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The big day has come for Pinot Noirs

With the outstanding weather conditions of the few last weeks, we had growing expectations for our 2009 estate Pinot Noir. On September 28 all our focus and attention is turned towards our finest Pinot Noir vineyards in the Pflostig slope. We have good confidence to be able to produce, like in 2003 and 1990 a single vineyard of Pinot Noir "Les Neveux". Amazing ripeness of over 14° potential with perfectly sound grapes. Bingo !

The prediction of Marc Hugel a few days before the start of harvest for this grape seems to be confirmed. 2009 will be a great Pinot year !

Big smile of the face of Marc when the time comes to destem and vat these glorious Pinots.

On this September 28 we all have deep memories for uncle Johnny, who would have turned 80 on this day.


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End of the second harvest week with a "family" visit


This second week of harvest is coming to a close with glorious weather, dry and sunny with record levels of maturity. Gewurztraminers well over 14° potential and some Rieslings as we had not seen for many years now. Big smiles on many faces, including ours...

Taking advantage of the glorious weather, Riquewihr is litterally invaded by tourists. We receive that afternoon a group of visitors from Bremen, the hanseatic town where most of the historic german wine importers have been located, including our longtime customer Segnitz. Amongst them, many are already well accustomed with our wines under the local guidance of Christine and Pierre Hugel. During our harvest, we do our best to "filter" cellar visits the best we can as all of our focus must remain with the pressure of harvest work. Pierre Hugel, even if not related to our family has obviously found his keys to our cellars... Pierre, by his name but also by his passion for wines, shared by his wife is the président du directoire of WÜRTH France whose museum in Erstein is one of the most important corporate collection of modern art. We could not resist taking a picture of both Pierre Hugel which will be the first time my nephew, son of my brother Marc will appear on this Blog. His sister Margot will find her own trick to convince her uncle blogger to feature her...

After a last extensive working day, time has come to part ways with my team of unloading and pressing as supplies from contract growers comes to an end. Some of them will go back to their regular work, some will join our growing team of 50 in our own estate under the guidance of Jean Claude Ortlieb.


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Delivering grapes with a Porsche, vintage 1958 and diesel !


Those of you familiar with our vintage Blog will have recognised Charles Klack, former employee who used to run our labelling room and who is now retired since 2007. Having given up making his own wines, he now delivers us the grapes from his small vineyards. His Porsche, Vintage 1958 is a rare model of the famous brand, with a... Diesel, engine. We won't disclose the horse power of its engine in order not to hurt the image of the luxury sport brand...  But what a torque, just like a tractor  ;-)

We have suggested to Charles to buy some polish for the next deliveries ;-) Let's see what will happen...


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Filming during the vintage, just say YES to Debra !

Deb_Meiburg _visit.jpg

Imagine saying no to such a request... on one of the busiest day of harvest ?

Vintage time must understandably act as a magnet for wine lovers, not to mention the media so when such a TV feature opportunity presented itself over the phone just days before, the overwhelming charm, enthusiasm and passion of Debra Meiburg M.W. gave us no chance at all. Accompanied by Ed Bean and crue with such an impressive track record as seen on his company's website there needed little further convincing.

Hours of taping, in the vineyards, cellars, tasting room, but also in the hidden courtyards of Riquewihr should produce a film where the charm of Debra will convince anybody pressing the clicker to follow her series on wine. A whole 30' on Alsace in the first round of episodes and in great company, not a bad day of harvest at all, the sun and the stars were definitely above us in Riquewihr !

At the end their whole crew even did the acting for this photo


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First day of Rieslings and first harvest together of the youngsters


Starting this second week of our 2009 harvest, comes the first Rieslings with excellent levels of maturity, almost all lots reaching 11,5° potential and some of the best even above 13° which, for this late ripening veriety is simply remarquable. Grapes remain abolutely healthy as for the rest of the varietals.

Another memorable event of the day is the first harvest together of  both cousins, Marc André and Jean Frédéric Hugel, both aged 20 who are still at present in their university studies. A blessing for us to have an early vintage, and good for their own budget ;-)

There is no shortcut in their training to become one day fully part of our family company. Just like their predecessors, they have to start from the very basic jobs, and there are plenty of them during a vintage. Today, they take part in maturity checks which on this busy day meant over 1000 measurements. A good opportunity also for both  to participate in the destemming of Pinot Noirs which again reached over 13° potential, and yet our best estate Pinots are still hanging on their vines.

This precious help of our youngsters reminds me that in the course of this single harvest, your Blogger has moved up the ladder of responsablities from Hugel junior to Hugel senior. That's life... The cruel absence of uncle Johnny gave me almost naturally the responsability to look after, most of the morning of a Hong Kong TV crue. They flew all the way, a cast of over a dozen to Alsace for a series on French wines in an important market for us. The program should be broadcasted around Christmas on the main Chinese network.

A wet front had been forecasted last Sunday but after some dark clouds over us most of the weekend, it will be less than 10mm of rain in total and the 10 day weather forecast remains absolutely ideal . This 2009 is indeed taking a very good course...


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Japanese Imperial visit at Hugel


On this first weekend of our harvest, André Hugel, president of the historical society of Riquewihr had the great honour of welcoming the brother of the Emperor of Japan, his imperial highness Hitachi-no-miya Masahito shinnō and his wife Princess Tsugaru Hanako.

