Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hugel et Fils Wines and the Cuisine des Emotions de Jean Luc Brendel at Riquewihr in Alsace, France

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller in front of the Hugel and Fils Estate in Riquewihr


Riquewihr is a very touristy, but amazing village south of Strasbourg in the Vosges. Its layout and structure have not changed since the Middle Age. It is fascinating to look at these old houses built in the XVI ème and XVIIéme siècles, their courtyards, their galleries, the old wells, the fountains. Every piece of architecture is miraculously preserved. If today's Riquewihr resembles so much the Middle Age town it is also because life has not changed much either; life in Riquewihr continue to revolve around wine making and drinking. Wine is everywhere and everything in Riquewihr.

Hugel et Fils

Hugel et Fils in Riquewihr and F. E. Trimbach in Ribeauville are probably the best-known producers of Alsatian wines in the US. Hugel wines are perhaps softer and more accessible to newcomers to Alsatian wines; Trimbach wines are more austere. The Hugel family can be traced back to the XVth century. Some two centuries later, Hans Ulrich Hugel settled in Riquewihr, which had been devastated by the 30 Years War. In 1672 his son built a fine house in the Rue des Cordiers, and over the doorway was carved the family crest which was the origin of the company’s logo still used today.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Oscar in the vineyards of Riquewihr

The Hugel et Fils wine portfolio

It is not uncommon for a producer like Hugel et Fils to make wines from many vineyards. It may own or lease some of them entirely or make wine from grapes purchased from winegrowers under long-term contract. Accordingl, Huegel et Fils have three principal wine lines: (i) Hugel Maison: Wines made from grapes purchased from winegrowers under long-term contract, in a dozen of vineyards around Riquewihr. (ii) Hugel Tradition: Wines are also made from grapes purchased, but with a stricter selection of grapes. (iii) Hugel Jubilee: These wines come exclusively from the vineyards in the "Hugel" estates, and are made in only the very best vintages.

La Cuisine d’emotion of Jean Luc Brendel

Picture: Annette and Christian G.E.Schiller with Fabienne Brendel, Sommeliere and Maitresse d'Hotel

We had dinner at the restaurant of Jean Luc Brendel. He calls himself a Cuisinier d’emotion and the food and the setting at his La Table du Gourmet in Riquewihr is indeed very emotional. Red is the dominating colour in the dining room.It is a one star Michelin restaurant. While Jean Luc Brendel is the magician in the kitchen, Fabienne Brendel, his sister is the sommeliere and maitresse in the dining room. We had the menu d’hiver for Euro 66 and were taken away by the food, which was out of this world and a very emotional experience.

Turning to the wines, we started with the house sparkler, a Cremant d’Alcase from Paul Blank and finished off with a Cote de Marmandais, a wine region south of Bordeaux, not very well known in the US. The main wines accompanying the dinner were 3 Hugel et Fils wines. All the sparkling and still wines were in the Euro 30 to 40 price category.

Tasting notes

Alsace produces many good still and sparkling, red and white wines, but above all it is highly appreciated for its unoaked, dry and crisp world class white wines. They tend to be different from those in the other parts of France: Higher in acidity, sometimes really sour, but always a pleasant experience to have them in the glass. Compared with Germany, which also is famous for its world class dry wines, Alsace wines tend to be drier, more full-bodied and higher in alcohol.

2005 Muscat Maison

Muscat is often used to produce sweet wines in France, but the Alsace version is bone-dry, this one was from theHugel et Fils Maison line, generous bouquet with lots of litchi and aloe vera, on the palate refreshingly dry and easy to drink, with a perfumed, spicy finish.

2005 Pinot Gris Tradition

A Pinot Gris from the Tradition line, straw-yellow in the glass, we smell honeysuckle, roses and ripe apricots, on the palate the wine shows a nicely balanced intermezzo of sweetness and acidity, the finish is long with a delightful touch of nutmeg.

Picture: The Schiller family at La Table du Gourmet of Jean Luc Brendel

2006 Pinot Noir Maison

Again from the Maison line. Alsace is not a red wine region, but does have a little red wine made from the Burgundy grape, Pinot Noir. The Alsatian red wines tend to be quite lightweight, but can be delicious and interesting.

Light ruby red, vanilla and strawberry tones on the nose, hint of cloves, quite acidic on the palate, light bodied with little fruit, a great red wine for a white wine lovers.

Schiller Wine - Related Posting

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In the world class white wine region Alsace

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr Schiller,

    An excellent post as usual - I had the pleasure of a visit to Hugel and Riquewihr recently and it is indeed as lovely as you describe, albeit sometimes too hectic with the tourist traffic.

    Just a note on the range of wines. In the course of writing an article on Hugel in January, I was informed that the Tradition range is nowadays made only from fruit grown on the Hugel estates. Purchased fruit is used only for the entry-level Classic / Maison range.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    Best wishes,