4 Jul 2014

Review: Vins Jean-Baptiste Adam

My blog is, of course, normally about motorcycles and travelling, but these are not the only things in my life. Anyone who knows me knows I love to cook and go mad about anything you can put in your mouth. This includes looking for new and unusual beverages.

I enjoy the odd glass of wine, but I'm certainly not a wine critic—I don't do the whole 'hints of cloves, peach and cinnamon with a suggestion of smoked apple' thing. I know what I like when I taste it and I generally stay far, far away from white wine because I find it too astringent and sharp for my liking.

My friend Laure lives in the Alsace—she is the 15th generation of her family to run the winery Vins Jean-Baptiste Adam in Ammerschwihr. I was first introduced to her family's wine when she brought a bottle along for a dinner gift while she was studying in London.

I gratefully received the bottle but it sat in my wine rack for some time because of my prejudices to white wines. I'd no idea what I was missing until a couple months later when I opened the bottle, poured a glass and had a sip.

The wine was sweet with dark, rich flavours and reminded me of the complexity of red wines. I had no idea a white wine could have so much personality and taste so delicious. The bottle was gone by the end of the evening.

Last year I had the pleasure of accepting an invitation to visit Laure's family winery. I was treated to a private tasting and tour of the cellars. During the tasting I was reintroduced to some wines I'd tried before but didn't much care for—but the Alsatian versions were a completely different experience. I was also introduced to some wines I'd not tasted before—Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer—and found out just what white wine can be, unlike the plonk you get at the local supermarkets in London.

As this visit was on the outbound leg of my trip I was unfortunately not able to take along any bottles.

During my trip over the past couple weeks I stayed for three days with Laure and her family. This time I didn't miss my opportunity to buy a bottle of special selection 2007 vintage Gewürztraminer which is only made periodically (every 7–10 years) when the conditions are just right. The grapes are hand picked near the end of the season when they are at their sweetest, and only a hundred or so bottles are made. Bottles of wine like this go for £50+ in the UK, but direct from Laure's winery it was only €28—what a steal!

Laure herself said that I don't have to like all the wines (ie just because I'm visiting), as everyone's tastes are different. I'm not mad on champagne style (sparkling) wines at all, and while I haven't changed my stance on this, the sparkling wines from Laure's winery really were much more tolerable to my palette than others I've tried.

Another variety I particularly liked was the Pinot Grigio—another wine with rich, dark flavours. I would have brought back 10 bottles if I had the space, and I like the idea of knowing all the money I've paid is going directly to the winery and not to distributors etc.

Sadly, Laure's wine is not widely available outside the Alsace but if you have the opportunity to travel in the region, you would be missing out greatly if you didn't stop by for a tasting. There is a lot to be said for a small, family run winery which has a 400 year heritage (the winery was founded in 1614)—they have the ability to create wines on a smaller scale which are special in ways the mass producers cannot match.

In my travel report I raved about the beauty of the Alsace—growing up there and then having a career in the area is something to envy. I can't imagine a more rewarding way to live life.

I am looking forward to my next visit to Ammerschwihr—I'm tempted to do a long weekend trip sometime as it is possible to make the journey in a single day if using the main routes.

Looking up the road with the winery in the distance.

Just a small part of the winery.

Barrels are all 100+ years old.

Crystalised acids from the grapes which are in demand by pharmaceutical companies.

From a time where form and function played equal parts.

7,000 litres of grog.

Looking toward the tasting room.

Quirky plant arrangement.

An old wine press in the tasting room.

I'll take the whole bottle please.

With Laure.