The Alsace Vintage Years

Year 1997

A historic vintage year

The climate

A bright and hot spring which wasn’t able to compensate the damages caused by the winter, but worse still, the spring frost, with irregular budding and problems with coulure which often appeared for several grape varieties, notably Gewurztraminer.

The flowering happened around June 10, about fifteen days ahead of time. The relatively damp weather of June and July made everything drop behind and was partially gained thanks to the warm and sunny weather during August.

The harvest

The quality of this vintage year remained conditioned by the September weather conditions. Its record sunshine was able to sweep aside any worries regarding the harvest vine-health which was excellent this year with some outbreaks of deterioration here and there in early-ripening or hail-damaged areas which were quickly slowed down due to seasonal chilly nights and the remarkably warm and dry weather during the day.

The amount of sunshine measured by the Colmar France Weather Station for the month of September was 253 hours For comparison sake, this time was limited to 159 hours in 1989, a memorable year!

The water reserves accumulated during the summer actually turned out to be beneficial faced with this radiant late autumn weather.

At harvest time, and thanks to the exceptional weather conditions, all the grape varieties boasted record ripeness, superior even to that registered in 1989, as well as some great sugar/acidity balances.

The beginning of the harvest was set for September 18 for the AOC Crémant d’Alsace grapes, and October 1 for the AOC Alsace and Alsace Grand Crus for all their assorted grape varieties.

This vintage year will be a memorable one for Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles with a never-before reached production volume since the official recognitions of these indications.

The harvest volume reached 1,204,000 hl, including all the appellations, making a fairly average number compared to the past five years.

The wines

The first wine-tasting confirmed the excellent quality of the 1997 vintage year: Sylvaner is supple, elegant. Pinot Blanc and Tokay Pinot Gris are rich, full of substance and sometimes with over-ripeness qualities. Riesling has a great aromatic floral finesse associated with a great acid content. Gewurztraminer is well-rounded, charming and full of ripeness with typical aromas of exotic fruits. Pinot Noir has lots of colour with fantastically well-rounded and ripe tannins.

CIVA : Interprofessional Committee of Alsace Wines
February 1998

Tasting notes

Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 1997 - Zind-Humbrecht

The Clos Windsbuhl is a fresh terroir located up above Hunawihr, where Riesling is planted at nearly 400m in altitude A fairly dark yellow hue with a beautiful glow. The nose is fragrant with notes of butter and white fruits. The palate is dry and dense with a harmonious acidity and a lot of fat. A wine made from a very ripe harvest which is actually very balanced and which ages wonderfully. (Last tasted in October, 2004)

Grand Cru Goldert Gewurztraminer Clos Saint Imer Vendanges Tardives 1997 - Ernest Burn

A very successful cuvée with aromas of honey, flowers and yellow fruit, giving a spicier touch when opened. The palate is unctuous and smooth when it hits the mouth with a purified sweetness and strong concentration. Another cuvée marked by sweetness, forecast to have long keeping potential. (Last tasted in December, 2005)

Strongly contrasting with 1996, the very hot 1997 vintage year produced wonderfully delicious Gewurztraminer which perfectly evolves with age. The Riesling production had to tackle with the eternal debate as to the harvest date and it was necessary to focus on the freshest terroirs to find balances appropriate for keeping potential. The weak presence of rot in the Vendanges Tardives produced dessert wines with sometimes very rapid evolution if the best Sélection de Grains Nobles is excluded.

Thierry MEYER
Wine Instructor, Founder of L’Oenothèque Alsace (independent wine resource centre

The Alsace Vintage Years

There are never two harvests which are alike! Each year, the different climatic conditions impose a natural framework which wine-makers learn to manage. The vintage year transmits these variations into the wine quality perception. It furthermore provides indications for how long it should age once bottled.

Review the last 20 vintage years and those which have entered into the legend of great wines: