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Domaine Schoffit Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Rangen 'Clos St Théobald' 2020

Domaine Schoffit Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Rangen 'Clos St Théobald' 2020

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Certified Organic
Country, Region: France, Alsace
Appellation: Alsace Grand Cru

Again the terroir is clearly to the fore with the smoky aromas from the volcanic soil overlaying the vibrant varietal intensity. With 40 g/L of residual sugar, it is neither heavy nor sweet, but shows profound concentration and captivating minerality, finishing with pinpoint balance and freshness. Absolutely remarkable wine.
14.1 % Alc/Vol; 44 g/L RS: 3.6 g/L TA.

'The Grand Cru wines of Bernhard Schoffit are World Class wines. They are always rich but never heavy, and combine a full body with genuine varietal and terroir character.Bernard Schoffit made a historic contribution when he, after years of negotiations, bought 6.5 of the 18.8 ha of the southern-most Grand Cru of Alsace, the volcanic Rangen. At that time, the vineyards were neglected and mismanaged. Today, it is a vineyard on par with the likes of Montrachet and Chambertin.'

Bernard Schoffit was a pioneer in Alsace's greatest Grand Cru, Rangen de Thann. The domaine started by Bernard's father, Robert at 10 hectares, is based near Colmar. Thirty years ago and after years of negotiation, Bernard embarked on an ambitious program of buying vineyard land in the central part of Rangen, including the Clos St Théobold which faces due south. Through sheer determination and ambition, he reclaimed all 6.5 hectares, a good part of which had been abandoned because it was too steep to work.

Today Bernard is still very active in the vineyard, though he has now formally passed the reins to the third generation, his son Alexandre. And from these incredibly steep and rocky slopes, with extremely low yields, Alexandre is making simply extraordinary wines from each of the Alsace Grand Cru varieties.

Atogether, Rangen represents about 1/3 of the family’s vineyard holdings of 18.8 ha, but requires about 2/3 of the family’s time to work these incredibly steep slopes. And the yields here are as low as half those of most other Grand Cru vineyards.

Schoffit's 6.5 ha is almost 30 % of Rangen and makes it the largest holder of this prestigious Grand Cru, just ahead of Zind-Humbrecht. Their plantings are made up of 40 % each Riesling and Pinot Gris, 15 % Gewürztraminer and 5 % Muscat.

In this terroir Pinot Gris moves into conversation about the ‘world’s greatest white wines’ with the smoky notes coming both from the terroir and the variety imparting a rare energy and intensity to the wines without excess alcohol or sugar and with perfectly pitched acidity. Gewürztraminer is also elevated to exceptional levels in this vineyard producing wines of outstanding balance, once again without any excess of alcohol or sugar and with pitch-perfect acidity.

Today, the Schoffit domaine of 18.8 ha includes vines in Colmar and Niedermorschwihr as well as Thann, along with a very small (0.2 ha) but prized holding in the granite terroir of the prestigious Sommerberg Grand Cru.

The following notes are from Andrew Jefford, Decanter Magazine, October 2016.

‘Rangen has, in the past, been called ‘the Montrachet of Alsace’. The varieties and flavours are different, of course, but in other respects the analogy is exact: these great, complete wines are in many ways the apogee of their region, and should be represented in every fine-wine collection.

Every time I taste great wines from the Rangen de Thann, Alsace’s most southerly Grand Cru, they strike me a culmination of everything that wine lovers revere about terroir, and why they accord it so much importance. They are, in other words, not only very fine wines, but their scents and flavours are marked by an otherness for which ‘mineral’ seems the inescapable term. 

No other single vineyard in Alsace comes close to Rangen for sheer force of personality, and if I was asked to nominate any vineyard anywhere in the world as producing “the ultimate terroir wine”, Rangen de Thann would be it.

After glory days when it was one of the most sought-after wines at the court of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, visited by Montaigne, name-checked by Rabelais and part-owned by the Sun King (Louis XIV), Rangen fell on hard post-phylloxera times and was actually bombed, mined and destroyed during World War One; Vieux Thann at that point formed part of the front line between German and French Alsace. Less than four hectares at the bottom of the slope were still in vines by the early 1970s. That was all that remained of a wine-making village which in the C17 occupied 500 ha.

Léonard Humbrecht and the Schoffit family were the reclamation pioneers in the 1970s and 1980s.  Laborious work: Alexandre Schoffit remembers his father and grandfather spending every Saturday there throughout his childhood. There were tree roots to remove and walls to remake; the steep slope excluded heavy-duty mechanical assistance and increased the danger level exponentially. “It was ten times worse,” he recalls, “than anything else.” Now, at just over 20 ha, the grand slope is fully planted – but remains a challenge for the owners.

Inter-row ploughing which would take one man half a day in a flat vineyard takes the equivalent of eight weeks to achieve here; the Schoffits say their Rangen holdings account for 33% of their domain, but they spend 60% of their working time there. 

Zind-Humbrecht (Clos St Urbain) and Schoffit (Clos St Théobald) are the two biggest owners, with 5.5 ha and 5.3 ha (increased since than to the current 5.8ha) respectively; then comes the Wolfberger co-operative with 4.4 ha and Bruno Hertz with 1.9 ha. Maurice Schoech has under half a hectare, and there are a number of other smaller owners including the town of Thann itself.

There is no visible soil as such, just rock and stone. Unusually for Alsace, Rangen is constituted of hard volcanic rocks seasoned with some secondary sedimentary material (some of it of volcanic origin).  It’s well-drained, but prone to erosion, and low-vigour – hence the puny yields; but growers say that the clays which do form here down under the rocks and among the roots are high in quality.

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