On the agenda of this visit, a quick tour of Riquewihr, the present of a bottle of the year of their wedding in presence of 3 generations of our family, the signature of our visitor's book and the tasting of a glass of our Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 2001


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At Hugel all picking is done by hand and always will be !

Our region is a veritable mozaïc of soils types which greatly explains the diversity of varietals planted. As maturities greatly depends on the terroirs where the different grapes are grown, we provide to all our contract growers a planning which guides them and enables us to manage in the best possible way times for each veriety to be harvested.

This Thursday is the first day of picking of gewurztraminers purchased from vineyards located mainly in the region south of Colmar in clay and limestone soils.

There was some light rains in the early part of the day so many vintners decided not to pick at all. A quiet day for us all before 2 very full days expected until the weekend.

The 10 day weather forecast remains favourable with even some ideal conditions for the developement of noble rot. The expected light rain should not have any effect as it follows 6 weeks of complete drought. The soil can still absorb a lot of moisture before any humidity gets to the roots.

Next Monday will be the beginning for Riesling the later ripening varietal of all and the most demanding.


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Unloading and pressing as if you were here with us...

At this start of our harvest it is primarily the reception of purchased grapes that keep us busy. Of course all of our harvest is done by hand and always will be, even for our simplest wines because nothing replaces the skin of the grape to protect the juice from oxidation especially in the case of this very ripe vintage with corresponding moderate levels of aciditiy.

It is nearly 1000 daily measurements of the muturity which we carry out using a refractometer in order to precisely evaluate the quality of each batch. Then all is processed by gravity in order to respect the quality of the grapes, no pumping and no de-stemming thanks to our ability to work on 3 levels using our two elevators generating a significant amount of sweat ; -) Then 12 hours a static settling in stainless steel tanks follows before the fermentation itself.

We currently harvest in our estate, with a still reduced team, small plots of Pinot Gris located in the periphery of our best terroirs of Riquewihr.

For the Muscat, no skin contact this year, acidities being considered to be too low as this technique tends to cause a drop in acidity levels. The grapes however show intense aromas giving us good hope for a beautiful Muscat 2009 of which certain fruits come from now on from our own vineyards, some of them in the Schoenenbourg.


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An intense and exciting start

Day one of our 2009 harvest was as expected busy, sometime intense but rewarding. All grapes were of very high maturity, some Pinot Blanc well over 12.5° and most Pinot Gris well above 13.5° potential. Yet, most exciting are the Pinot Noirs with darkly coloured thick skins and without a single rotten berry. This was just the first round for this grape, the best plots of our own estate are still hanging on their vines with the hope of a 1990 or 2003 replica as expressed by Marc Hugel

On this first day, we received a couple of foreign visitors, Canadian journalists Stéphane Hébert and Suzan Yum and later in the afternoon Japanese sommelier  Koaru Matsuyoshi from the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental Hotel with friend Emi Igarashi. They all had a chance to get the first flavours of our harvest joining our team of pickers for a few moments.

Another exciting news came later in the night, the Washington Post made a very kind mention of our Vintage Blog to their  TastePost subscribers. Thank you Candy, you are a real sweetheart !


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The first vintage of our 13th generation

Marc André and his cousin Jean Frédéric Hugel, our two youngsters of the
13th generation, both born in 1989, the year of our 350th anniversary
tell us
about their expectation for their first vintage in their family company


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2009 vintage outlook by Marc Hugel

Just a few days away from the start of our 2009 harvest, Marc Hugel tells us
about his hopes for what looks to be a truly memorable vintage.


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Our 2009 vintage starts on September 14


The last low pressure system that went through Alsace on September 3 & 4 only generated 15 mm of rain. We have now great expectations for a 3rd great vintage in a row.
Follow us on this Blog for the live unfolding of our 2009 vintage with frequent updates including short videos.

This year, Marc Hugel, in charge of the vineyards and vinification, tells us about the 2009 growing season and his expectations for this vintage. Particularly favoured this year is the family of Pinots, with great hopes for the Pinot Noir vineyard of the nephews (Les Neveux). Marc takes us to this vineyard plot, planted in 1966 and tells us about all the special care that is devoted to our very best Pinot Noir vineyard.

The 2009 harvest will be the first vintage without the presence of our dear and very much missed uncle Johnny. A strong symbol of continuity, this year will also see the first participation of the 13th generation. Cousins Marc André and Jean Frédéric tell us about their expectation for their first vintage in the family company.

The 10 day weather forecast remains favourable with even some ideal conditions for the developement of noble rot. We have now the ultimate objective to produce for the first time since 2001 some Riesling Vendange Tardive, the most demanding variety for late harvest wines. 

At last we have had in Alsace in 2009 a true dry and warm month of August with lately some intense heat favouring a rapid increase in sugar contents and corresponding drops in acidity levels as shown on this table from our own weather station.

Certain producers of Crémant (sparkling wine) could even begin their harvest on August 31. Since the beginning of August the weather has remained ideal, without much rain, bright skies and warm temperatures. They now need for Crémant to pick in a rush as sugar levels are rapidly increasing.

Innovation this year with a website (in French) that has been put in place by the CIVA dedicated to controls of maturities with a possibility of comparing the values of sugar contents and acidities with the previous years.

The harvest of our own estate begins with a reduced team for now. The first two weeks of harvest will be primarily devoted to the reception of grapes (harvested exclusively by hand) of our contract growers according to a planning which will enable us to manage in the best possible conditions a vintage which is expected to be fair in quantity.

We now start our daily report on this Blog. This year you can also follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

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