1999 Domaine Clos St. Landelin (Rene Muré) “Vorbourg” Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

If you ever needed an example of why my wine reviews aren’t just tasting notes, here’s one for you. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and see what this wine tastes like and what score I gave it. Then come back up here to the top, read this story, and then explain to me why everyone persists in reviewing wines with a couple of simple sentences about how the darn stuff tastes. There is so much more to wine than flavors and aromas.

Once upon a time, roughly around the 7th century AD, an Irish monk by the name of Landelin braved the crossing of the channel in a rickety barque, and after landing in Normandy began a trek across northern France. After a while he came to the far western reaches of the Black Forest near the banks of the Rhine river and, whether by divine inspiration or simple practicality we will never know, decided to make his home there in a small hut. Landelin lived as a hermit peacefully for years, shuffling into local villages to buy dry goods and tending his own small garden near his hut.

Landelin’s section of the forest was on the way to the local hunting grounds. Around the year 640 a local hunter became increasingly irate at the fact that every time he went anywhere near the hermit’s hut, his hounds, who up until that point would be surging with excitement and aggression, turned docile and meek. Enlisting the support of a local landowner (a non-Christian who was more than happy to be rid of the foreign “sorcerer”) the hunter attacked and killed Landelin, decapitating him in the forest.

Legend (and no doubt the beatification documents as well) holds that where Landelin’s head fell to the ground, five springs gushed forth from the earth, and many of the required number of miracles took place at the site of his grave. Over the next 80 years monks were attracted to the area by the story of the martyr, and in 725 the Monchzell monastery was founded in the area, dedicated to none other than a patron saint named Landelin. This monastery went through several transformations (and at least one or two relocations to slightly more suitable land nearby), but by the late 8th century it was well endowed with large holdings of lands (and vines) under its new (and final) name Ettenheimmunster Abbey. Most people, however, continued to refer to it as praedium Sancti Landelini or “the heritage of St. Landelin.”

Specific written records of the vineyards of St. Landelin appear around 1250, and refer to grants and deeds of prime winegrowing tracts from the vast holdings of the church in the area. In 1409 a family from Rouffach by the name of Berler were given the rights to live near and farm the Saint Landelin vineyards on behalf of the Bishops of Strasbourg, who owned the vineyards up until the French Revolution in 1789, when the land was carved up and sold to various private citizens.

After changing hands several times in the ensuing decades, the property was purchased in 1935 by Alfred Muré, who, incredibly, was the 9th generation of Muré sons to be a winemaker. The domaine’s current owner, Rene Muré is Alfred’s grandson and the 11th generation of winemakers from the family, who can trace its viticultural roots back to 1620. No pun intended.

Domaine Clos St. Landelin currently farms 20 acres of vineyards in Alsace in the areas known as Rouffach (which contains the Grand Cru Vorbourg vineyard) as well as Zinnkoepflé, Schulzengass (or Lutzeltal), and Vorbourg (which does NOT contain the vineyard of the same name, but which is its namesake, just to make things clear as mud).

This wine, of course, comes from the Grand Cru section of that confusingly named vineyard, which sits on the sloping hills at the base of the Grand Ballon and the Petit Ballon, the two highest peaks of the Vosges mountain range. Here, a outcroppings of limestone are covered with varying levels of clay soil which comes from the fine silt that eroded from this mountain range over the past few million years. On these soils the Muré family farms its Riesling, as well as, unusually, Pinot Noir. Vine densities are kept very high in the vineyard (4,000 or so vines per acre) and all the vineyards are farmed biodynamically.

This wine, like all of the Domaine’s whites, is hand harvested and fermented with natural yeasts, aged on the lees (the yeast and other bits of sediment from the fermentation process) for some time, and then bottled with minimal to no filtration.

Tasting Notes:
Light gold in color with a distinct orange hue, this wine has an explosive nose of delightful aromas including candied orange peel, honey, and freshly cooled candle wax. In the mouth it is gorgeously textured with citrus driven flavors of tangerine zest, honey, and a light minerality that is driven by the perfect acid balance — and I mean perfect — of the wine. In the very long finish, notes of fresh herbs and freshly baked bread crust creep in to make this a very satisfying and complex wine. Don’t think you like Riesling? Drink this and then tell me that!

Food Pairing:
I love drinking chilled Alsatian Rieslings with Asian foods. Try this one with tropical spring rolls and chili sauce.

Score: 9.5

How Much?: $38

This wine is available for purchase on the internet.