Because he’s always the perfect Gentil-man!
You got me! I obviously don’t really think this is true, but it is pretty funny!
And Famille Hugel holds a special place in my heart. Last year one of our importers, Wildman & Sons, invited me on an incredible week-long trip to some of the best wineries in France. When Wildman sent me the line up it was packed with seven truly impressive stops.
But one stop had me particularly excited: Hugel.
Since 1639, the 13-th generation and family owned Hugel winery has been producing some of the best wines coming out of Alsace. Their winery is located in the same exact building since their inception over 370 years ago in the picture perfect village of Riquewhir, Alsace. I was already under the influence of Riquewhir’s beauty and charm. Impending world-class wines, too? I could barely contain my excitement.
The family’s 13-th generation, twenty-seven year-old Jean-Frederick Hugel, was our tour guide for the next 24 hours. We started with the traditional Alsatian dinner (more like) feast of Baeckeoffe. I still can’t pronounce Baeckeoffe correctly, but I definitely remember the tender pork, lamb, beef and sliced potatoes slow-cooked in white wine all day. All twenty of us received our own personal baker’s oven that easily could have fed 3 people. Yes, I ate the entire one myself. I couldn’t be rude to our host!
After dinner, our host walked us around the village. He showed us where his great-great-great-great grandfather’s house is still standing and the outside looks exactly the same. He showed us the fountain in town where he used to run around with his cousins. Jean-Frederick’s pride and love for Riquewhir is only matched for his pride and love of his family’s business. And that was clearer than ever when he brought us to his family’s winery which is located in the center of the village around midnight that same night (it’s also where the picture of me is taken). The entire group felt like VIPs–we were going in after hours into the Hugel winery! As my dad would say, “This is way cool!”
It was beyond “way cool.” Inside the winery we could read about the history of Famille Hugel, see the progression of the family, letters from Winston Churchill to the family. Oh, and Jean-Frederick totally spoiled us and opened up some incredibly special wines. Fun fact: the winery has been in the same location since 1639! They have expanded in tunnels underground. How cool?!
The next day we were given a tour of the Hugel vineyards, which are located over breathtaking views of rolling hills. More than half of Hugel’s 61 acres are in a designated area known as Great Growth, which is the equivalent Grand Cru in Burgundy. Jean-Frederick said that adapting the type of grape to the soil is the challenge and the benefit. The blend of clay (65%) and limestone bring a fresher and less acidic wine. In a world where consumers want robust, big wines; Hugel wines are elegant with tremendous finesse. Hugel wines go for length–not weight.
The focus of the family is ultimate quality. The entire family is committed to making the best possible wine. Jean-Frederick’s father, Etienne, became the public face of the family and everyone fell in love with Etienne’s energy and enthusiasm. I certainly did when I went to a seminar with my dad back in February lead by Etienne and Jean-Frederick in Boston. Just a few months later in April 2016, the Hugel family–and the entire wine industry–suffered a major loss when Etienne (57) suddenly passed away.
My twenty-four hours in Riquewhir went by too quickly. But I will always remember the charm of the village, the family-pride of our host and, of course, the wines. I’m excited to see where Jean-Frederick and his family will take their company in the years to come. I have no doubt that they will continue to be leaders in the wine world.
I invite you to join us this Saturday as we join in a nationwide celebration of Famille Hugel for Hugel Day from 1p-4p. We’ll be pouring six of the family’s world-class wines for you.