|2019||RL202B19||6 x 75||Natural Cork||Available|
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, 40 of which are in Rorschwihr and 10 in Bergheim. The family is known for their remarkable collection of vintages; they produce about 300,000 bottles a year but age and store two million bottles – and only release wines that they feel are ready to drink. “There has always been a tradition of ageing wines in our village,” says Pierre. “The limestone soils produce wines that are more backward, and need time before they are released, so we age the wines to ensure they show at their best when they are being sold.”
This requirement for ageing 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, which include: Kappelweg, Oberer Weingarten and Silberberg de Rorschwihr plus Brandhurst de Bergheim. 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. “We usually start picking when other producers are picking their vendange tardive wines!” says Pierre.
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, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer Réserve are pressed for 8 -12 hours and fermented for 4 - 5 months, whereas the individual lieux-dits are gently pressed for 12 - 15 hours, 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, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer Réserve 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, shows a generous character of ripe apricot, pear and golden raisins. The calcareous marl soils of the ‘Kappelweg de Rorschwihr’ lieu-dit – a Grand Cru site in all but name – results in an elegant Riesling, where rich stone fruit is offset by a racy acidity, as well as a restrained Gewurztraminer that speaks as much of site as of variety. The ‘Silberberg’ lieux-dit lies on ‘Muschelkalk’ limestone, which predates the Jurassic era and translates as ‘Mussel chalk’ in reference to the component of ancient fossil shells, and produces a Riesling of crystalline freshness balanced by soft citrus fruit. 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 oolitique limestone, produces a complex Vendanges Tardives Pinot Gris with notes of smoke, honey and dried apricot underpinned by a subtle acidity.
The grapes for this wine come from parcels planted on clay, marl and limestone soils in the commune of Rorschwihr. All 21 different types of limestone known in the world can be found in the soils of this village, and the sub-soil there is similarly diverse. These soils, and the particular climate of the sites, were discovered by monks who first made wine here over 400 years ago, and today some of their methods are still used; vineyard activity is carried out based on the position of the moon and stars, with grape maturity and picking determined by the ripeness of the pips, as well as the skins. Organic and biodynamic practices are used to manage the vineyards, although they are not certified.
The 2019 vintage was characterised by steady weather conditions which enabled the grapes to ripen gradually and evenly over the summer months. These conditions meant the berries were in perfect health when harvest took place on 8th October. The wines of this vintage are well balanced with a bright acidity.
As the cellar is located 500 metres from the vineyard, the grapes reached in winery in pristine condition. Upon arrival the fruit was gently pressed for 10-12 hours before undergoing fermentation at controlled temperatures of 16-20 °C, using indigenous yeasts. The wine then spent five months on its lees, to add texture and complexity, until the following April and continued to age in the cellar for a further six months before bottling and release.
Tasting Notes & Technical Details
This wine is a bright lemon in colour with youthful reflections. On the nose are expressive notes of white and yellow flowers and fresh citrus fruit. The palate is concentrated and complex, with fresh stone fruit characters, a well-balanced acidity and a touch of saline on the finish.
Other wines from this producer
|Domaine Rolly Gassmann||Sylvaner Réserve Millésime||RL201|
|Brandhurst de Bergheim Pinot Gris||RL204|
|Kappelweg de Rorschwihr Riesling||RL205|
|Riesling de Rorschwihr `Cuvée Yves` Vendanges Tardives||RL206|
|Oberer Weingarten de Rorschwihr Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives||RL207|
|Silberberg de Rorschwihr Riesling||RL210|
|Pinot Gris Réserve||RL211|
|Kappelweg de Rorschwihr Gewürztraminer||RL212|