Wines to Seek Out
Only a small selection of these wines make it to the United States (see importer information above), but they’re worth the hunt. If you are visiting Alsace, move them toward the top of your list for a domaine visit. The wines are not only beautiful, but the family has an ebullient and hospitable spirit. Wettolsheim is also a lovely little village to explore, but not as tourist-crazed as Hunawihr, Riquewihr and even Turckheim.
Barmès-Buecher “Sand” Alsace
How into soil are they in Alsace? Well, in this case, the winery went with “sand” as a more marketable name than “Pinot Blanc,” because — you guess it — the vineyard has sandy soils. It makes my list here because of its joyous energy and conviviality. Who could turn down what this wine offers? Delicate pineapple, white peach, yellow flower and herbal tones with a pleasant prickle of acidity … it’s tailor-made for sunny patios.
Barmès-Buecher Rosenberg Alsace Pinot Gris
This family’s wines frequently suggest tones and aromas that I’ve not encountered elsewhere. In the case of the Pinot Gris from the Rosenberg vineyard, that note is a streak of iron which anchors and contrasts the wine’s desire to lift up and float away. It is a compelling balancing act, and yet another example of how Alsace makes the world's best wines from this grape.
Barmès-Buecher Clos Sand Alsace Riesling
From Barmès-Buecher’s monopole vineyard outside Wettolsheim. This is Riesling with a falsetto voice: very clear, very precise and pure. Its aromas are suggestive of honeycrisp apple, lime pith, violets and almond, with a featherweight body that might make you wonder if it is among Alsace’s most delicate Riesling.
Barmès-Buecher Grand Cru Alsace Hengst Riesling & Grand Cru Alsace Steingrubler Riesling
Here is where Barmès-Buecher’s greatness is confirmed. Contrasting these two Grand Cru Riesling is no easy task, as their complexity and agility make them a perennial moving target to describe. The Grand Cru Hengst is known in Alsace as a powerful terroir, which is confirmed only on the nose here: a tsunami of tones that suggested citrus zest, dark apple, beeswax, sandalwood, olive and soft leather to me. The body, however, carries a beautiful diaphanous quality (yes, diaphanous … the word came to me and I had to look it up, but it is the only word to describe Barmès-Buecher’s Hengst on the palate).
Their Riesling from the Grand Cru Steingrubler is equally captivating, and perhaps a bit lighter, but no less substantial in its shape-shifting powers. My first impression of this wine’s aromas was so memorable: it rooted around my memory and extracted a willow-lined river in Colorado, the smell of being outside and carefree. Yes, that’s oddly specific, but in Barmès-Buecher’s best wines, I always find a bundle of surprises.
Barmès-Buecher Grand Cru Alsace Steingrubler Gewurztraminer
Lastly, we have this Grand Cru Gewurztraminer, which Maxime tends to vinify as sweet (although experiments are underway to see if a dry version with longer maceration can achieve balance). Gewurztraminer is naturally high in alcohol, and to be honest, I find it to be far more intriguing with some residual sugar for the sake of keeping the alcohol lower, and the texture more broad. It is a wine that makes perfect sense in Alsace, with Alsatian cuisine; but here in the United States, you might struggle to match it. I will say this: find it for the curiosity factor, and forego dessert for a few nights to taste this quixotic blend of rose, lychee, grapefruit and briny tones.