The Schmitt family has been making wine from its vineyards in Bergbieten since the early 17th century, and Roland Schmitt began working them when he was fourteen years old and took over the estate in his early twenties with his young wife Anne-Marie. Together they replanted many of the vineyards and steadily began making a name for themselves locally and all over Europe as producers of excellent, moderately priced German styled white wines. When we, the importers, met them in 1990, after being sent their way by superstar wine-maker André Ostertag, they had been winning just about every local wine tasting, and had no need to export their wines to the American market. In fact, after a tasting of approximately 30 wines going back at least ten years, they announced that they were pleased to meet us, but didn’t wish to sell wine to the states. Fortunately, after an hour of persuasion, they agreed to part with a few bottles of wine for the California market.
Their village is located in the far northern part of the Bas Rhin province about 25 kilometers east of Strasbourg. Although not as picturesque as the quaint villages further south in the Haut Rhin, Bergbieten produces some of the most remarkable wines in all of Alsace. The soil is gravelly limestone, which provides perfect drainage during wet periods, reflects the sunlight well during cool, sunny weather, and remains moist in dry spells.
The Schmitts vinify their wines in the traditional style. This means a cool fermentation of a hand picked harvest in stainless steel vats, and very little if any residual sugar is left in the wines. They believe that the combination of ripe fruit, exceptional terroir and good acidity produces wines which show remarkable character without being heavy-handed.
In December of 1993 the Schmitts were in a tragic automobile accident, and Roland was killed. After spending four weeks in a coma, Anne-Marie took over the estate by herself with the help of a trusted long-time employee and her then teen-aged sons. In 1996, she was cited in the prestigious Revue de Vin de France on two separate occasions as being one of the rising stars in the region.
It’s now been more than 15 years since Anne-Marie was joined by her two grown sons, Julien and Bruno, and their wines, better than ever, are served in all of the top restaurants in Alsace, a region blessed with more Michelin starred restaurants than any other in France.
For more information, please see: roland-schmitt.fr
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