Aging Jean’s wines is like making origami – the young wines are stark and beautiful, like a perfect square of paper. With each year, each fold, the flavours seem less extravagant, the acidity less obvious and intense, as if the wine was turning in on itself. These changes can be sharply geometric, and not always clearly for the better. The wines can become reserved, perplexing, and with no possibility of a happy resolution, especially with the Rieslings from the Grand Cru sites. Then, just as inexplicably, a flower or butterfly becomes apparent; a previously flat piece of paper now fills a third dimension. The wines still show their origins (terroir, vintage), but with additional presence and complexity.
Jean achieves this hypnotic effect through honest, hard work – organic viticulture (not certified), manual, late harvesting, according to his instinct, no yeast additions, and letting each wine find its own equilibrium (the wines are often not completely dry). He adds a small dose of sulfur at bottling, given the risk of refermentation from the residual sugar, and the wines inevitably sell out before the next vintage.
The family has held land around the village of Niedermorschwihr since 1673, including the two Grand Cru sites of Sommerberg and Brand. Jean (and his father Jean-Marc before him) believes in maintaining the distinction between the subplots within each of the Grand Cru vineyards, and typically bottle 2-4 different lots of Riesling from each site. The qaulity of the other noble varietals (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat) is always outstanding, although what is truly remarkable is Jean’s dedication in fashioning sui generis Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, both varieties which are often condemned to bit-parts in a winery’s range. In suitable vintages, there are often several VT (Vendanges Tardives, or late harvest) bottlings from the Grand Cru sites; riper, dessert-styled SGNs (Selections Grains Nobles) are relatively rare at this domaine. Last but not least, the Pinot Noir is usually suave and supple, worthy of a few years’ cellaring.