The Alsace Vintage Years

Year 1999

A satisfactory vintage year both in quality and quantity

The climate

The winter and spring weather conditions were good overall despite fairly heavy rains. The budding took place around April 13, the flowering around June 17 and the veraison around August 16. The vine growth cycle didn’t encounter any specific problems even if mildew attacks were frequently recorded but were easily controlled using traditional treatments.

Just before the harvest began, the wine-growing region enjoyed a beautifully intense sunny period of three weeks with high temperatures which allowed the grapes to fine-tune their ripeness.

This year will go down in history as the new AOC Alsace production rules came into effect. As, by wanting to increase wine quality, the producers decided to define the yield limits for each grape variety and no longer use the overall estate scale. This yield management was one of the key success factors of this vintage year.

The harvest

If the grapes were in good health, the ripeness revealed somewhat more disparities depending on the varieties and the sectors.

The harvest began:

  • September 20 for the Crémant d’Alsace appellation
  • October 4 for the Alsace appellation
  • October 7 for the Alsace Grand Cru appellation
  • October 18 for the Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles indications.

The capricious weather during the month of October made room for a beautiful late autumn which allowed the wine-growers to pick over 21,000 hl in Vendanges Tardives and in Sélections de Grains Nobles.

The overall harvest volume is about 1,228,000 hl, up from 1.4% compared to last year. And staying along the same lines, the production of Crémant d’Alsace beat a new record, encouraged by the perspectives of sharp sale increases.

The wines

This vintage year was particularly successful for Sylvaner. Pinot Blanc made it possible to produce some excellent Crémant d’Alsace. In the Grands Crus, Riesling especially well reflects the terroir. Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer were often very aromatic and typical of their grape variety. Pinot Noir is full-bodied and very colourful.

CIVA: Interprofessional Committee of Alsace Wines
March 2000

Tasting notes

Pinot Noir Rouge d’Alsace Réserve 1999 – Léon Beyer

The nose is open, intense, spicy with a smoky note. The palate is dense, tangy and fresh with slightly-smooth tannins. A fairly severe style with discreet fruitiness but which has great keeping potential and will be perfectly delicious after fifteen years of ageing. (Last tasted in March, 2015)

Riesling Cuvée Ernest Sélection de Grains Nobles 1999 - Domaines Schlumberger

With only 800 bottles produced using the Kitterlé grapes, it’s a rare estate cuvée as the previous ones were only produced in 1945 and 1971 and the following in 2007 and 2009! A roasted, mineral and complex nose with hints of candied citrus fruits and honey. On the palate the terroir totally dominates the sugar to the extent that one has the impression of a rich wine without excessive sweetness. But it really is the tension between the aromas of candied lemons, very fine liqueur (90g/l of residual sugar) and the discreet acidity which holds it all together. A balanced wine definitely having great keeping potential. (Last tasted in December, 2013)

A rather unsung vintage year which was certainly eclipsed by the infamous 2000 year. The assortment of grape ripeness produced incredibly varied cuvées, some of which to be consumed rather quickly, and others to be carefully placed in cellars. Fifteen years later, the vintage year has become a classic for Riesling from great terroirs, but also for the best Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. The few Vendanges Tardives and especially the Sélections de Grains Nobles produced during that year, have quite a remarkable keeping potential.

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: