Domaines Schlumberger: Wines of Tradition, Youth and Passion

By Mike Potashnik
Co-Publisher International Wine Review

Alsace is one of those wine regions of the world that is often under the radar screen of wine enthusiasts and wine writers. I was therefore delighted at the opportunity to lunch yesterday with Séverine Schlumberger, of Domaines Schlumberger and Roland Herrmann, of Maisons Marques & Domaines, their U.S. importer. Following our lunch we tasted through eight of Schlumberger’s current offering which included several of their delicious Grand Crus.

Domaines Schlumberger will soon celebrate its 200th anniversary. It was founded in 1810 by Nicolas Schlumberger an entrepreneur, who was involved in both industry and agriculture. Séverine Schlumberger represents the 7th generation of this family winery and is a superb spokesperson for her winery and her generation. She speaks passionately and knowledgeably about her winery and wine in general. I was most impressed by her commitment to quality above all else. While Séverine appreciates the importance of the bottom line, she values her family heritage as one of the top producers in Alsace and wants to do everything possible to preserve and improve their reputation—even if it means sacrificing a vintage or dropping large quantities of imperfect fruit. Servine is also a natural born educator. She speaks authoritatively about the viticultural and winemaking challenges of the Alsace region—unpredictable weather, sandy soils and steep hillside vineyards ( “don’t climb them if you suffer from vertigo”) and producing wines of unique character and balance.

During our lunch and tasting I learned some impressive background information about Domaines Schlumberger and their wines: i) Half of the Domaines Schlumberger holdings, 70 hectares consists of four grand cru vineyards: Kitterle, Kessler, Saering, and Spiegel which are either wholly owned or owned jointly with other winegrowers. ii) yields per hectare are relatively low ranging from 25-40 hectoliters ( around 1.5-2.5 tons per acre) iii) all the vineyards are organically grown and ploughed with horses (which don’t suffer from vertigo!!), iv) grapes are usually pressed within 2 hours of harvesting; v) modern and traditional technology are used side by side in its winemaking— pneumatic presses temperature controlled stainless steel vats, and thermo controlled centenary oak casks for fermentation. vi) the wines usually/always receive extended lees contact and have some residual sweetness..

Here are my notes on the AOC and Grand Cru wines we tasted. I have provided the suggested retail prices. I personally think most of these wines are a bargain in light of their quality.

2005 Domaines Schlumberger Pino Blanc Alsace ($18.00)
A blend of 70% Pinot Auzerrois and 30% Pinto Blanc; Séverine calls it their “summer wine” because it is light and refreshing. Medium lemon in color it offers delicate fruity aromas, light apple and pear flavors, and a crispy finish

2005 Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Alsace ($24.00)
This is another lovely delicate easy going wine with a medium-lemon color and characteristic petrol/diesel aroma. Flavorful and fresh tasting with a touch of sweetness on the finish.

2005 Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering ($27.00)
Light lemon in color with an intriguing complex nose of dried fruits, round fresh fruit and attractive mouth feel, steely with a slight sweet touch on the finish.

2005 Domaines Schlumberger Pino Gris ($23.00)
This is Séverin’s “winter wine” slightly more fully bodied than the other wines with a pleasant albeit I thought it had an austere mid-palate and finish. It actually has 1.1 g/l

2004 Domaines Schlumberger Pino Blanc Grand Cru Spiegel ($ NA)
Medium lemon gold. Very aromatic and complex aroma of dried fruit, fig, complex and even a bit earthy Tastes quite young and needs time for the alcohol and fruit to come into balance. This was one of my favorites.

2005 Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Fleur ($27.00)
Deep yellow gold. Floral and perfumy with characteristic rose pedal and spice aromas and nice touches of sweetness on the finish.

2003 Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kitterlé ($60.00)
This is the only Grand Cru made in a difficult year of spring frost, hail and a heat wave!! It displays aromas of baked apple and pear and is, soft and round on the palate with perhaps some minerality, lovely balance, good acidity and a sweet finish.

2001 Domaines Schlumberger Pino Gris Grand Cru Kessler ($42.00)
Séverin believes that this wine could easily be considered a late harvest wine rather than a Grand Cru and I agree. It was sourced from very ripe grapes and displays lovely aromas and flavors of dried apricot and peach with a honeyed mouth feel and good acidity. It would be a great wine to serve with some Stilton or other blue cheese.

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