Alsace Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut
From the Pinot Noir varietal but vinified as a white sparkler. This means that a rapid separation was necessary as well as a particularly soft pressing to avoid any color from the skin in the juice. This sparkler offers all the delicacy of red fruits and flowers with good structure at the mid palate and no tannins. Always made from the varietals classed AOC Cremant d'Alsace, the Cremant grapes are harvested before the other grapes in order to take advantage of their best balance and harmony. Produced according to the methode traditionnelle, Alsace Cremants are racked in a nearly inverted position where they age patiently. Then, after 12 months minimum, they are riddled or turned so that the sediment collects in the neck of the bottles, awaiting disgorgement.
In 1896 the Willm family founded the Willm Estate in Barr, at the foot of the majestic Kirchberg de Barr Grand Cru vineyard. Willm has always been concerned with revealing the best of its terroirs and sharing its exceptional wines with the whole world. Thanks to the adventurous founder Emile WILLM, the estate’s wines were the first from Alsace to be exported to the United States in the early 1930s, after prohibition laws were lifted. Their wines are celebrated for their blend freshness, minerality and elegance; they are synonymous with tradition, terroir, purity and refinement.
If Willm isn’t in an American history book, it should be. The winery was the first producer in Alsace to export to the United States after prohibition, and it’s said that Al Capone favored the wines after his release from Alcatraz. Though the Willm family has been making wine in Alsace since 1896, their French heritage dates back to 1398. Willm’s portfolio includes four Grand Crus, sparkling Cremant d’Alsace and late-harvest sweet wines, in addition to their reserve range. The winery is known for its easy-drinking, well-priced Riesling that pairs well with shellfish, grilled seafood and white meats. Among Alsace’s rarer sparklers is Willm’s Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs, a white bubbly made from 100% Pinot Noir. The vineyards span the Haut-Rhin (upper Rhine) and the Bas-Rhin (lower Rhine) in three locations, encompassing a diversity of soils and allowing Willm to produce a range of styles. The winery received its organic certification in 2012.
With its fairytale aesthetic, Germanic influence and strong emphasis on white wines, Alsace is one of France’s most unique viticultural regions. This hotly contested stretch of land running north to south on France’s northeastern border has spent much of its existence as German territory. Nestled in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, it is one of the driest regions of France but enjoys a long and cool growing season. Autumn humidity facilitates the development of “noble rot” for the production of late-picked sweet wines, Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
The best wines of Alsace can be described as aromatic and honeyed, even when completely dry. The region’s “noble” varieties, the only ones permitted within Alsace’s 51 Grands Crus vineyards, are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris.
Riesling is Alsace’s main specialty. In its youth, Alsace Riesling is dry, fresh and floral, but develops complex mineral and flint character with age. Gewurztraminer is known for its signature spice and lychee aromatics, and is often utilized for late harvest wines. Pinot Gris is prized for its combination of crisp acidity and savory spice as well as ripe stone fruit flavors. Muscat, vinified dry, tastes of ripe green grapes and fresh rose petal.
Other varieties grown here include Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chasselas, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir—the only red grape permitted in Alsace and mainly used for sparkling rosé known as Crémant d’Alsace. Most Alsace wines are single-varietal bottlings and unlike other French regions, are also labeled with the variety name.
A term typically reserved for Champagne and Sparkling Wines, non-vintage or simply “NV” on a label indicates a blend of finished wines from different vintages (years of harvest). To make non-vintage Champagne, typically the current year’s harvest (in other words, the current vintage) forms the base of the blend. Finished wines from previous years, called “vins de reserve” are blended in at approximately 10-50% of the total volume in order to achieve the flavor, complexity, body and acidity for the desired house style. A tiny proportion of Champagnes are made from a single vintage.
There are also some very large production still wines that may not claim one particular vintage. This would be at the discretion of the winemaker’s goals for character of the final wine.