Remarkably the Humbrechts can trace their winemaking roots back four centuries to the earliest record of the family’s winemaking activities in Alsace in 1620 during the early years of the Thirty Years’ War. In the 18thcentury local historian Canon Barth recorded the family as tenants of the Marbach Abbey vineyards near Guebershwihr in his survey of Alsace’s viticultural history.
The current estate was founded in 1959 following the marriage of Léonard Humbrecht and Geneviève Zind which united the Humbrecht family vineyards in Gueberschwihr with those belonging to the Zind family in Wintzenheim. During the 1960s and 1970s many of Alsace’s top plots where being abandoned due to their location on steep, practically inaccessible slopes which made them much harder to work than the flatter valley vineyards. Léonard spotted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and was able to put together the exceptional portfolio of hillside sites in top Alsace crus which form the backbone of the domaine today.
Today the domaine is under the attentive management of the couple’s son, Olivier Humbrecht, who passed the notoriously tough Master of Wines exam in 1989 to become the first French MW. During his tenure at the helm of Zind-Humbrecht, Olivier has championed biodynamic winemaking on the property and has also served as president of the Biodyvin certification body since 2002. His approach is non-interventionist, adopting a light touch in the winery and allowing his spectacular grapes to speak for themselves in the finished wines.
The family’s 40 hectares of vines are spread across five picturesque timber-framed villages in the Vosges foothills where the mild climate and unique mosaic of terroirs produce remarkable Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris wines. Amongst Zind-Humbrecht’s finest plots are those located in the Grand Crus of Rangen, Brand, Hengst, and Goldert. The domaine typically bottles their non-Grand Cru single vineyard wines under their vineyard name or lieu dit rather than the more generic Alsace label.
The Zind-Humbrecht house style is generous, fruit-forward wines which are made from low yielding vines to maximise the intensity of flavour. As a guide to collectors and wine enthusiasts, labels feature an index which describes the level of residual sugar inside with 1 representing a classic dry Alsace white wine and 5 indicating a richly sweet dessert wine.
The domaine’s carefully-controlled vineyard yields result in a very limited annual production of between 10,000 and 15,000 cases which are quickly snapped up by collectors and Alsace wine enthusiasts. Amongst Zind-Humbrecht’s most prized and rarest wines are the lavishly sweet Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Sélection de Grains Nobles and Pinot Gris Rangen Clos St Urbain which offer an incredibly complex flavour profile with hints of caramel and tropical fruit carefully balanced by a bright acidity.
The domaine’s top wines all have very long lives ahead of them and Olivier recommends that those from his Brand Grand Cru plot need 30 years in the cellar before they reach their full potential. Those from the family’s Goldert Grand Cru holdings have even longer drinking windows with Olivier advising that even the 1959 vintage is still drinking beautifully to this day.