Nestled between the Vosges and the Black Forest Mountains is a rich land of ancient castles, fairy-tale villages and fabulous fizz. A very warm welcome to the Alsace of Arthur Metz.
It’s the middle of October, and for weeks Nicolas Haeffelin has been hard at work. “The days are very long during the harvest,” he laughs.
Nicolas is a winemaker at Arthur Metz, the home of the beautiful Crémant d’Alsace in November’s Bubble Box. Founded in 1904, this winery was one of the first to produce sparkling wines in Alsace, and today more than half of the bottles it ships out are filled with fizz.
Nicolas has been part of the Arthur Metz story since 2011, the year that the winery’s parent company – the family-run Les Grands Chais de France – bought his family’s estate. He splits his time between the two, working alone at his family’s small estate and with three other winemakers at Arthur Metz.
He’s a man with Alsace in his blood, which makes him an ideal winemaker at Arthur Metz. Because here, at the home of Crémant d’Alsace, this region’s incredible character is a central concern.
Jewel of the Rhine
A beguiling mix of French and German cultures, the region of Alsace was once one of the most hotly contested pieces of land in Europe – its residents swapped nationalities four times in a period of just 75 years. The reason is simple: Agriculture.
Alsace is wedged between two mountain ranges, which protects these glorious plains from rain and inclement weather, and has blessed the area with rich soil and an unusual amount of sunshine.
Such a unique climate is perfect for growing wine. The Romans used this region as their empire’s viticultural centre, and these days a huge array of grape varieties flourish on these foothills. From Pinot Gris to Riesling, this is the spiritual home of the white grape.
As Nicolas explains, “In France especially, Alsace is a bit special because we have so many grape varieties. Pinot Gris, Muscat – the main part of our production is white grapes, and you can see what we’ve used on every wine label.”
The Arthur Metz winery is located at the beating heart of this ancient winemaking hub – the road known as the Couronne d’Or, or ‘golden crown’. Here, neat rows of vines cover gentle hills and the vineyards overlook picturesque towns of half-timber houses and medieval cathedrals.
In the colder months, a soft blanket of snow coats this incredible landscape; standing in the Arthur Metz vineyards, which overlook the idyllic town of Wettolsheim, it isn’t hard to imagine families gathered around warm fires with a carafe of wine and a tarte flambé pulled from a woodfire oven. Alsace is truly the home of Gemütlichkeit, a German phrase that means something between physical cosiness and the existential pleasure of finding where you truly belong. It’s that sense of Alsace – the unmistakeable but elusive joy of simply being there – that Nicolas and the other winemakers at Arthur Metz are so determined to bring out in their wines.
With more than a century of experience, tremendous respect for the region and the talents of incredible winemakers like Nicolas and his colleagues on board, it’s no wonder that the wines of Arthur Metz are such stunning successes.
Pride of Place
The Arthur Metz Prestige Brut in November’s Bubble Box is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished in the Alsace wine region. With a fine cord of bubbles and a beautiful yellow-green hue, this is a wine that declares its origins proudly.
Unlike many crémant producers, Arthur Metz very rarely puts its wines through the process of malolactic fermentation. This process removes the tart-tasting malic acid, which his present in almost all freshly squeezed grape juice (which goes on to become the fizz in this month’s box), and transforms it into something altogether sweeter.
By refusing to perform the process on their wines, Nicolas and his colleagues are preserving some of Alsace’s incredible terroir. “It gives the wine a unique taste,” he says.
Another unique Arthur Metz twist is the use of Pinot Gris in several of their crémants. “It’s the smallest part of the blend, but it’s not something you would expect to find in a crémant. It brings some body and some structure – it brings the freshness, the fruitiness and the citrus notes.”
Only the finest grapes – grown organically and harvested by hand – are used for the Brut Prestige in this month’s Bubble Box. Because of its incredible quality and structure, it’s more versatile than many sparkling wines. It can even stand up to many foods, and goes well with cold cuts and tapas.
“Over here crémant is very popular,” Nicolas says. “The two main moments we drink it would be as an aperitif and after the meal, with dessert.”
This month’s beautiful Arthur Metz Brut Prestige isn’t just delicious to enjoy – but a wonderful expression of one of France’s most beautiful wine regions.