Maximilien draws on the singular quality of his granite terroir. The soil offers exceptional minerality, because the roots have to penetrate deep to find water. This water is highly mineralised by the granite bedrock, providing unparalleled subtlety and salinity. Such terroirs are extremely rare in Alsace – in fact, this characteristic is unique to Dambach-la-Ville.
Alsace is situated between the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains, and enjoys a hot, dry climate. The Vosges massif protects the vineyards from the Atlantic winds arriving from the west; the clouds empty their burden of rain on the mountains’ far side, sparing the vineyards. The vines flourish and it seems as if this corner of Alsace was created especially for crafting outstanding wines.
The name Zaepffel comes from the old Alsatian “Uszzapffen”, meaning “to draw from the barrel”. Maximilien’s ancestors settled here in 1559, realising that the best wines would come from the vines at highest altitudes. His vineyards are therefore located mainly on the hillsides at higher elevations - as close to the sun as possible. This wonderful legacy includes a considerable section of land situated in the Grand Cru Frankstein appellation.
Alsace needs to win back its admirers, but it also needs to seduce a new audience. There’s a new interpretation and appreciation of wines in France, whatever their provenance. But, more than for other terroirs, Alsace needs new artists. Our vineyards have every asset: dry, semi-dry, sweet and liqueur-like wines, an atypical climate, and unique grape varieties. I see a new beginning for my region; it’s a promised land.
I want to create wines that are not confined by the Alsace framework. I want to stand out, to detour, to create wines that digress from tradition. It's a challenge, but Mother Nature will give me the grapes she judges best. In my opinion, the wine is created in the vineyard - in its soil, its branches and foliage - much more than in the cellar! I will pay homage to nature by producing wines that honour the fruit. Conceiving a wine is a thrilling project – it takes a lot of adrenaline and a great deal of patience!
Here’s a first audacious step: paying tribute to this original grape variety, the Sylvaner. These 70-year old vines have matured on land that is home to varieties classed as Grands Crus. The grapes are harvested at a ripeness close to that of a late harvest. Maximilien chose to ferment the wine for 8 months in casks and then age it on the lees. Sylvaner is making a comeback... and what a comeback. This wine is a pleasing surprise!
On our wine estate, the grape varieties that comprise this cuvée - Auxerrois and Riesling - are rooted in a Grand Cru soil. They are harvested carefully by hand, late, in the autumn when they are full of sunshine. The grapes are then slowly pressed for 8 hours and matured on the lees in casks. This wine is lively and mischievous because it plays on aromas that recall our childhoods... Hence its name, meaning harlequin or jester.
This surprisingly mellow wine is produced from a subtle blend of our best selections from the Grand Cru Frankstein. It successfully combines freshness and delicacy, achieving a balance for which only Maximilien has the secret. Tasting it is a real journey – for he’s a true alchemist!
MICHELIN STARRED CHEF AT THE RESTAURANT L’ARNSBOURG
“I was very impressed when I discovered this Sylvaner ‘vieilles vignes’ called Phénix. It merits devising dishes of character to suit it. I already have a lot of ideas, but to respect this very floral wine they must all be very precise. As for the ‘l'Arlequin’, at first it baffled me... How could you guess that it was from an Auxerrois varietal? What a nice surprise!”
SOMMELIER - L'ARNSBOURG
“When I tasted his wines, one word immediately came to mind: audacity. He’s an intrepid young winemaker who stands out. His ‘Phénix’ wine is offbeat, unconventional. I’ve never tasted a Sylvaner like it. His blend of Grands Crus named ‘Origine’? It took nerve to do that. My assessment? Ingenuity and finesse that is quite clearly creating a sensation.”
Restaurant L'Arnsbourg and its hotel in Baerenthal.
Picked at levels of ripeness close to those of a late harvest, this wine nevertheless possesses great depth and freshness. It is very aromatic with a floral quality, particularly reminiscent of roses. This noble grape variety is in the spirit of all Alsatians. Mentioning its name immediately evokes Alsace.
This cuvée is surprising. The salinity and freshness on the palate denote a granite wine. It would be wise to forget it for a few years in the cellar, then find it again one day by chance... Lady Luck often creates such marvels!
An original wine that revels in a palette of pinks. The fragrance of the fruit is very present. This wine will charm you with its subtle combination of dry and silky-sweet.
Aged in casks after a month-long maceration, it is a very aromatic wine with a ‘kirsch’ profile (cherries, stone fruits). A few years in the cellar will render it silky in the mouth.
Riesling is the cornerstone of the Alsatian vineyard. Ours departs from the traditional paths, however, because our terroir strongly makes its mark. This Riesling is, more than anything else, a granite wine.
All our grape varieties and all our wines are organic.
Dry and semi-dry wines
Sweet and liqueur-like wines
The “Lieux Dits” (named-place vineyard plots)