Tasting Reviews

Hugel et Fils becomes Famille Hugel

One of the most recognised of Alsace producers, Hugel et Fils, based in Riquewihr, has been undergoing subtle changes that have brought it into the modern world to continue growing its clientele. The Hugel family refer to the company as Famille Hugel in recognition of 13 generations of winemaking since its founding in 1639. It is an extended family business and in each generation there have been tireless Hugel ambassadors who not only promote the business but the wines of Alsace in general. It was a sad time last year when the globe trotting Etienne Hugel passed away suddenly at the age of 57.

Marc Andre Hugel - Famille Hugel

In New Zealand for the second time was Marc Andre Hugel of the current generation, promoting his families wines in the manner of his uncle Etienne. Marc first came to New Zealand for vintage with Seifried Estate, adding experience to his winemaking training. Marc Andre described the branding changes, with the wines starting with the ubiquitous ‘Gentil’ which accounts for 40% of the Hugel production, moving to the ‘Classic’ range of varietals, then to the ‘Grossi Laue’ (grand cru) which replaces the ’Jubilee’ tier, coming to ‘single vineyard’ bottlings. This is in a period of transition and the market will still see the ’Jubilee’ range around until it is phased out. The specialty Vendanges Tardives and Selection de Grains Nobles sweeter wines remain. These changes also signal a recognition of the grand cru vineyard sites in the public acknowledgement of them in the make-up of their best wines. Hugel has long-owned vines in grand crus sites but was, and still is opposed to the near uncontrolled inclusion of many vineyards into grand cru status when they were undeserving.

The evolution of the company can be seen in half of their 30 ha of estate vineyards being farmed organically. To make the 110,000 cases of wine annually, they also employ fruit from 100 ha of contracted vineyard. Evolution can also be seen in detail, and the wines have been using DIAM closures for all of their wines since 2009. What has not changed is the uncompromising dry style of the core of the wines, this being traditional for as long as memory serves. The increase of sweeter Alsace wines has come on only in the last three decades, initiated by improved ripeness through viticultural advancement facilitating wines with residual sugar. Famille Hugel of course have adopted the better techniques in vineyard and winery, incorporating them with time proven traditional ways, and the Hugel style staunchly remains faithful to what many see as the core of Alsace style. www.hugel.com

Tasting a Selection of Hugel Wines
Marc Andre took the attendees through a small selection of wines demonstrating both the tradition in style and changes in labelling, the wines chosen to give a taste of the accessibility and complexity of the different ranges and bottles made by his family. The tasting was held at WBC (Wellington Boot Company), and a number of small plates were served after the tasting (which I did not partake in, but can report are usually excellent). Here are my notes on the wines, in the order as served.

Hugel ‘Gentil’ Alsace 2015 
Pale straw-yellow colour. The nose is softly up-front and gentle with subtly intricate aromatics, showing white and yellow stonefruits with yellow florals and lifted spice nuances. A little honeysuckle emerges as the nose grows in volume with aeration. Dryish to taste and medium-bodied, the palate is soft and rounded in an easy proportion with an array of softly presented aromatic fruits, along with stonefruits, florals and honied elements. The wine flows smoothly with integrated acidity, to a light finish. This is true to its name and indeed an approachable, gentle, softly aromatic wine without distinctive definition. An anytime wine. 50% Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, 22% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewurztraminer, 7% Riesling and 6% Muscat, vines 25 y.o., fermented to 13.0% alc. and 4.5 g/L RS. 16.5+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $31.95

Hugel ‘Classic’ Alsace Riesling 2014 
Very pale straw colour, lighter on the edge. The nose is very fresh and initially light with tightly bound aromas of delicate floral and citrus fruits overlaid by some SO2 and wet-stone, mouthwatering minerality. The fruit emerges with aeration. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the fruit is light in expression, quite tightly bound with flavours of limes, mineral and a little toastiness, along with SO2 elements. The mouthfeel is fresh and crisp with zesty acidity and a fine phenolic line provides linearity. The wine carries to a thirst-quenching minerally finish. A Riesling crafted for easy varietal expression that will grow in the bottle. 100% Riesling from the Riquewihr district, vines 22 y.o., fermented to 12.7% alc. and 3.7 g/L RS. 17.0+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $37.95

Hugel ‘Grosse Laue’ Alsace Riesling 2011 
Straw-yellow colour with some depth. This is very elegantly concentrated on bouquet with finesse of presentation and exceptional penetrating intensity, showing lime fruit with complex, toasty secondary development and some subtle honied notes adding richness. Dry to taste and fullish bodied, the palate has deeply concentrated flavours of limes, toast and honey forming a solid, rounded core with plenty of body and presence. The wine is carried by underlying power, and balance by a fine cutting thread of acidity. Fine phenolic textures provide linearity and the wine carries to a very long, lingering, dry finish with toasty complexity and suggestions of kerosene. This is a wine of power, now showing the development of secondary toasty complexities. 100% Riesling from four plots in the ‘Schoenenbourg’ grand cru site, vines 30 y.o., fermented to 14.4% alc. and 3.7 g/L RS, TA 6.2 g/L and pH 3.3. 18.5/20 Apr 2017 RRP $132.95

Hugel ‘Schoelhammer’ Alsace Riesling 2008 
Bright straw-yellow colour with slight golden hues at the heart. The bouquet is softly packed with real density of complex secondary and tertiary development aromas, showing rich, savoury citrus fruit entwined with toasty and waxy notes and definite petroleum elements. Dry to taste and medium-full bodied, this has great fruit weight, extraction and presence with complex toasty and kerosene flavours, and mineral undertones, on a crisp and zesty palate. The mouthfeel is slippery and mouthwatering combining richness and cut. This has plenty of liveliness and tension, the wine flowing along a very fine textured line, leading to a refined, stylishly restrained finish. This is approaching maturity, but will continue to develop for many years. 100% Riesling from the 0.63 ha ‘Schoelhammer’ site in the ‘Schoenenbourg’ grand cru, vines 23 y.o., fermented to 12.35% alc. and 2.7 g/L RS, TA 7.85 g/L and pH 3.03. 2,534 bottles made. 19.0-/20 Apr 2017 RRP $204.95

Hugel ‘Classic’ Alsace Pinot Gris 2014 
Bright, light golden straw-yellow colour. The nose has volume and depth, showing aromas of yellow stonefruits and honeysuckle, opening in volume and depth. Dryish to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate possesses fruit weight and extract, with flavours of yellow stonefruits, pears, hints of exotic tropical fruits and honey. The palate is rounded and soft-textured, and the flavours recede as the wine flows. There is good underlying power and drive carrying to a sustained, vinous finish. This has typical weight and presence. 100% Pinot Gris, from the Riquewihr district, predominantly estate fruit, vines 25 y.o., fermented to 13.0% alc. and 6.9 g/L RS. 17.5-/20 Apr 2017 RRP $41.95

Hugel ‘Classic’ Alsace Gewurztraminer 2013 
Bright straw-yellow colour, a little paler on rim. The nose is elegantly concentrated with well-packed aromas of rose-petal florals, Turkish Delight and musk, along with honied undertones, root ginger and a little SO2. Medium-dry to taste and fullish-bodied, the flavours are initially shy, with a mineral overlay along with tightly bound flavours of exotic florals, Turkish Delight and musk. The acidity is gentle, but refreshinf and the wine flows a light, textural line. Some secondary savoury musk notes emerge and carry to an elegant, dry, lingering finish. This is still tightly bound, but showing savoury secondary hints. 100% Gewurztraminer, some of the fruit from the ‘Sporen’ grand cru, vines 30 y.o., with the inclusion of 10% botrytised grapes, fermented to 13.18% alc. and 10.2 g/L RS. 17.0+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $42.95

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