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Of all of France's many heralded wine growing regions, few if anyone would clock Alsace as a hub of innovation, filled with young winemakers radically diverging from the status quo. After all this is the... Read More
Of all of France's many heralded wine growing regions, few if anyone would clock Alsace as a hub of innovation, filled with young winemakers radically diverging from the status quo. After all this is the land of centuries old estates, and vineyards that were originally planted almost a millennia ago. But the last decade has seen an explosion of natural winemaking. These winemakers are taking Alsace’s abundant resources and ancient winemaking knowledge and producing something wholly new but distinctly Alsatian.
One of those most responsible for this sea change is Christian Binner, the renowned Alsatian winemaker who’s been making legendary zero-zero wines in his Ammerschwihr winery for more than 20 years. Les Vins Pirouettes is his most recent endeavor. Saddened by the sight of organic and biodynamic grapes being sold for so little to cooperatives, Christian decided to encourage these growers to make wine under their proper name instead, thus promoting the idea of soulful terroir wines made with zero nonsense both in the vineyard and the cellar.
Alsace is perhaps the best region to achieve these goals. Thanks to the Vosges Mountain Range protecting it from the West, it’s a sunny and dry area, lowering disease pressure on oh-so-sensitive Vitis Vinifera. And, given its colorful geology, the region is a true patchwork of soils and subsoils ranging from granite to limestone and volcanic plots. Combine it with the 13 typical local varieties and you have the ideal hotbed for a breathtaking span of flavors and styles, especially when respectfully grown. In Christian’s mind, it was a sin to let them disappear in some insipid cooperative wines.
Pirouettes is a friendly, open association of an ever-growing number of like-minded vignerons. Currently it consists of fourteen organic and biodynamic small growers whose names you'll always find on the bottle along with the style of the wine inside. The Glou Glous are, as the name implies, highly drinkable; Tutti Frutti connotes a white blend of multiple grapes; Eros serves up flamboyant macerated whites.
All the wines are made with zero-additions in the winemakers’ own cellars, with the gentle helping hand of the project’s enologists Xavier Couturier and Pierre Sanchez. That's what makes this different from a negociant project; each cuvée is vinified at the winemaker’s own place thus respecting its history and character. Since all the winemakers are busy with full time vineyard work, the equally important work of selling the wine has been left to Rémi Ségura, a young Sommelier that has helped to bring attention to many of the worlds best natural wines. That in addition to Christian’s reputation have made these humble wines difficult to acquire with shops fighting over the small allocations.
Pirouettes is the name they chose to symbolize the fun they're having, but also because as Christian explains, “these wines are like beautiful artistic figures, the result of certain know-how and mastery. Pirouette is a gesture of freedom, emotion, and joy”. A perfect name for this group of liberated winemakers and skillful artisans who, if history is any indication, will leave a proud legacy that will be felt for decades and centuries to come.