Tectonic faults and underwater volcanoes, 70 million years at work. They tore open the Upper Rhine Graben, separated the Vosges from the Black Forest, and lowered the Rhine by several kilometres. Alsace, on the west side of the rift valley, was for thousands of years a conflict line and meeting zone, where - like tectonics - currents of Latin and Germanic culture interwove and discharged on each other.
The Rangen (as in HIGHLY) has survived it all. First mentioned and praised in the 12th century, its wines are among the most extraordinary in France. The signature of this vineyard is strong and unusual. With their smoky flint and notes of dark earth, they take you off guard.
The eminent Rangenkopf rises 600 metres above the Thur river at the southern end of the Alsace appellation. From the plateau, you get a spectacular view of the Vosges, the Black Forest and Switzerland in the distance. In the middle of the Rangenkopf, at about 300 meters above sea level, lies the grand cru Rangen de Than. The only true volcanic terroir in Alsace. 50 centimetres of earth on bare, cracked rock. Poor in clay and organic material; rich in tuff, andesites and volcanic sediment. As a result, the wines of the Rangen show by far the highest mineral content of all surrounding vineyards. They also differ significantly sensory: much weight and concentration, smokiness, salt and vibration.
Original, assertive wines.
Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann GC 2015: Already infallibly Rangen on the nose: smoky, smoky minerality. Streams of ground black volcanic rock, interwoven with silky apricot threads. Everything on the palate: sweetness, acidity, fruit, salt and bitterness. Not bone dry, as we have become accustomed to from German great Rieslings. Instead, with that spark of hedonism more. Just Alsace.
This wine is almost too much. Not a good selling point, because you automatically pause, slow down, trace. At the end of its journey along the palate, the individual components merge into a beautiful, pulsating nuclear fusion with a high-density centre and vibrating edges. Infinite finale. A finish that one fears to desecrate with another sip - let alone, oh sacrilege, with a dish. A wine that shook me awake and reminded me why wine defines my life, why I have chosen to make wine the guiding light of my life. How can it possibly be? How can human hands create such a masterpiece of fluid aesthetics from fermented grape juice?
Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann GC 2011Resting in itself, clearly more baroque, fuller, also a little sweeter. More classic Alsace. This one calls for food: Give me a terrine, a slice of cheese. Grill me a pork chop with spicy salsa. But at least an oyster. Still very young. Forest honey, thyme, tamari on the palate. The beloved smokiness of the Rangen we know well by now, and lemon parfait on the nose. Lasting and very, very nice, this one too.
Both an enrichment and great wines that you have to have tried. The 2015 is one of the ten most beautiful wines of my life.