Domaine Rolly Gassmann

Alsace, alsace France

While the winemaking history of the Rolly and Gassmann families in Alsace can be traced back to the 17th century, the Domaine was not established until 1967 when these two families were joined by marriage. Now run by second generation Pierre Gassmann, the domaine boasts 52 hectares in the Haut-Rhin region, 40 of which are in Rorschwihr and 10 in Bergheim. The family is known for their remarkable collection of vintages; they age and store up to five years’ worth of stock - around 1.5 million bottles - and only release wines that they feel are ready to drink. This particular vision led Pierre to create an impressive new winery, completed in 2019 and nicknamed ‘The Cathedral’ by the locals. This six-tier, state-of-the-art construction, built into the hillside, has brought their gravity-fed vinification facilities, cellar and panoramic tasting-room under one roof.

Unusually, the village of Rorschwihr has no Grands Crus. It lies on a fault line, which created over 20 variations of limestone soil. The Alsatian authorities attempted to combine large areas of Rorschwihr to form several Grands Crus as part of the new system in the 1970s. This proposal was rejected by the villagers of Rorschwihr, who declared that there should be 12 Grands Crus or none at all. Today there are instead multiple lieux-dits to reflect the soil complexity. The Rolly-Gassmann vineyards are farmed using organic and biodynamic principles but are not certified. Pierre allows the grapes to ripen fully, encourages noble rot and harvests late to achieve high sugar levels and concentrated fruit expression in his wines. The resulting richness requires time to harmonise, which is why Pierre ages and releases his wines later than most. It is also the reason why he produces such long-lived wines.

The vineyards are divided into around 70 different plots, which are all hand-harvested and vinified separately. Pierre applies a similar winemaking philosophy across his range: he employs a gentle pressing, a long fermentation with wild yeasts and extended time on the lees, with modifications depending on the grape and site. The grapes for the Sylvaner, Riesling and Gewurztraminer are pressed for 8-12 hours and fermented for 4-5 months, whereas the individual lieux-dits are pressed for 12-15 hours for maximum extraction, fermented for six months and aged in large, old oak barrels to produce fuller, longer-lived wines. All cuvées then spend time on fine-lees before being bottled the following September. The Riesling, Sylvaner and Gewurztraminer display vibrant, varietal characters with a touch of residual sweetness balanced by fine acidity. The Brandhurst de Bergheim Pinot Gris, which sits on Jurassic marl-limestone, presents a generous character of ripe apricot, pear and golden raisins. The calcareous marl soils of the ‘Kappelweg de Rorschwihr’ lieu-dit results in a powerful Riesling, where rich stone fruit is offset by a racy acidity. The Riesling de Rorschwihr Vendanges Tardives has a textured, opulent character of yellow plum and candied citrus, while the Obrer-Weingarten de Rorschwihr, known for its ancient Jurassic limestone, produces a complex Vendanges Tardives Pinot Gris with notes of smoke, honey and dried apricot underpinned by a subtle acidity.

 

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