Léon Beyer – a reliably dry Alsace traditionalist

Léon Beyer is an Alsace producer that is usually mentioned together with Hugel and Trimbach as the traditional trio of high-end néogciants/wine houses of Alsace that have some things in common: they stick to a completely dry and rather firm wine style (with the exception of late harvest wines that are supposed to be sweet) and they avoid vineyard names on the label, meaning that they don’t sell any wines classified as grand cru, although unsurprisingly the grapes for their best wines are sourced from grand cru vineyards. All of these prodicers cellar their best wines some years before releasing them, until they re ready to drink (although some of us with weird tastes may prefer to cellar them even longer), but Léon Beyer seems to be releasing their dry top wines – called Cuvée des Comtes de Eguisheim – last. These traditionalists seem to share a preference for retro-styled labels, and also here Léon Beyer come across as the most extreme of them. (I personally think they could reconsider at least the colour scheme of the labels of the Cuvée des Comtes de Eguisheim wines, because unless they were chosen at random I can’t quite understand how they were thinking…)

The combination of reliably dry wines and wines sold after a suitable time of cellaring means that Léon Beyer’s wines have a particular reputation as “food wines” (vins de gastronomie), and they seem to have their eye on the restaurant market in several countries where they are sold.

Léon Beyer is located in the village of (village profile on the Alsace wine website of Per Warfvingegeneral Wikipedia article), and their own vineyards (20 ha/50 acres) as well as those from which they buy in grapes (50 ha/125 acres) are located in the general neighbourhood of this village. Eguisheim has two grand cru vineyards, Pfersigberg which is primarily is a vineyard for good Riesling and Eichberg which primarily is a vineyard for good Gewürztraminer. Although these vineyard names are not found on the labels of Léon Beyer, this is the origin of their best wines.

Léon Beyer doesn’t use any indication of the residual sweetness of their wines on their labels, but this isn’t really needed since they belong to the small group of “reliably dry” Alsace producers.

Alsacedagen 20140127 Léon Beyer

Sparkling

Crémant d’Alsace
Apple, some citrus and elderflower, dry. 86 p

Dry wines

Pinot Blanc 2012
Nose with apple and some mineral. The palate is just about dry, with apple, fruity in style, with good concentration, some mineral, and good acidity. 85 p

Riesling 2012
Nose with apple and a stony mineral note. The palate is completely dry with apple, citrus, mineral, and a high acidity, and gives a firm impression. 87 p

Riesling Les Écaillers 2007
Nose with apple, peach, and pronounced mineral and petrol notes. The palate is completely dry with apple and peach, good concentration, high acidity and a good mineral note. Firm impression. 89 p

Here the peach notes indicates that more ripe grapes have been used, but the wine is still as bone dry as the previous one. Some notes of maturity are also quite present, and show that the wine has received some time in the cellar. By the way, an écailler is someone who opens oysters, and this wine is definitely produced in a seafood-friendly style. However, I’d recommend pouring the wine into those eating the oysters rather than into those who wield a sharpened shucking knife, since an excessive intake of wine is know to introduce an erratic element into the movement of some peoples’ extremities.

Pinot Gris 2011
Nose with ripe apple and some honey. The palate is completely dry with apple, some honey and a high acidity. 87 p

Pinot Gris 2012
Nose with apple, a hint of apricot and honey, and mineral. The palate is dry but shows a fruity attack with appe, some spice, and a high acidity. 87 p

Pinot Gris Comtes d’Eguisheim 2007
Nose with a pronounced mushroom note, undergrowth, spice, and winter apple. The palate is dry but still shows sweetness of fruit in the attack, with notes of yellow apple, spices, a viscous profile and medium acidity. A very peculiar wine. 90 p?

Many I know say that they identify Pinot Gris (at least in its Alsatian version) by its mushroom notes – canned mushroom or mushroom cream are common descriptions – and that they find this note even in young wines. I don’t really find this type of notes too often in young(ish) Pinot Gris, but this was an exceptionally mushroomy wine!

Gewurztraminer 2012
Nose with lychee, honey, some spice, and perfume. The palate is dry with good concentration, honey, yellow apple, and medium acidity. Definitely a fresh style for a Gewürztraminer. 88 p

Pinot Noir 2011
Nose with cherries, some flowery notes, and spice. Palate with good concentration, cherries, good acidity, and medium tannins. A serious Pinot Noir. 86-87 p

Pinot Noir Comtes d’Eguisheim 2003
Nose with cherries, some dried red berries, smoke, and a hint of flowers. Palate with powerful concentration, ripe red berries, some dried red berries, and medium+ tannins. Tough and still young, 89 p.

Alsace has a tradition of producing much of their supposedly red Pinot Noirs in a rosé-like style, and this region hasn’t experienced quite the same red wine trend as Germany has. However, the heatwave of 2003 made it possible for northern regions to produce much more credible red wines than usual, and many of them avoided the touch of a “New World style” that many red Burgundies got in 2003. (On the other hand, some of the serious red Alsace wines did show somewhat dry tannins, so not all of them are fully balanced or will benefit from further cellaring.) This character made the wines sell well, so it was quite a number of years ago since the red 2003s were widely available. This 2003 from Léon Beyer is very good wine, but surprisingly tough for a red wine from Alsace, and can definitely take additional cellaring.

Sweet wines

Gewurztraminer Sélection des Grains Nobles Quintessence 1998
From the grand cru vineyard Eichberg, approx. 150 grams per liter of residual sugar

Nose with honey, dried fruit, aromatic oils, spice, some lychee and a hint of developed notes. The palate is very sweet with honey, pronounced spiciness, powerful concentration, and medium acidity. Still fresh, rather comes across as around five years of age. 93 p

“Quintessence” or “Quintessence des Grains Nobles” (QGN) is a non-official designation used by some producers for sweet wines that are even sweeter or more concentrated than a regular Sélection des Grains Nobles (SGN). In this case, the comparison to a German Trockenbeerenauslese comes to mind.

Per Warfvinge’s producer profile for Léon Beyer can be found here.

Swedish version here.

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This entry was posted in Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling. Bookmark the permalink.

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