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Schlumberger’s vineyard dominance

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Alain Beydon-Schlumberger’s grandfather Ernest Schlumberger was a smart man and an opportunist. After the twin ravages of phylloxera and World War I, when Alsace was ripped apart and the wine industry was in disarray, and few wanted to grow grapes or make wine, he decided the best thing was to start buying vineyards.

Ernest increased the family’s holdings from 20 hectares to 130, which he did by purchasing all available vineyard land in his district of Guebwiller. This entailed no less than 2,700 individual transactions, which must have kept the notaries busy.

Domaines Schlumberger (tastings) is today by far the biggest owner of vineyards in Alsace with 130 hectares. The next biggest is Dopff au Moulin (tastings), with 70 hectares. The average holding is 8 hectares.

Not only is the size of Schlumberger’s domaine exceptional, but so is the fact that it’s all in one piece. Most producers own a few hectares here, a few there, in scattered locations.

Schlumberger’s domaine includes four grand crus: Kitterlé, Kessler, Spiegel and Saering. There could very easily have been a fifth, but according to Alain, who runs the firm today, the authorities at the time feared there might be an outcry if one company was granted grand cru status for so many of its vineyard sites.

Kitterlé is the jewel in the Schlumberger crown. A steep, terraced, south-facing hillside with yields as low as 25 hectolitres per hectare, it’s on volcanic soil – one of only two great vineyards in Alsace on volcanic soil. The 2010 Schlumberger Kitterlé Riesling is a great wine: wonderfully intense and concentrated with a complexity of flavours, and tremendous finesse and palate length.

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