Style: Dry, Medium Bodied
Practice: Regenerative Organic
Domaine Rieflé Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV
Domaine Rieflé’s vineyards are located throughout the communes of Pfaffenheim, Rouffach, Westhalten and Soultzmatt on the fracture zones of the Marbach and Ohmbach faults. They form a mosaic of highly fragmented geological compartments.
Their Crémant parcels are generally situated on deep, predominantly sedimentary loess soils which produce very ripe grapes (particularly in Drotfeld). The other parcels, situated on the highest parts of the hillside near to the forest, are slower to ripen and produce wines with good acidic structure.
This Crémant Brut, made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Auxerrois, is floral and delicately fruity on the nose with notes of brioche. It is generous on the palate, with fine bubbles and a sugar dosage which remains discreet.
About the Winery
The Rieflé family’s Alsatian roots are traced to Pfaffenheim when, in 1705, they immigrated in search of a better life. Family records indicate these early settlers were cobblers, since, not owning land, their livelihood depended on what they could produce with their hands. One of these early settlers purchased a house and property shortly after their arrival in Alsace. Built in 1609, this holding not only stands today, it has been home to all subsequent generations of the Rieflé family in France.
The earliest recorded family member to grow grapes was Joseph Rieflé, in 1850. However, winemaking was only a small part of the agrarian lifestyle necessary for subsistence in this rural setting at that time: in addition to grapes, Rieflé grew crops and livestock; what was not consumed by the family was sold to raise cash for clothing, furniture and necessities they could not make themselves. Following rural family tradition-by-necessity, son Joseph Rieflé II (1866 – 1951) and his wife, Henriette, joined the family venture and together had four children, three sons and a daughter.
One of these sons, Joseph Rieflé III (1908 – 2006) wisely capitalized on the local popularity of the family’s wines by expanding the family’s grapevine plantings and wine production. Following the disruption of WWII, the next generation committed to the family concern: René Rieflé returned from two and a half years serving the French Air Force in South Africa. Rene concentrated on winemaking, while his wife, Marthe, crisscrossed France and dramatically increased sales outlets for the family brand.
In the 1960s, a cultural shift was occurring in Alsace, as it was in other rural parts of the world: the upcoming generation preferred jobs in industry or in cities, and the availability of farm labor decreased significantly. With no shortage of labor in the family, René seized the opportunity to purchase additional property to meet the growing demand for Rieflé family wines.
In 1977, they decamped from their cramped winery in the center of Pfaffenheim, sandwiched between the town hall and a church, to a new facility they built outside of town amidst the vineyards. Today, Domaine Rieflé continues to thrive under the stewardship of Jean-Claude Rieflé, who assumed the role of winemaker from his father, René, in 1986. A graduate of Lycée Viticole in Beaune (1982), Jean-Claude has also been actively involved in industry organizations: from 1994 to 2000, he was the chairman of the Alsatian Independent Producers Organization, he has headed CIVA, the Alsatian Wine Board, and he has been a member of the AOC Producers Board. Ever the family occupation, Jean-Claude is joined by his wife, Annick, whose family have been grape growers dating back centuries.
During Jean-Claude’s tenure, Rieflé has become an international brand, as production can now support a robust export program. Additionally, the farm has been certified organic since 2014. When reflecting on his family legacy, Jean-Claude observes, “When you think about it, my great grandfather [Joseph II] was farming in the ‘modern’ method; he worked the land with organic practices which were the only ones available then.
After nearly a century of ‘better living through chemistry,’ we have come full circle.” The next generation of Rieflés is already poised to continue four hundred years of family tradition. Jean-Claude and Annick’s eldest son, Paul, attended the Business School of Reims and pursued a MBA in Bordeaux, which he completed in Japan. His internships include stints at Champagne Mumm and Champagne Bruno Paillard, as well as a year spent in the finance department of Pernod-Ricard.
Paul joined the company in 2009 as the director of business development. Fluent in Japanese, he is heading Rieflé’s expansion into Asia. Their younger son, Thomas Rieflé, received a degree in viticultural management from Lycée Agricole de Montpellier, which included several internships in the Loire Valley and a full year at Domaine Schlumberger to further complete his training in organic and biodynamic viticulture.
His first vintage at Domaine Rieflé was in 2009 as vineyards director. In 2011, it was Thomas began conversion of all Rieflé vineyards to organic methods. A testament to the respect and admiration that the Rieflé family has earned in Alsace comes in the form of Seppi Landmann, a legendary maverick in Alsace and one of the early French garagistes. In 1982, Landmann left the local cooperative to establish his own winery with just 2.5 acres.
Since then, he has increased the estate to 21 acres of vineyards on the Zinnkoepfle and Bollenberg slopes, as well as other hillsides in the Noble Valley. In 2011, the bearded and jovial Seppi approached the Rieflé family with a proposition. He very much admired Paul and Thomas’s efforts in the vineyard, their winemaking philosophy and their dedication to the Alsatian wine industry. With no heirs of his own, would the Rieflés be interested in merging the companies to carry on the Landmann legacy?
The Rieflé family was honored to accept and has been making Seppi Landmann wines, from iconic vineyards of Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle, in the two years since, and will continue to do so well into the future. Domaine Rieflé is not only about tradition, craft and family pride. It’s about a deep and lasting commitment to the entire region and the unique character of the wines produced there.
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