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In our second installment of a series of emails focused on Alsace, we present the wines of Pierre and Chantal Frick. The Fricks have been working organically since 1970, and have been certified Biodynamic since 1981. They are incredibly passionate about the importance of living soils that contribute to the health of the vines and the complexity of the wines. As they write, "the application of this more comprehensive approach to the life of the soil and vine advocated by bio-dynamie has changed our vineyard. The growing cycle of the vine is in better harmony. It is less sensitive to grey rot and insect pests. The better balance of the plant is conducive to good grape ripening and obtaining a better quality of juice (density, balance, minerality, vitality). From this the wines have revealed more depth and greater expression of terroir." The grapes are hand harvested - "The social aspect of the harvest and the search for quality through successive pickings excludes the use of machine harvesters." Fermentations are with wild yeasts - "The soil and sub-soil and additionally the bloom and yeasts on the grapes constitute the terroir. For us, biodynamic viticulture and the expression of terroir require wild yeast fermentations." They do not chaptalize and use minimal or no sulfur-dioxide, which results in delicate "luminous" wines.
Aging is in old 3,000 liter casks which the Fricks prefer to stainless steel or barrique. "These casks allow breathing (airflow) and transpiration (evacuation of higher alcohols and esters) of wines, without changing their taste by the contributions of new oak." The Fricks have also moved away from cork, and use crown caps for all of their still wines (no corked bottles!).
Over the years since I first started traveling to France to taste wines in 2011, I have tasted with Pierre countless times, and always end up laughing a LOT (he's a very animated and funny man), and learning new wine descriptors like "claquant," "sportif," and "digest" - along with the body motions that accompany them (a ninja slice or loud clap for claquant, a literal leap into the air for sportif, for example). He is a passionate man, and dedicated to his ideologies - I still remember when he proudly and comically showed us the newspaper article that reported how he snuck into a neighbor's vineyards at night, burned their genetically modified vines, and turned himself into the police the next morning. He's also the first person who confirmed for me that wines have "energy," and can truly make ourbodies feel good, and lift our spirits. Once, Pierre approached me with a glass of zero sulfur Champagne from Marie Courtin and said with a beaming smile: "It makes me feel 30 years younger!"
After tasting 18 wines with Pierre earlier this year, it wasn't exactly easy to decide which ones we might work with here at Chambers, but my aim was to present a snapshot of the domaine - from classic wines like their Riesling and Gewurztraminer, to the more rare and peculiar, like the Auxerrois and Pinot Gris Maceration. We hope you enjoy these as much as we do, and maybe even feel a bit younger drinking them!
Frick's Pinot Auxerrois 'Carriere' is the first Auxerrois I ever tasted, and a wine I always look forward to tasting each year with Pierre. The 2014 is crisp and dry, with 0 grams of residual sugar, and no sulfites added. Carriere is a parcel on limestone with a good amount of sandstone, which Frick says gives the wine a "claquant" character. Truly not an easy word to translate, a wine that is claquant (from claquer- to clap) has a kind of lip smacking freshness and acidity, and is energetic and lively on the palate. Frick also refers to the wine as "tendu," which is the French word for tense, but here I believe expresses how lean and focused the wine is. Apparently the French love this wine with sushi and sashimi, and I can see why. There's very subtle white stone fruit on the palate, but no softness or fruitiness whatsoever, and the finish is clean and mineral. Drink over several hours, as the wine opens up and reveals a bit more texture with some time open. Eben Lillie
Frick made two versions of the GC Steinert Riesling in 2012, one with filtration and the addition of a small amount of SO2 at bottling, and a second with no filtration and no sulfites added. He took great interest in watching my father and I taste the two, and the anticipation of our response was accompanied by a touch of childlike excitement. I think I remember him being quite pleased that we both preferred the second version. Truth be told, I like them both. The first had a bit of residual sugar, and was very classic, but I ended up preferring the second because it was drier, and had a subtle salinity to it that carried the wine on the palate in a much more interesting way. There's a touch of honey dew melon, lemon, and saffron, and is a bit fleshy on the palate. The Steinert parcel is oriented East, on a terroir of limestone, with relatively dry soil. A great wine to have over the course of many days. Eben Lillie
Bergweingarten is a vineyard of brown limestone, with South-East exposition in the middle of a hill. Pierre says there's a touch of sandstone influence, which dons a type of crystalline freshness and structure to the wines from this site. There's some stone fruit here, and a nice level of ripeness, with hints of mandarin orange, almond, and spice. Aged on the lees for 11 months in large 100 year old barrels, with 19g S02 total. I wouldn't call this a completely dry Sylvaner - even though the residual sugar is only 1.4g, it's ripe and flavorful and has some lingering fruit in the finish. A very tasty wine, and quite versatile with a variety of foods. Eben Lillie
This Gewurztraminer is technically from the Grand Cru Steinert vineyard, but Pierre simply didn't want to present this wine as a Grand Cru, so he calls it "Steiner." To me, it's a perfect Gewurz; a little sweet (22g residual sugar), fresh, floral and clean, with a touch of mint and herbs. I had a bottle that lasted for about a week, and I really enjoyed tasting it every day. I consider this a classic Gewruztraminer, and a great introduction to the grape and it's characteristics. Eben Lillie
Though it seems like a relatively new category, it turns out winemakers in Alsace have been making skin contact wines for some time. The first may have been Bannwarth, who experimented with qvevri (georgian clay anforae). Then, along with the Fricks, JF Rietsch, Patrick Meyer, and Bruno Scheuller. From the Grand Cru Vorbourg vineyard, this is Pinot Gris with 12 days of skin contact with no sulfites added. The color is a deep auburn/ruby in the glass, almost reminiscent of a light red. On the palate, it's balanced and clean, with faint tannin, peach fuzz, and subtle red fruit. Eben Lillie
A tasty Cremant d'Alsace, 100% Pinot Blanc, with no sulfites added. It's bright and fresh, but also marked by straw notes and some yeasty overtones. It's a touch funky on the palate but overall very rejuvenating and complex. Eben Lillie