The Alsace Vintage Years

Year 2011

Quaffable and fruity wines

The Climate

For this vintage year the vineyard was constantly swayed between extreme temperatures: rigour in winter (‐20°C on December 26, 2010!), mild and could almost be described at hot temperatures in the spring, drought followed by heavy rains during the summer.

The budding took place at the beginning of the month of April, about two weeks ahead of time compared to a normal year. The dry, sunny and very hot weather also accelerated the flowering which occurred around end of May, about 2 to 3 weeks ahead of time. The excellent weather conditions which accompanied the flowering provided beautiful fruit-setting with oftentimes generous grape bunches while neutralising the risks of cryptogamic diseases. The beginning of summer was damper and fresher had no real effect on the advanced vegetation and offset a large part of the water deficiency. The beautiful weather returned as of August 15.

The harvest

The opening dates were as followed:

  • August 25, 2011 for the AOC Crémant d’Alsace.
  • September 7 and 12 for AOC Alsace, depending on the grape variety.
  • For AOC Alsace Grands Crus, September 7 for Pinot Gris, for the lieux-dits (unless otherwise requested by certain Local Management), and September 12 for the other grape varieties.
  • For the Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles indications, September 21 for Pinot Gris and September 26 for the 3 other grape varieties.

The harvest occurred under the best auspices. The rare outbreaks of rot were dried by the wind and a good concentration evolution was noticed. Besides the usually-early sectors which required quick harvesting, the professionals knew how to wait in order to best manage the grape ripeness and health. In mid-September, Alsace was lucky to have a real Indian summer! If there were no specific problems for the vinification, it should be noted that it was necessary to sometimes sort through the harvest and it was especially necessary to use the cellar cooling units.

As considering the heat stored by the grapes, fermentation started rather quickly. It was therefore necessary to manage this to preserve the distinct aromatic potential of this vintage year.

Considering the late autumn climatic conditions, less favourable for developing noble rot, there was more production of Vendanges Tardives (21,000 hl) than there was for the Sélections de Grains Nobles (3000 hl).

The overall harvest volume came to 1,160,000 hl, up 27% compared to 2010 which, let’s not forget, was exceptionally low. It amounted to 840,000 hl of AOC Alsace, 275,000 hl of AOC Crémant d'Alsace and 45,500 hl of AOC Alsace Grands Crus.

The wines

The wine produced in 2011 had a lot of fruit and freshness. They are lively and quaffable wines which open up quickly. And it should be noted that the fabulous work of wine-growers was decisive to manage all the climatic variations: managing the spring drought and the high temperatures during the harvest, along with the grape sorting during harvest time, were all success factors leading for this vintage year.

The Crémants d’Alsace are part of this wonderful vintage success story just like Sylvaner. For Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris, the choice of the harvest date was essential to preserve their health as these grape varieties had suffered from the damp weather at the beginning of the summer. Pinot Gris is wonderfully fresh and fruity. Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois are light and fresh. Pinot Noir has beautiful colours and silky tannins. Yield management undoubtedly was the key to success for Riesling. Nothing but great ripe aromas and acidity. Muscat unveils a crispy and fruity aspect. For Gewurztraminer, fermentation management was necessary to avoid too much alcohol and preserve their aromatic complexity.

CIVA: Interprofessional Committee of Alsace Wines
March 2012

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: