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An Alsatian Delight

VinExpo week in Bordeaux last month was filled with parties and tastings of hundreds of wines. At the 12th Tour de France dinner at Domaine de Chevalier, where nine producers showed off their best wines, this bright, deliciously intense 2008 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling “Brand,” reminded me how stunning the top wines from Alsace can be.

Yes, this wine is very expensive, but it’s a collectible that will age and age. I sipped it with freshly shucked oysters and a half dozen other hors d’oeuvres, impressed by its layers of powerful fruit, elegant acidity and extraordinary finesse.

Zind-Humbrecht is one of the region’s legendary family estates, farmed biodynamically by Olivier Humbrecht, one of the few winemakers to obtain Master of Wine status and, surprisingly, a serious collector of single malts.

Alsace is a region with very distinct terroirs, a range of wine varietals and styles, and ongoing controversies. Several large wineries oppose the grand cru classification of 51 vineyards created in 1984. Zind-Humbrecht does not, and Brand, a 2.4-hectare (nearly six-acre) parcel in Turckheim, is one of four the family owns. Only riesling is planted there, and only grapes from vines over 30 years old go into the grand cru.

Alsace rieslings can be dry to fairly sweet, which makes it difficult for people to know what to expect when they buy a bottle. Zind-Humbrecht helpfully uses a 1 to 5 index on labels to indicate the wine’s sweetness level. The 2008 Brand is 1, drier tasting than most vintages. Cool days in August and September helped to give it a fresh, tangy acidity, fine balance and a rich, complex ripely fruity taste, with underlying minerality and a salty finish. Like all Zind-Humbrecht’s wines, it seems to possess a real sense of place.

It’s delicious drinking now, though it will last 20 years or more. Think of this as a great splurge wine. It won’t disappoint.

Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”