Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Zind, Vin de France, 2018 | Alsace, France

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – September 14, 2020

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht’s ‘Zind’ is a varietal blend of Auxerrois and Chardonnay in Alsace labeled as “Vin de France” as the AOC Alsace only allows Chardonnay to be vinified as sparkling wine in the appellation (Crémant d’Alsace).

The history of the creation of this unusual wine from Alsace goes back to the late ‘80s when Vincent Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet visited his friend Léonard Humbrecht at the winery in Alsace. Léonard took him to the site of the monopole vineyard “Clos Windsbuhl” that was ready to be replanted. At the first sight of the vineyard, Vincent Leflaive told him that, because of the marl-limestone soil (locally known as muschelkalk), in Burgundy, they would not hesitate to plant Chardonnay. And so in 2001, the first ‘Zind’ was produced.

‘Vin de France’ replaced the outdated ‘Vin de Table’ category in 2010 but remains the most basic quality tier for French wine. This is the least regulated of the three categories, the other two being AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and Vin de Pays, often translated as ‘country wine.’ Its Europe-wide equivalent is IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée).

‘Vin de France’ wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere in France, but their labels do not mention a specific region of origin (at least not on the front label). The category has been embraced by numerous wine makers from France because it liberates them from certain appellation laws and allows them to be creative. There are fewer rules to follow, less yield control, more grape varietals to choose from and no minimum aging of the wines before release. Most importantly, it allows grape growers to have a more proactive approach to climate change and plant more terroir-appropriate grape varietals while waiting for the local and regional institutions to act on climate change and approve new varietals.

Origin: Alsace, France
Varietals: 30% Auxerrois, 70% Chardonnay
Sustainability: Certified biodynamic
Suggested retail price: $35.00
ABV: 12.7%

‘Zind’ is made from grapes coming from 29-year-old vines, hand-harvested and treated with the same level of care and attention that is given to their Grand Cru wines. The altitude of the vineyard coupled with the town of Hunawihr’s cooler climate means that the Clos Windsbuhl is often one of the last estate vineyards to be harvested. This explains the aromatic quality of the Clos’ wines and the consistent balance of acidity, a guarantee of good aging. Zind-Humbrecht’s dedication to terroir expression guides all winemaking practices, which include extended pressing cycles, abbreviated clarification cycles (to retain natural yeasts and proteins in the must), natural malolactic fermentation and extended aging on the lees. The wine is aged eight months in 40-year-old French barrels.

The wine has a clear pale yellow color. The nose shows aromas of flint, mineral, lemon, pear and white grapefruit. The taste brings the same flavors with an added sapid texture. The finish is long and mouthwatering with good balance and acidity, showing a sense of terroir and energy. This wine improves with decanting and should be able to age another five to ten years.

Suggested food pairings: sushi, salads, fish, crustaceans, white meat or pasta in cream-based sauce, hard cheeses.

> For more information, visit the Zind-Humbrecht official website.