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Jean Becker/Jean-Philippe et Jean-Francois Becker
Zellenberg (Alsace)

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"Proud old family firm at Zellenberg, Alsace now making even finer wines." (Hugh Johnson, Pocket Wine Book 2003, Mitchell Beazley)

The Becker family have been winegrowers based in Zellenberg, a village high in the hills overlooking the picturesque town of Riquewihr in the heart of Alsace since 1610. They produce a range of varietals (including the four noble varities: Riesling, Gewurztrminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat), Grand Crus as well as luxurious, sweet Vendanges Tardives and SGNs. The entire range demonstrates an understanding of the individual varieties employed and the vineyard sites in which the different varieties are cultivated.

Starting in 1999, the family has converted the estate to organic production with wines bottled under the JP et JF Becker label (which have a yellow foil and gold stripe as opposed to the red foil and stripe of Jean Becker) from 2002 onwards having full Ecocert status and older wines being in conversion. This came about because brothers Jean Philippe and Jean François (oenologist and viticulturalist respectively) made a conscious decision to move towards safe and sustainable vine growing and wine production.

Like many Alsace growers, the range of possible wines produced is formidable: eight different varieties are grown (in addition to the Alsatian noble varieties there is Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Sylvaner and Chasselas). The noble varieties are grown in the various Grand Cru vineyards as well, of which the Beckers own land in five (Froehn, Schlossberg, Sonnenglanz, Praelatenberg and Schoenenberg). This makes the number of possible combinations quite considerable before the Vendange Tardives and Selections des Grains Nobles (SGN) styles are factored in. On top of all this there is sparkling Cremant d'Alsace and Edelzwicker, an everyday blend. In total, the Becker tariff lists over 40 wines, all distinctive. If that's not enough, Jean Philippe also distils fruit liqueurs, marc and other spirits. Most of this production comes from the family's 16 hectares (ha) of which four are designated Grand Cru Classé.

In 1988 the Beckers achieved an Alsacien record when they picked their Grand Cru Froehn Muscat SGN with a richness of 1174º with potential alcohol of 26º. This was the highest recorded level in Alsace (it has possibly been beaten since in the 2003 vintage).

We spent an enjoyable, albeit extremely hot week in Alsace during the 2003 summer heatwave, exploring the region and tasting many of the region’s excellent wines. Our conclusion: Alsace wines are improving all the time.

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