Hugels have been making wine in Riquewhir since the seventeenth century. Their premises in the town centre has remained the heart of the family wine business since Frédéric Emile Hugel stablished himself there in 1902.
Jean-Frédéric Hugel met us at the entrance to the winery next to the wine shop and led us inside. He talked briefly about Hugel et Fils. The harvest was in full swing and grapes were coming in to the winery at regular intervals. “Not a single Hugel grape is picked by machine” Jean-Frédéric said. His grandfather who’s presence is sit powerful in the winery, was moving, with clip board in hand, from one grape box to another checking and writing things down. “I am not paid enough” he kept on muttering.
We toured the underground winery looking at the huge fermentation tanks, the new barrel cellar and the tiny wine museum where all the ancient winemaking equipment that cluttered Jean-Frédéric’s grandfather’s little office upstairs are now neatly arranged.
The ground floor tasting room has a long wooden bar counter at one end. Walls are adorned with photographs of wine personalities with a Riesling ‘tattoo’ on the left forearm. I remember Etienne Hugel telling me about these tattoos at the London Trade Wine Fair in May. He gave me a tattoo kit and wanted me to send him a photograph of myself with the tattoo. I forgot and the kit is still with me!
We tasted seven Hugel wines:
- Hugel Gentil: The wine revives an ancient Alsace tradition that wines assembled from noble grape varieties were called “Gentil”. It is supposed to have the ‘spicy flavour of Gewurztraminer, the body of Pinot Gris, the finesse of Riesling, the grapiness of Muscat and the refreshing character of Sylvaner.’ I have never found it terribly exciting. (14)
- Hugel Estate Riesling 2012: Expertly made with 100% estate grapes, it has keen acidity, good fruit and mouthfeel and is a good example of a wine made in a dry vintage. Delightful and a good buy. (15.5)
- Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2008: Fruit from Grand Cru Schoenenbourg. Crisp, complex, and poised. Still a little tight but is lovely. It is the kind of wine that restores one’s faith in Riesling. (16.5)
- Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2009: Rich, creamy and fine. Great potential. A ‘must buy’ wine. (17)
- Hugel Jubilee Gewurtztraminer 2009: Grand Cru Sporen fruit. Restricted aromatics and sugar level makes an elegant and expressive wine similar to the lovely Gewurtztraminer from New Zealand’s Seifried Estate. (17)
- Hugel Gewurtztraminer Vendange Tardive 2007: An early, dry vintage. Lovely, sweet, rich wine with botrytis. (17)
- Hugel Gewurtztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles 2002: Dark yellow. Botrytis. Rich, very sweet (160 g/l residual sugar) and fabulous. (17.5)
Before we left, Jean-Frédéric pasted the Riesling tattoo on my left arm and took a photograph. I could not erase it for weeks.