Pfaff – La Cave des Vignerons of Pfaffenheim
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Pfaff – La Cave des Vignerons of Pfaffenheim

Riesling, a white grape variety that makes one of the world’s most long lived wines.  The charm of Riesling comes from its medley of flavors and aromas that dance gracefully on the palate.  The interplay of acidity, intense stone/citrus fruit, and range of sweetness levels, make these delicate wines truly exciting.  What is it about Riesling that allows for its longevity, and where do great examples exist?
Although Riesling most famously comes from regions of Germany, this article will focus on Alsace France, and the beautiful wines of Pfaff in particular.  Pfaff is a co-op of vignerons , and today holds over 270 ha in Alsace.  Their wines are of excellent quality and character.  Recently I was invited to an event guided by the very friendly and knowledgeable Frédéric Raynaud, Director General of Pfaff wines.  I had the opportunity to taste through five decades of Riesling from Pfaff: La Cave des Vignerons of Pfaffenheim. It was exciting to experience such rare and older vintages of Riesling at a single tasting.

Riesling is quite the grape to grow.  Its wood is sturdy, and this allows for it to adapt well to the cold.  Riesling is naturally high in acidity, and when planted in the right locations it can retain this fierce acidity, even at high yields.

Acidity not only helps the wine’s potential to age, but also helps protect it from bacterial spoilage, and any influences from yeast or oxygen, which would be detrimental to such an aromatic grape variety.    It is also high in extract, meaning that presence of sugar can help its evolution and longevity in the bottle.

Riesling is the type of grape that reflects the terroir quite well.  All the wines from Pfaff’s tasting were coming from limestone soil, which imparts a particular minerality, as well as concentrated citrus fruit flavors.    These plots of land have very little water available to the vines, so they suffer a little bit and work hard to find water.  This stress creates complexity and purity in the juice and ultimately, the wine.

The Pfaff Rieslings were extraordinary and so well made. The more youthful wines ( 2010 – 2000) were clean as a whistle with lots of primary fruit citrus flavors and herbaceous notes with undertones of petrol.  The minerality was lip smacking and all had plenty of acidity.  They were brilliant, and will chine best in the coming year.
The more older examples, of which the 1983 Cuvée Jupiter was my favorite, displayed wonderful citrus fruit flavours, but also alluring and elegant notes of golden raisin, honey, and candied ginger. The one thing all the wines had in common, no matter what the vintage, was the soaring acidity….

The following wines were my favorite at the tasting:

 

Riesling Grand Cru Goldert Pffaf 2010
Very accessible and approachable, there are intense notes of concentrated citrus, gooseberries and sea salt.  This wine carries roundness, minerality and an acidity that is bright and refreshing.  The persistent finish has flavors of slate and orange peel with a touch of petrol.

 

Riesling Grand Cru Steinert Pfaff 2005
The nose is very generous showing concentrated  golden raisin and apricot and attractive petrol.  The palate is round and juicy, offering peach, apricot and spicy accents.  There is ample minerality carrying out the long and elegant finish that seems to go on and on…. Wow.

 

Riesling CVPG Rebgarten Pfaff 2000
Although considered a hot vintage, this wine is very fresh in acidity and is in line with the fruit, which has notes of red delicious apple, tangerine and apricot jam.  Little bits of cardmom, ginger, and petrol makes for complexity and a pleasing counterpoint.  Long, round, and mouthwatering finish. Brilliant.
Riesling Cuvée Jupiter Pfaff 1983 ( My personal favorite)
Pure and concentrated notes of apricot and lemon lime citrus with an equally attractive amount of bright acidity.  Notes of honey, candied ginger and orange blossom are dancing on the midpalate leading to a very long and luscious finish. Complex, intense, bright…. this wine is still young and so very elegant.

 

Riesling Pfaff 1978
Beautiful gold in color, this wine has ripe citrus, almonds, and apricot with a little touch of butter.  Savory and spicy with some marmalade and warm spice, the acidity is lively and fresh making for excellent drinkability.  The finish has lingering notes of honeysuckle, citrus and bits of minerality.

There are any number of Pfaff wines available here at the SAQ, so if you have enough patience, you can easily tuck these wines away in the cellar and forget about them for the next 10-15 years easily. Very special thank you to Frédéric Raynaud and Vins Philippe Dandurand for this amazing opportunity and tasting…an experience I won’t soon forget.

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