Zind-Humbrecht's sole V.T. bottling of the vintage, a 2009 Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Vendange Tardive, has an S.G.N. sibling that Humbrecht suspects won't even finish fermenting before the 2011 harvest. Quince and Rainier cherry preserves; rose petal; and heady gardenia perfume on the nose all reprise on a silken palate laced with a remarkable measure of sheer juiciness that helps the finish to linger lusciously and come off as much less confectionary than that of the corresponding "regular" bottling. What's more, a mouthwateringly savory, saline sense of lobster shell reduction adds irresistible allure and perfectly complements the wine's confitured and liquidly floral elements. At 12.5% alcohol and 98 grams of residual sugar, this is predictably buoyant yet not at all superficially sweet. Look for at least a quarter century of self-indulgence from bottles of this amazing elixir.
The surprise on tasting the Zind-Humbrecht 2009s is an entirely pleasant one. The exceptional expressiveness of so many of these wines – even if Olivier Humbrecht admits that "they aren't always perfectly precise or pure" – is surely in large part a tribute to vineyard management that permitted such a substantial portion of so large a crop to be picked unusually early, yet expressively ripe, although, a few sites succumbed to fortunately noble rot. Among practices to which Humbrecht points as relevant to his 2009 quality is his elimination in recent years of vine hedging to achieve earlier and more uniform flavor ripeness without excess grape sugar. Instead, his crew now lets the tips grow and then laboriously ties or tucks them back into the canopy, an approach for which fellow-proponent of biodynamics Lalou Bize-Leroy has become well-known. Against a background in vintage 2009 of wines that fermented rapidly for most growers, Humbrecht explains that this was the case for many of his, too; but some that had stopped with significant residual sugar over the winter began fermenting again in early summer of last year, a few not finishing until autumn and thus missing the main bottling session that takes place here each September. When I visited the domaine last November, Riesling Windsbuhl; multiple Rieslings from Turckheim including two Brands; and the Jebsal Pinot Gris S.G.N. were not ready to be assessed. Those who (like me) have harbored reservations about noticeably high alcohol in certain recent Zind-Humbrecht wines will be delighted to find 2009s that have in that respect also beaten the vintage odds, though to be sure, sometimes at the price of high residual sugar. With minor exceptions, retail prices have dropped for Zind-Humbrecht wines, in some instances significantly. Add to this an expanded range of generic cuvees and the Humbrechts' willingness to declassify fruit from many outstanding sites (which helps account for the 2009 collection's – relatively! – reduced number of bottlings), and most consumers can afford to enjoy – indeed, really have no excuse for remaining strangers to – at least some of these much-talked about and often iconic wines.
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