Domaine Martin Schaetzel

who? what? when? where? why? how?

who grows the grapes at Domaine Martin Schaetzel? who makes the wine?

Jean Schaetzel is a winemaking farmer, professor, and environmentalist all rolled into one.  Understanding who Jean is can feel like a game of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  We call him a winemaker first, because everything he does in the vines and in the classes he teaches is aimed at producing clean, elegant, balanced wines. 
Jean Schaetzel, Winemaker
Jean’s vineyards are certified biodynamic because he feels it’s the best way to produce healthy, balanced grapes each year. At the local university, Jean teaches wine tasting to winemakers, helping them taste the result of their efforts and make the right decisions at their wineries based on flavor instead of pure numbers. In the cellar, Jean runs a focused team with the goal of reflecting each vineyard site on which they grow Alsace’s traditional grapes varieties.

what wines do they make at Domaine Martin Schaetzel?

Schaetzel produces wines from the traditional grapes of Alsace, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, as well as Sylvaner and a wonderful Cremant d’Alsace from Auxerrois and Chardonnay.  Jean farms parts of the Grand Cru vineyards of Kaefferkopf (Kaff-er-koff) , Rangen de Thann, Schlossburg and Mackrain.  We have limited amounts of these wines, and a larger supply of his “Cuvée Reserve” wines. 
Cremant D'Alsace  from Domaine Martin Schaetzel (100% Auxerrois)

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when did Domaine Martin Schaetzel start? when might you open a bottle?

In its modern form, the winery dates to the decade following WWII when Jean’s uncle Martin Schaetzel rebuilt the cellars following the destruction of Ammerschwihr at the end of the war.  Jean took over in the 1980’s and promptly set out to convert the estate to first organic and then biodynamic farming.  For more of the story on the history of Schaetzel, please read this post on Ammerschwihr and WWII.
Domaine Martin Schaetzel, Ammerschwihr, Alsace and WWII

When you might open a bottle of wine from Schaetzel a fun question to consider. Jean’s “Cuvée Reserve” wines are generally meant to be consumed young, and you can always assume that they will be pristine examples of that particular grape. They will be balanced between riped fruit and bright acid.
For a starting point, try his Gewürztraminer with a ripe Munster cheese for a classic pairing, or his Pinot Gris with spicy Northern Thai cuisine. The Grand Cru wines deserve a bit more attention to pairings and time in the cellar. The 2002 Rangen Riesling is still bright and young ten years later and paired beautifully with pan seared salmon and fennel. The glory of good wine from Alsace is the diversity of food with which it pairs.

where is Domaine Martin Schaetzel?

Domaine Martin Schaetzel is located in Ammerschwihr (ahm-er-shh-weer) in the southern part of Alsace, near the city of Colmar.  The vines that produce most of Schaetzel’s grapes grow on the hillsides around Ammerschwihr, and others come from Grand Cru sites in the area.  Today the estate encompasses 12 hectare, or a little less than 30 acres.

None of the grapes are purchased, and none ever come from the vast plains that are the home to so many thousands of acres of vineyards in Alsace.  Jean feels strongly that the heart of Alsace and the only place to grow grapes worthy of making into wine are the foothills on the western edge of the Vosges mountains that protect the region from adverse weather and provide ideal exposure for vine growing.

why is Domaine Martin Schaetzel a Candid Wine? why might you want to taste?

Schaetzel is fascinated by the potential of diverse soil types on the same variety of wine grapes.  His Riesings from the Grand Cru Kaefferkopf vineyard tell the story of both the geology of that site and the estate’s meticulous approach to farming and winemaking in general.  From the one vineyard he produces three bottlings – one from a granitic sub soil, one from a mix of limestone and marl, and one from a subsoil that mixes all three.  They are as different as can be when tasted side by side we love the way one grape planted in one vineyard can take us in so many different directions in terms of pairings, ageability, and flavors.
Damien and Scott with Jean Schaetzel, center
This attention to detail, paired with Jean’s enormous respect for the environment is why it’s a Candid Wine. Why might you want to taste? Many of the superstar producers in Alsace produce wonderful wines, but many have become more and more expensive in the US over the past few years, not to mention more and more full bodied. We think these wines are worth a taste because of their balance in the glass and because of how reasonably they are priced for this level of quality.

how is wine made at Domaine Martin Schaetzel?

As much as anyone with whom we work, Schaetzel starts in the vineyard.  The work in the vines has nearly the sole aim of achieving a balance between the grape’s natural sugars and acids, and then picking that grape at just the right moment.   This is the sort of throw away descriptor that mean’s nothing until you realize that becoming better and better at achieving that moment each year has been Jean’s focus for most of his adult life.

In the winery, work at the sorting table is merciless and Jean insists that only healthy grapes make it into the stainless steel fermenters.  Native yeasts are relied on to create alcohol and large neutral oak casks provide a home for extended contact between the fine lees and the wine. 

Schaetzel's Cellar
As a general rule the winemaking can be considered “reductive” in style as Jean looks to make wines that unfold slowly both in the cellar and in the glass. Minimal sulfites are added at bottling.