Have you ever heard about the Rangen Grand Cru?
- By Nabilah Rawji
- 29 Sep 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 301
The trail of Alsatian Grand Crus marks its southern end at Rangen in the village of Thann. This Grand Cru is tucked close into the foothills of the Vosges mountains and is defined by its altitude, proximity to the Thur river, and its predominantly volcanic soils.
Viticulture in Rangen stretches as far back as the 13th century but the ravages of phylloxera and World War II have reduced the vineyard from over 500 hectares to the concise 22 hectares it occupies today. Despite its historical acclaim, Rangen only achieved Grand Cru recognition in 1983. The modern success of Rangen centres on the Humbrecht and Schoffit families’ efforts to revive the vineyard in the late 1970s. The viticultural restoration focused on the heart of Rangen, a single steep south-facing slope bound by the Thur river.
Volcanic matter dominates both the top soil and the bedrock here. Mica rich andesite and a volcanic sandstone mix called greywacke make up the shallow topsoil. The igneous bedrock underneath is fractured and allows vine roots to travel deep. The free-draining soils are moderately acidic, limiting key nutrient availability. These soil characteristics, along with the cooling effect of Rangen’s high altitude, contribute to naturally low yields and slow ripening. Soil is of course only one aspect of terroir, and microclimate plays a key role in the site signature of Rangen wines. The high overall altitude of Rangen makes for a moderately windy site that balances out the above average rainfall and keeps disease pressure low.
Rangen is principally planted with Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer to a lesser extent. Pinot Gris thrives here where terroir keeps its vigorous habits in check. Riesling does exceptionally well thanks to dark soils that absorb and radiate the sun’s heat back to the vines. Harvest can happen as late as November, and both varieties benefit from the extended growing season. The proximity of the Thur river encourages noble rot to develop in fall. Selection de Grains Nobles and Vendange Tardive bottlings are regularly produced.
This Grand Cru is a challenging site to work and only a few winemakers produce commercial quantities of wine. The key producers in order of largest land holdings are: Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Domaine Schoffit, and the Wolfberger Co-op. The first two are neighbours and each own a prized monopole; Clos Saint-Urbain and Clos Saint-Théobald, respectively. Expressions of all three major grapes are made in each monopole.
Each producer of Rangen has their own approach to viticulture, but they have banded together to adopt more stringent AOP regulations in recognition of the particular needs of the Rangen terroir. Erosion, soil compaction, and low soil nutrition are major concerns. Accordingly, the AOP bans herbicides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizers. The AOP also sets lower vine yields and prohibits any acid adjustments. Both Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and Domaine Schoffit have gone one step further and farm biodynamically.