Words and Photos by Liam Carrier
Hugel et Fils
One of the top Alsace producers is Hugel et Fils (www.hugel.com/) whose store front is right in the centre of town on the main street. Hugel has been making wine in the Alsace region since 1639 and have a reputation of quality over quantity. They have skipped vintages of lesser quality to preserve this reputation and sold-off the grapes to other producers.
Hugel’s wine shop is very plain with no frills; the wines take centre stage. To accentuate this truth, the main decoration on the small tasting room is that of wine bottles of vintages past, bejeweled with the famous yellow Hugel label.
When we visited, the shop was manned by a very modern and hip twenty-something young man who explained to my wife and me that he was a university student from Strasbourg (the region’s capital city) working his way through school and unrelated to the Hugel family. I found him to be an interesting contrast to the rich history of the Hugel brand that has had continuous family participation for nearly 400 years. However, the more we spoke to him about the wines and Hugel’s process, the more I realized he reflected the company’s harmonious approach to blending traditional values with modern ingenuity.
Next door to the wine shop are the cellars where the wine is produced. Hugel produces four lines of wines Classic, Traditional, Jubilee and their premium brands; Selection de Grain Nobles (select reserve) & Vendage Tardive (late harvest). Each line is made from estate-grown grapes except the Classic line, which is made from grapes grown by local farmers on long-term contracts and sold to Hugel. Their wines are available in 100 countries worldwide including the United States and Canada. The Classic line will be the easiest to find; however for the true Grand Cru experience see if your local fine wine shop or liquor board can order from the Traditional or Jubilee lines.
My personal favorites are the Traditional Muscat, Jubilee Riesling and the Vendage Tardive Gerverstraminer. In my repeat trips to the region I’ve managed to stock my cellar with these much-loved wines. The finest Alsace wines will age much longer than traditional white wines, especially the late harvest wines. The star of my Hugel collection is a bottle of 1998 VT Gerverstraminer which I plan on cellaring until 2018. - LC
(Photos by Liam Carrier - Copyright 2008)