Dinner with Maurice and Marie-Claire Barthelmé of Domaine Albert Mann

Maurice Barthelmé: master vintner, master chef

Dinner on 16 July with Maurice and Marie-Christine Barthelmé in Wettolsheim at their home. They are co-owners  of the famous Alsatian domaine Albert Mann. Lovers of great food and wine – and good times – the Barthelmés do not preach or instruct, they just communicate a healthy passion for making one of the best wines of Alsace. There is precision and richness in their wines. I have been lucky enough to have gotten to know them and was invited to dinner this month where we enjoyed some great wines and foods.

What I liked most about the dinner was the blind tasting. Just for fun, Maurice would pour a wine and ask guests what they thought. He said that the point was not to get the right answer but to honestly explain one’s thoughts. Blind tasting is often very difficult. So it was interesting to see our expectations and then results along with each serving.

After Marie-Claire prepared a fresh salad with shrimp, Maurice concocted the main course. He had worked as a butcher in the past, so he expertly cut the lamb, which was tender and delicious, flavored with rosemary, garlic and mushrooms. Marie-Claire also baked two delicious Alsatian tarts, one with plum and the other with blueberries. We also had a cheese course, before sampling some very well made eau de vies by the distillerie Jean Paul Metté, brought over to the dinner by the company director Philippe Traber, an enthusiastic lover of spirits.

Marie-Claire and her delicious homemade Alsatian tarts

I will have to write an article about Alsatian spirits, which have a long and celebrated tradition. Although there is only so much spirit I could take, some were downright exciting and unique, including the ginger flavored eau de vie.

Wines in bold I liked in particular, in red and bold even more and when underlined, the most.

Dinner started off with hors d’oeuvres which included a fine concasse de tomate and olive tapenade. And while the Jacques Selosse Substance Champagne was delicious, what stole the show for me was the Didier Dagenau Pouilly Blanc 2005. It looked almost like a primary wine, such a light straw color, and tasted so, too – very dry and fresh. With intriguing stone like aromas and flavors matching the Sauvignon Blanc citrus. Very ripe but never too rich or overripe. Fantastic wine. Fans of rich styled Pinot Gris can also find their nirvana in the Domaine Albert Mann Pinot Gris 1998 which we also enjoyed outside on the veranda before heading to dinner.

Superb Riesling from 1999

Dinner began with the aforementioned salad, very fresh and imaginative including a mix of melon and banana (!) with shrimps. The first wine served for the salad was among my favorites of the entire evening, an incredibly youthful Albert Mann Grand Cru Furstentum Riesling 1999.

A more fruit driven Riesling from 2002

The second wine, the Albert Mann Rosenberg Riesling 2002  was also very good but richer and somewhat thicker in aspect, but certainly very Riesling: precise along with a tropical fruit and blood orange aspect. I just like the style of the first one more, although all depends on what food you eat. 

A very fine Chablis from a difficult vintage

Then came a stone dry and very delicious and pure, albeit with just a hint of wet sock, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos Dauvissat 2001, a challenging vintage for Chablis and here we see a producer who met that challenge. The more I drank it, the better it got, close to getting a red bold but not quite.

Saint Chinian and delectable lamb


As the lamb was being cut and prepared with sauces – see photos of master Chef Maurice Barthelmé – we sipped on the Grand P 2005, one of the Pinot Noirs made at the property. Very youthful in aspect, it seemed younger than its vintage, the wine exuded purity and finesse. Then came two reds for the lamb, both of which I had never heard of … The first seemed to be Grenache-based southern Rhone but turned out to be a thick but tasty mix of Syrah and Mourvedre from St Chinian Borie La Vitarèle Saint Chinian 2008 and it wore its 14.5% alcohol rather well. No one thought it was that high in alcohol. One person said ‘clearly New World’ but its smoothness won most everyone over.


Excellent Chateauneuf du Pape

The second was a bit less interesting, Domaine de la Marfée Les Champs Murmurés Coteau de Languedoc 2004, which may have had too much brett for its own good, but I thought it was more Old World in style and liked it enough. More jagged, but I liked its chutzpah!

Both of the above were mightily overshadowed by one of the finest wines of the evening, a Chateauneuf du Pape I had never before tried – and now I want to buy some: Le Charvin 2000, which was elegant. I thought it was a Cabernet from some other region because it had some tobacco notes, very elegant. Someone else thought Pinot Noir because there was cherry – certainly the transparent aspect seemed akin to Pinot Noir. But it proved to be Grenache. And 14.5% alcohol, but one did not feel the warmth at all. Wow, a lovely and balanced southern Rhone that was elegant above all else.

We then went to a Bordeaux, and I correctly guessed 2000 vintage but incorrectly thought Pauillac because all we talked about was how Pauillac would go best with the lamb. Most people indeed agree that it was a Left banker, perhaps a St Julien one person said. No way, José! It was none other than Chateau Pavie Macquin St Emilion 2000, and what a great wine. I had had it last month at the Premiers Grands Crus Classes dinner at Chateau Clos Fourtet for Pete’s Sake. You would have thought that I would have recognized it… Oh well. Very fine and not nearly ready to enjoy just yet. Noticeable tannins on the finish, a bit of a tightening aspect, but rich and full on the mid palate.

A superb SGN from 1994

By the time we got to the cheeses, there came a nutty and oxidized Jean Macle Cotes du Jura Chateau Chalon 2000, which, although appreciated by connoisseurs, I still cannot get too enthusiatic about… But I did get very enthusiastic about Albert Mann Furstentum Gewurztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles 1994, a beautifully balanced very late harvest wine from a fine vintage with fine floral aromas and an excellent way to end the meal – or so we thought!

My preferred spirit...

Then came a series of eau de vies, ranging from pear and ginger to coffee (!) and gingerbread! All very well made but I still think that my favorite remains the classic Poire Williams


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