Tasting at Hugel & Fils (Old Notes)

Riquewihr, Alsace, 28th September 2007.

After a short meeting and discussion with Etienne Hugel, Lionel Rousseau took me through the winery, cellar and then to the tasting room.Their retail prices are included.

2005 “Gentil” – a curious-tasting blend of riesling, pinot gris, gewurz, Muscat and 40% sylvaner. Simple, moderately charming, quaffable wine, lightly rounded on the palate, an amalgam of tropical and citrus fruit. Probably something for the beach. Slightly confusing for me. Could use a bit more acid to balance and brighten it though. (8.30Euro)

2005 Riesling “Classic” – Some white flowers, orange rind and citrus fruit - clean, crisp and dry with good acidity. Slightly nervous/high-strung at this point. A good, albeit basic riesling. (10.30Euro)

2000 Riesling “Tradition” – Nice and calm, well-settled. Fair focus and good weight mid-mouth. Attractive minerality in this as well as somewhat loose but playful ripe lemon notes. (12.90Euro)

2002 Riesling “Jubilee” – Immediately superior showing than the immediately preceding wine: much better focus, leaner body and healthier acidity but still quite ripe. Has a nice touch of elegance. (20.34Euro)

2004 Riesling “Jubilee” – Dry, hard to break through at this point for me. Seems not as ripe, drier, more linear, more crisp than the immediately preceding 2002. Seems to me like it will grow up well though. Lionel recommends around 5 years more ageing; else decant it for 2 hours before trying it out now. (26.06Euro)

2003 Pinot Gris “Tradition” – In a word, ripe. While not quite dry, I expected it to be sweeter being from ’03. Nicely plump mid-palate, acidity low. I’d say drink this up, if you bought any. (13.32Euro)

2001 Pinot Gris “Jubilee” – Readily more complex and balanced than the 2003 and quite showy at this point. A beautiful showcase wine. Given my rather limited experience with older pinot gris, I’d definitely drink this now as it is so enjoyable. (23.44Euro)

2005 Gewürztraminer “Classic” – Bright, palate-refreshing, pure, very expressive lychee fruit and white flowers. (10.30Euro)

2004 Gewürztraminer “Jubilee” – very complex and multi-layered. Extremely entertaining. (22.48Euro)

1998 Riesling Selection Grains Nobles – rich, yet not exactly flamboyant, good finesse with tangy apricot, ripe peach, flowers and petrol notes. Not as sweet as other SGNs I’ve tried. Leans towards VT in that regard. (76.33Euro)

1998 Pinot Gris SGN – Fleshy, hefty in the middle, well-curved, entertaining almond-like suggestions to the back. (83.30Euro)

1988 Gewürztraminer SGN – Ethereal, light, airy, soaring, joyful lychee and flowers. Beautiful, very open and generous. I will definitely get this for my wife and enjoy it with her. This was probably the best in the tasting for me. It was certainly the most memorable. This would be dessert by itself. With the way it behaves, I’d drink this up now or soon. (49.52Euro)

1997 Gewürztraminer SGN – Thicker, fuller, heftier, more concentrated than the 1988, “pillowy” as opposed to “airy” or “ethereal”. Much less open and immediately generous, it requires one to unravel its layered pleasures. More of a contemplative wine. (76.74Euro)

1989 Gewürztraminer SGN & 1989 Gewürztraminer SGN “S” – Sweeter than the 1989, just as full and hefty but lighter on its feet, though not airy or ethereal as the 1988. Nice, balance/combination of the strong points of the two preceding wines. Objectively, I’d say the 1989 is better than the 1988 over-all, but the joyfulness of the latter wins me over, sentimental fool that I am. (82.84Euro)

1997 Gewürztraminer SGN “S” – A more concentrated and longer version of the 1997 above-mentioned. More richly spiced too. Serious stuff. Hope to find some of this to buy.(99.40Euro)

I actually tried more after the foregoing but my written notes on those are now indecipherable scribbles to my eyes. They invited me back a couple of days later to taste more, but time would not allow.

By the time we were done, Lionel handed me a pack of 4 bottles including 2001 Pinot Gris “Jubilee”, 2004 Gewurztraminer “Jubilee” and 2001 Gewurztraminer VT. I simply cannot recall the fourth as we finished them all within a week. I politely declined, of course, but he said it was Etienne who selected the bottles for me as a gift. How could I have refused?

A couple of weeks later, I had the 2001 Pinot Gris “Jubilee” with some 7 week aged Epoisses and foie gras de canard during a covert picnic in the gardens of Chateau de Epoisses on our way to Abbey de Fontenay with my wife and Franck and Françoise Alby (formerly based in Manila, Franck was the Deputy Head of the French Economic Mission to the Philippines before he was recently transferred to Dijon in Burgundy).

Me, my wife and Françoise

Great match with the cheese and a fair match with the foie gras (the foie needed higher levels of acidity and freshness that the wine didn’t quite possess). Very enjoyable, though, in any event. Having recently been exploring pinot gris a bit more seriously, I am quite amazed how versatile it is with different kinds of food. I used pair pinot gris only with Thai and Chinese cuisine, but my eyes are now open.