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Drinking Dirler-Cadé

Like jewels on a string, the wines of Dirler-Cadé shone bright in Studio TEW yesterday.  Tuesday morning, we held a Dirler-Cadé “private” opening for staff and friends in Studio 206, joined by Ludvine and Jean Dirler via Skype.  And while we knew that the Dirler vineyards stretch back five generations, it was cool to learn that the Cadé vineyards date back to the 17th century, creating the perfect marriage in name and wine.

Comprised of 18ha, all of which are located at the southern tip of Alsace between Guebwiller and Bergholtz, Dirler-Cadé has been practicing organic/biodynamic since 1998.  With a line-up of 11 wines on the table, we sampled two of Dirler-Cadé’s four Grand Crus in Riesling: Saering and Kessler, alongside two of their five lieux-dits: “Belzbrunnen” and “Bux”.  And while we’re currently savoring every last minute of this succulent summer, these wines have got us jumping for fall and Thanksgiving!

Dirler-Cadé Cremant d’Alsace Brut 2009

2009 was a hot vintage, said Jean, so this is a wine that didn’t need much sugar.  A blend of 38% Pinot Auxerrois, 35% Pinot Gris and 27% Pinot Noir, from vines that are 20-35 years old, the Cremant d’Alsace Brut sees a primary fermentation with indigenous yeasts, to which a 2.5g/l dosage of organic concentrated must is added.  “You feel the aromatics of the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Gris together,” said Jean.  “The Pinot Gris is smokey and racy and the Pinot Noir has some red fruit aroma.”

Dirler-Cadé Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose 2009

Made with 100% Pinot Noir (of 25 year old vines), indigenous yeasts, and no chapitalisation of the  base wine, the secondary fermentation sees 24g/l, followed by a 4.0g/l dosage addition. A  “dry style wine” with a soft kiss of red fruit aromas, the Brut Rosé offers crushed stones and bright acidity–a brilliant bubbly alternative to Alsace’s neighboring Champagne.

Dirler-Cadé Sylvaner Cuvée Vielle Vignes 2010

From several old parcels that produce low yields every year, including 50% Grand Cru Saering, this wine is fermented in 19th century wood casks.  With soft notes of citrus pith, and the minerality of a mountain spring, the Sylvaner is slightly creamy with acidity that’s long with lingering spice.  “For us,” said Jean, “it’s a very dry and crisp Sylvaner.”  At TEW, it appeared at the top of most everyone’s list.

Dirler-Cadé Riesling 2010

With only 5g/l of residual sugar, this year’s vintage was vinified from four different parcels.  Born from limestone and calcareous soil–”to get the unity of aromas,” said Jean–this Riesling is fresh with apricot/stonefruit acidity that’s met mid-palate with a layer of salinity, sung by a chorus of crushed rocks.

Dirler-Cadé Riesling “Belzbrunnen” 2008

Downhill from Grand Cru Kessler, “Belzbrunnen” consists of young and old parcels of clay and limestone soil that are vinified separately for this Riesling.  With notes of wet clay, salinity and lemon curd, the “Belzbrunnen” offers integrated, not searing, acidity.  Harmony in the glass with citrus and spice on the finish, it’s a beautiful wine, so perfectly balanced.

Dirler-Cadé Riesling Grand Cru Saering 2009

With soil of decomposed marl, limestone and sandstone, the 0.99ha [Dirler-Cadé] vineyard of Saering (total 16.9ha) resides at 300m, facing SE.  Sitting just below Kessler, Saering is one of the lowest-lying of the Alsace Grand Crus.  As with most all of the Haut-Rhin sites, Saering is protected by the Vosges, which means that the summers are dry and warm (as opposed to the Bas-Rhin vineyards, which tend to yield lighter wines).  Rich and soft with a creamy viscosity, the Riesling Grand Cru Saering offers “red fruit aromas and citrus,” said Jean, showing “more fruit” than the wines of Kessler.

Dirler-Cadé Riesling Grand Cru Kessler 2010

Of the 16.9ha of Kessler, Dirler-Cadé owns 0.40ha.  Sitting 100m above Saering at 400m, Kessler yields wines with “more ripeness, more minerality and spice,” said Jean.  With red sandy clay soil over sandstone and limestone, Kessler faces E and SE, producing 50hl/ha.  With a touch of sulphur added to prevent malolactic fermentation, the Riesling Grand Cru Kessler sees 9 months of elevage in old wooden foudres.  With intense an aroma of powdered stone, the minerality here is like a red carpet unfurled to present the remaining notes.  Floral and clean with stone fruit and citrus, there’s an element of spice that pricks the tongue for a eye-widening moment.

Dirler-Cadé Riesling Grand Cru Saering VT 2009

With 74g/l of residual sugar, the Riesling Grand Cru Saering VT 2009 is a spicy wine with notes of white peach, flowers and tea.  Here, the minerality is light on the back, and the juiciness refined and oh-so elegant, like Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy.

Dirler-Cadé Pinot Gris “Bux” 2010

Located near the Grand Crus, “Bux” has deep soils of sandstone and clay, that are similar to “Schwarzberg”, supporting fruit that ripens early with noble rot potential.  With 65g/l of residual sugar, the Pinot Gris “Bux” 2010 has “a nice acidity,” said Jean, “that binds well with the sugar.”  Super fresh, like the first bite into a blush ripe apricot, “Bux” owes its beautiful structure to the acidity, carried forward by a touch of preserved lemon on the palate.

Dirler-Cadé Gewurztraminer “Bux” 2010

The result of a slow fermentation, the Gewurztraminer “Bux” 2010 is a “sweet style wine with nice freshness at the end,” said Jean.  With 68g/l of residual sugar, these grapes ripened early, providing a bit of noble rot.  The vintage saw a cool spring with little rain until June, followed by a hot summer that lost a portion of their crop.  With a lovely bouquet of floral notes and “cumin” spice, there’s lychee fruit and a beautiful mouthfeel that’s dusted with powdered rocks.

Dirler-Cadé Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kessler 2007

With this wine as an indication of the aging potential that it holds, it’s prime time to buy cases and lay these babies down.  Residing 320m above sea-level, this Kessler plot faces E/SE on a 15%-40% slope, yielding 30hl/ha from a topsoil of sandstone and clay that sits on a sandstone base, just over 1m below. Vinified in stainless steel for over 4 to 5 weeks, the Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kessler received 9 months of elevage in stainless steel tanks.  Earthy with notes of lychee and baked stone fruit, there’s a lovely floral infusion here, ending our tasting on a dreamy note.

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