White Wine Producer of the year, 2020: La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim

Wine news

Fri 4 Dec 2020

^ Jean-François KUENY, La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim's cellar master

Compared with the lavish attention received by Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, Alsace is one of the most underappreciated wine regions in France. Not only does it make great sparkling, red and sweet wines, but its white wines are among the finest in the world.

Top of the pile is Riesling – typically dry and mineral, but by turn it can be aromatic and heady or sweet and luscious. The wines age amazingly well and develop huge levels of complexity over time. Alsace is also known for its weighty, stone-fruit-accented Pinot Gris, exotically perfumed Gewurztraminer and clean, grapey Muscat.

One producer that has mastered them all is La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim – winner of the 2020 IWSC White Wine Producer of the year.

Founded in 1957, Pfaff, as it's become known, came about as a way for a handful of winegrowers to work more efficiently together, with the first bottlings launched in 1959. Today, it has close to 200 growers, and is one of the major players in the region, producing around 3 million bottles a year – with every single grape harvested by hand.

Alsace is known for its varietal wines – that is, wines made with 100% of a single grape variety – but Pfaff has broken the mould by releasing a host of blends, including the ‘Tie’ series, including Black Tie (Riesling/Pinot Gris), White Tie (Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris) and the 2019 Blue Tie Pinot Gris/Muscat/Gewurztraminer, which won a Silver at this year’s IWSC and drew judges’ praise for its ‘opulent, buttery style with wildflowers, honeysuckle, passion fruit, pink grapefruit, white pepper and fresh herby characters’.


The co-operative has the single-variety side covered, too, winning IWSC Golds this year for its 2018 Grand Cru Riesling, and its 2018 Cuvee Ancestrum Gewurztraminer, an intense, spicy white with notes of passion fruit.

‘Alsace can both be traditional and innovative,’ says Pfaff’s Julien Lepont-Jubin, who admits that the perception of Alsace among wine drinkers is hard to define. On one hand, the quality of its white wines is very well known, but equally, the sheer range of styles and varieties is not as well understood as other regions.

For example, sweetness levels can vary hugely from producer to producer, so much so that there has been calls for mandatory labelling indicating the sweetness on the bottle. One winemaker’s Riesling may be bone dry but head to their nearest neighbour and you may find a totally different style – ‘but this also makes the region unique’, Lepont-Jubin adds.

Next year will see a clutch of new projects: there’s a new range of varietal wines, ‘1957 by Pfaff’; a three-strong oak-aged range; and a new Crémant for Pfaff’s La Griffe du Diable (‘Devil’s Claw’) brand.

Lepont-Jubin adds: ‘The White Wine Producer Trophy is the one that means the most to us, as it was one of our goals as a company. Winning such an award among all the international competitors is really challenging and we’re very happy that an Alsatian winery has won this prize!’


    • La Chablisienne

    • Divino Nordheim Thüngersheim

    • Leo Buring

    • La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim