alsace. If you are in Riquewihr for the day, this is also another must-visit location. Cheers!!
Rating: 91 out of 100