We must admit the obvious fact, this Whit Sunday and Monday, the Holy Spirit has indeed descended on the Route des Vins d’Alsace so we have many languages: we can hear laughter and voices which are not only Alsatian but also Flemish, German, Belgian and Swiss (with all their regional variations) and even, here and there, Anglo-Saxons. Picnic basket or cooler in hand, lovers of our great white wines come from almost everywhere to visit more than 80 families of Vignerons Indépendants of Alsace for an annual appointment you can not miss : the Picnic of Whit Sunday.
An original idea of the Vignerons Indépendants d’Alsace which has made its way throughout France
Born in Alsace in 1995 at the initiative of the Vignerons Indépendants d’Alsace, the “Pique-nique Chez le Vigneron Indépendant®” became more and more popular. Over the years, the Vignerons Indépendants de France movement has extended the event to the national level. This year, 400 domains in 31 departments of all the wine regions of France participated. In Alsace, the « Pique-nique Chez le Vigneron Indépendant® » has become an unmissable event in our region and attracts nearly 20,000 people each year (84 participating estates in 2016).
The date has for a long time been engraved in the virtual marble of my smartphone with strong notifications. Riquewihr on Saturday evening, Orschwiller on Sunday and Dambach-la-Ville on Monday, enough to spend a happy weekend discovering wines and new companions at each new table!
A toast to the 10 years of Domaine Laurence & Philippe Greiner in Riquewihr
What did you say ? A newcomer at the foot of the Schoenenbourg hill? Where the families of winemakers count in centuries of seniority and not in years? No. The novelty is not there. For the Greiner family, they have been winemaker from father to son for several centuries. Philippe took over the family business in 1988. He was member of a winery and he decided in 2005 to make his own wine with his wife Laurence. Their wines come from old vines with moderate yield and located around Riquewihr, a village known for the quality of its wines since the Middle Ages. He evolved towards organic cultivation and biologic wines. Set in the artisanal area of Riquewihr, the estate has a beautiful modern equipment.
Although members of the Vignerons Indépendants, for this Whit Sunday 2016, Laurence and Philippe did not really organize a picnic but a big gathering to celebrate the 10 years of their first vinification: a set of large festive tents shelters a real stage with a real orchestra from Belgium.
Family and friends work hard to cook grilled food or tartes flambées, so that everyone feels well. Just behind the large gate wide open, three generations of Greiner family welcome visitors, neighbors and friends, glass in hand. In order to flesh out the welcome committee, local owners invited wine colleagues from other regions to present their wines: colorful and rich Beaujolais wines, very typical Chablis and fine and elegant wines of Saint-Joseph match with the wines of Riquewihr. And so that the feast of the papillae is complete, the Chèvrerie du Bonheur (the well named!) came from the Sundgau with sublime goat cheeses and other delicacies. This vintage of Whit Sunday 2016 looks definitely promising.
Jean-Yves Fahrer, winemaker and occasional BBQ driver with vine shoots in Orschwiller
Everyone who has traveled the Route des vins d’Alsace between Sélestat and Colmar remembers this majestic church which crowns the village of Orschwiller at the foot of the castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg. But by dint of passing on the road and admiring the landscape you can forget to enter the village itself … And yet, this village is beautiful ! You have to go up the main street straight up. Set in the old house of the bailiff, the Domaine Paul Fahrer awaits you …
When I cross the porch on this Whit Sunday, well after the hour of the end of the Sunday Mass, the Holy Spirit has already largely dispensed his polyglot talents. The court resounds with Germanic and Belgian accents stimulated by the bottles that Jean-Yves generously put at the disposal of his guests of the day.
By the way, where is the master of the house? No trace of him behind the old barrels that serve as a display stand for his wines. Did he join the cheerful tables that valiantly attack the potato salads and other cold meats brought by each? no way. But here is a moving shadow through the fragrant smoke that rises in the middle of the courtyard … Jean-Yves, hidden behind a large homemade barbecue, reactivates vigorously embers of old vines and branches. On a Whit Sunday, when you are a Vigneron Indépendant, it is not enough to be good in the vineyard and in the cellar, you also have to know how to transform yourself into a barbecue driver so that the food is well grilled to accompany the wine of the estate!
A group of Germans from Sarre confessed that they stay in the neighboring village of Saint-Hippolyte. They come to Alsace every year for this picnic at the Vigneron Indépendant and each time, discover a new estate.
The 6 hectares of the estate, mainly old vines around the village on the slopes of Haut-Koenigsbourg, have just been taken over by Jean-Yves, following his father Paul.
Jean-Yves seeks to obtain the ripest possible grapes.
He strives to improve soil life by digging and controlled natural grassing.
Another requirement : limited planting density and use of cow manure or organic fertilizer.
His wines are regularly noticed and awarded. The pinot noir matches particularly well on this terroir and I must admit that I like a lot his bottles of pinot noir and Cremant Blanc de Noirs.
Whit Monday on the steep slope of the Frankstein at Dambach-la-Ville
On monday, let’s go to Dambach-la-Ville, another wine village nestled in its ramparts. The least that we can say is that this weekend will not have been any rest for Mathilde and Florian Beck-Hartweg! Hardly returned from the Salon des Vins libres (natural wine) in Strasbourg, the young couple of winegrowers moved on to the picnic of Whit Monday, well supported by their parents who have remained very active. The weather being threatening, the tables were put under shelter but the sun king finally shows itself rather clement.
A glass of a nice Auxerrois Vielles Vignes is served as an aperitif and precedes the other wines of the estate during the meal.
After lunch and the rain, the most courageous ones head for the hills under the guidance of Yvette, Florian’s mother. Yvette took over the vineyards of her parents in 1982. Her first concerns were the search for the production of well-concentrated wines and the health of the soil. She has been one of the first in the region to maintain grass in the vines, since 1982 ! With her husband Michel, she initiated the conversion of the estate to organic cultivation with the total abandonment of the use of chemicals since 2008 and AB certified grapes since the 2011 vintage … Florian pushes the envelope further: some wines are now produced without sulphites and without filtration.
Our small group advances along the path of the vineyard with Yvette who knows her subject by heart. From vine to branch, she teaches us the basics of vineyard life. And especially her own way to drive the vine. I am not a technician but I remember that for three decades Yvette has taken the time to observe and understand nature and make it a friend. Understanding and working the soil to avoid ravines and to make the granitic terroir express through the wines. And so that the vegetation surrounding the vine brings its assistance to the maturation of the grape. Search for natural allies like ladybirds and birds in the fight against parasites … Thanks to this meticulous accompanying work, one day, in the autumn, the vine will give beautiful clusters of grapes full of sun but also flavors coming from the Granite depths of the Frankstein, the Grand Cru of Dambach-la-Ville. It will be necessary to come back here during the harvest. And in winter too …
Contacts & Info
Domaine Laurence & Philippe Greiner
16 Rue des Prés, 68340 Riquewihr, Alsace, France – Tél. +33 3 89 86 04 68
Domaine Paul Fahrer
3 Place de la Mairie, 67600 Orschwiller, Alsace, France – Tél. +33 3 88 92 86 57
Domaine Florian & Mathilde Beck-Hartweg
5 rue Clémenceau, 67650 Dambach-la-Ville, Alsace, France – Tél. +33 3 88 92 40 20
Syndicat des Vignerons Indépendants d’Alsace
16, rue Jean Mermoz – BP 41541, 68015 – COLMAR CEDEX