Zellenberg is located in southern Alsace north of Colmar [click on the satellite photo to enlarge a bit and locate Zellenberg, then enlarge at the max, you can even see the fountain], on the first slopes of the Vosges mountains. Less flashy than touristic gems like Riquewir or Ribeauvillé, this small village is quiet and devoid of tourists. We arrived a few minutes in advance under a light drizzle and I shot a few pictures like this one of the public fountain facing Marc Tempe's house and winery (pic on left : this is the grey house in the middle). I first came into contact with Marc Tempe's wines in a wine bar in Paris where I began with his Edelzwicker Alliance and This native Alsatian who made his first wine in 1993 was since then on my must-visit list for Alsace (I didn't have enough time to visit more this time but I should later this year, I have a serious backlog here...).
Marc Tempé excuses himself about the mess as we enter the tight space of his old winery, but the place is so beautifully authentic that whatever mess may show up here or there can't impair with the general feeling of amazement in front of the vibes of the cellar that we are soon going to walk into. After we pass a couple of rooms full with pallets of crates ready for the delivery truck, empty stainless-steel vats, a bottling line, a press and all sort of tools, we arrive at a door opening on a semi-underground cellar. Marc Tempe says that the situation is a bit complicated [as often in Alsace because of lack of room in the old village houses] and he has his facility spread on three locations : the first cellar here, another one in the next building and a third storage facility a couple of kilometers away.
If this Alsatian village was founded in the 10th century by monks, this particular house was built between the 18th and the 19th century at a time when wineries had their place in the middle of the villages, and the cellar was the part of the house that changed the least.
Back to the press stage and the acidity. Marc Tempé says that one of the striking results of the biodynamic vineyard-management is a surge in the juice'acidity which is credited to a stronger interaction between the roots and the natural minerals and nutrients of the soil. The careful pressing helps preserve as much as possible this increased acidity. He adjusts the press time for each grape load, depending of the harvest quality, the grape variety, the year (more or less botritys), but it goes from a minimum of 4-5 hours to 8-10 hours for late harvest and noble grapes. The more the grapes are concentrated, the less juice you will have, so it takes more time to get it out. Many vignerons rely on the fixed programs of the press' integrated computer : they consider that if things turn bad they have "ways" to "correct" their mishandling of the press stage. Marc Tempé says that he has no fixed rule and will conduct each press according to the changing parameters. He says that the interns fresh from the enology school often ask for a user book with programs and rules to follow with this press, to which he answers that if the press maker issued a manual, this is up to the vintner to adapt and do what he thinks will be best for the future wine.
His wife's family had this house before WW2 and made wine there, selling the wine to cooperatives after the war like it often happened in Alsace.
He rents the second cellar to a neighboor. It is located maybe 50 meters from his house/winery and we access to it after walking through a courtyard which was in the ancient times the Cour Dïmière, that is the courtyard where the peasants had to pay their taxes (the Dîme) under the form of wheat and other commodities. this second cellar is more Burgundian than Alsatian, with regular, smaller casks compared to the foudres. Not fully underground, it is not airconditionned and its temperature changes with the seasons, but he says that the idea that the wines need a cold temperature year around is baseless. The wines can stand these changes and live with the changes. once finished and bottled, that's a different story of course. So, in this cellar, he tries do do something else with the few demi-muids in this cellar and with the smaller 228-liter casks, for example he shows one with a Riesling Grains Nobles 2007. The tannins of the wood will make an exchange with the wine and he wants to see the result. He gets his casks from the Domaine Leflaive (Anne-Claude Leflaive)in Burgundy. The reason is that he is sure that the wine that went through these casks was organic and devois of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. He also bought a few 350-liter casks from the Domaine Henri Boileau. Last year, he bottled some 2003 wines after a very long elevage and he says that these wines are impressive, they were in contact with the air, they got tannins and could last forever after that. About SO2, he puts some although very moderately, first at the press, and then before bottling.
__Marc Tempé, Pinot Blanc Zellenberg 2006. Entry wine at Marc Tempé (11,4 Euro, public price), after the Edelzwicker (Alliance) which costs 6 or 7 Euro. Bottled in september 2008. Residual sugar. Some botrytis, never any sugar adding (again, no additives whatsoever and the juice ferments with its own wild yeasts). With the natural sugar in the grapes, he hasn't a wine under 13°. The botrytis allows a natural concentration of the juice. The down side is that the botrytis, in the wine, feeds off the same things that the yeasts, the latter tending to stop their work. Rich wine.
__Marc Tempé, Riesling Zellenberg 2006. 13,6 Euro. Harvested very ripe, some grapes were close to late-harvest type. In 2006 there was too much rain during the harvest season. Very nice mouth.
__Marc Tempé, Riesling Burgreben 2002. 21,8 Euro. Nose : complexity. Here the terroir and the acidity make a beautiful result in this medium-aged wine.
__Marc Tempé, Rodelsberg 2005. Gewürztraminer with Pinot Gris. Lots of minerality. Second nose : very refined and intense at the same time. In the mouth, very beautiful acidity and minerality. A bit turbid (non filtered).
__Marc Tempé, Gewürztraminer Zellenberg 2006. Striking golden color. Marc Tempé says that this bottle was opened 3 days ago and left without cork.The acidity makes a good balance with the residual sugar. Very nice mouth. 15,6 Euro.
__Marc Tempé, Gewürztraminer Mambourg Grand Cru 2005. Unfiltered. Bottled in 2007. The sucrosity of the wine is an exquisite experience, such a concentration anf finesse. The climat here is steepy with limestone soil. We don't spit here and the empty glass releases even more aromas. 31,6 Euro (public price again).
Marc Tempé's wines can be purchased in La Vierge de la Réunion in Paris.