21 Mar The art of Alsace wine: Marc Kreydenweiss
A wine label is a visual expression of the wine in the bottle. Nowhere is this belief held more firmly than at biodynamic wine producer Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss, in the Alsace region of France, on the border with Germany.
The family have been making wine in the town of Andlau for three centuries. In 1989 they turned biodynamic and in 2007 Marc Kreydenweiss handed over the reins of the domaine, with 3 Grands Crus and 13.5 hectares of vineyards, to his son Antoine. At the time, Antoine was just 26 years old.
Marc, meanwhile, headed south, to repeat his success in the Rhone valley, southeast of Nîmes. Here they have 16ha of vineyard on a plateau with Galet stones, and a clay and limestone subsoil, with conditions similar to those in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But that’s another story.
Art & wine at Kreydenweiss
Wine labels should not be important, but they are. It’s about the multi-sensorial experience of wine culture, as well as the power of wine labels to evoke the emotions of anticipation and excitement. Since 1984, each year Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss invites an artist to open up their inspiration by tasting the wine of that particular vintage to create the labels for that year.
The artist for the 2015 vintage was Michel Tolmer, the name behind the ‘winetoon’ characters of Mimi, Fifi & Gouglou; for 2014, it was Julien Kuntz, an ‘anthropographist’, and also used by Catherine Riss for her labels; in 2013, Japanese artist Yoshihisa Sankawa; and in 2007, Anne-Sophie Tschiegg, famous for her flowers and semi-abstract landscapes.
During my 3-day wine trip with Clos Driver Wine Tours, we tasted all four vintages, as below. While on the walls was an exhibition by Julien Kuntz of the 2014 vintage, with his humorously arousing illustrations.
The Domain’s 3 Grands Crus (vineyards officially classified as producing high-quality wines) are:
- Wiebelsberg – a Riesling, with vineyards on an area of land with the pink sandstone of the Vosges,
- Kastelberg – a Riesling on a black schist soil unique to Alsace and on a vertiginous slope at the top of Andlau.
- Moenchberg – a Pinot Gris on marl and sandstone from glacial deposits, and an area of land where wines have been grown since the 11th century.
And then there is the Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr – a Pinot Noir on marl and limestone, replanted in 2012, and worked by the family’s horse, Sam.
The art of tasting wine
I don’t usually write about spittoons, but I truly fell in love with the spittoons at Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss, as below. The wines were stylish, so it made sense for them to be complemented by stylish earthenware.
I used to think spitting out wine was a terrible waste… especially if it was a Grand Cru. Once I got the habit, I realised that it’s about having the full ‘introverted’ wine experience in your mouth. Drinking a glass of wine different – that’s about sharing a good wine with others.
My secret to not being a ‘wine wanker’ – aka a person who makes a fool of themselves while tasting wine, as I have heard described in an Australian video clip – is, step 1, to pretend that I’m sucking up a strand of spaghetti while imagining the flow of air passing over the wine, and, Step 2, to focus on the sensations of swilling the wine around my mouth.
A magical place
Marc Kreydenweiss is a magical place. The entrance is in the centre of the town, opposite Andlau Abbey, founded in the 9th century. We walked round the back of the Domaine and down the stairs to the cellar, along the banks of the river Andlau, all to the sounds of the gushing water and church bells. It was mesmerising.
The vineyards around Andlau
Afterwards, we walked through the vineyards of the Andlau valley, with the ruins of the 12th-century Chateau d’Andlau above us.
These chateaux are castles rather than chateaux. Alsace is a land of castles, wedged into the foothills of the Vosges, with views across the Plain of Alsace and the Black Forest in Germany on the other side of the Rhine.
In medieval days the castles offered protection from invaders – whether from Strasbourg or Sweden. They also helped to protect the trade routes of wine, wheat, silver and salt.
The most famous is Haut-Koenigsbourg, destroyed by the Swedes in the 17th century and then rebuilt by Kaiser Wilhelm II before the First World War, when Alsace was part of Germany.
I was too busy slotting in as many wine bottles as possible into my camera case, alongside the tripods and lighting stands, to be visiting castles, but they were so beautiful from afar.
You can find the full itinerary of my Alsace wine tour with Clos Driver Wine Tours on my post about Strasbourg.
For my other posts o Alsace:
- Style & Sensitivity: Weinbach
- Natural Wine: Kumpf et Meyer & Catherine Riss
- Villages, Storks & Michelin Stars: Le Bistro des Saveurs
- Hitting 64º in winter: Hotel Chambard in Alsace
- The Steady Roll of the Deiss Family in Alsace
- Fun & Frolicking at Jour de Fete: Strasbourg
- Famille Hugel: 13 Generations of Wine in Riquewihr