Perhaps as a reaction to, or simply out of old-fashioned competitiveness with, the Alsace Grands Crus, many estates use single vineyard designations--lieux-dits--on wines. This is certainly intended to indicate a step up from an estate's generic or even reserve wines. The cream of this crop of vineyard-designates are usually called "Clos". A clos is a walled vineyard, technically, but that isn't always observed these days. There are many famous clos--Clos Vougeot in Burgundy is perhaps the most well-known.
The Clos within the Crus
Alsace has many of its own famous clos. Clos Ste.-Hune, wholly owned by F.E. Trimbach, is perhaps the greatest source for dry Riesling on the planet. The folks at Trimbach eschew the Grand Cru system, though they maintain plots in several Grands Crus. This wine alone could drive the competition with the Grands Crus, but it happens to be entirely within the Grand Cru of Rosacker, so Trimbach is really shadow-boxing with the Grands Crus in a way, but the Clos Ste.-Hune was well known long before the Grand Cru system took root in Alsace.
There are other clos that are within Grands Crus that estates are happy to admit are there: Ernest Burn's Clos St.-Imer in Goldert, Zind-Humbrecht's Clos St.-Urbain and Schoffit's Clos St.-Théobald within Rangen are some of the most prime real estate in the Grand Cru system, and the wines are suitably otherworldly. Clos St.-Landelin, owned by René Muré in the Vorbourg has produced one of the best Pinot Noirs I've had from Alsace, though you are more likely to find good Riesling and Pinot Gris, and great Muscat--depending on the adventurousness of your retailer and their clientele (for some reason, Alsace Muscat's not the easiest thing to sell).
Clos with Their Own Pedigree
Of the clos that are not part of a Grand Cru, the sense of injustice from outsiders can be extreme, but for those on the inside, it is of little import, and often a source of pride that they have been able to establish notoriety for their vineyard without needing the Grand Cru. Take for example the Clos des Capucins at Domaine Weinbach: it is certainly a Grand Cru worthy vineyard--it tends to yield wines that are a bit tense and backward to start with, but with maturity show their extraordinary brilliance. Zind-Humbrecht owns Clos Windsbuhl, Clos Jebsal, and Clos Häuserer, the first of which is definitely a Grand Cru quality vineyard, and a case could be made for the latter two. The Clos Rebgarten, part of Marc Kreydenweiss' stable of properties, makes the single best Muscat Ottonel (the least interesting by far of the three Muscat varieties used in Alsace, but this wine might change your mind) I've ever had. From the monopole onces known as the Clos du Schlossberg outside Ribeauvillé, Jean Sipp once produced only one wine, a field blend of Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. When Sipp pulled up three of the varieties and replanted the vineyard entirely with Pinot Gris, complete with terracing to make the steep gradient more manageable, the estate changed the name of the vineyard to Clos Ribeaupierre. The loss of the field blend may be tragic, but it's difficult to argue with the quality of this Pinot Gris.
One Grand Cru boundary line was drawn at the edge of a clos (I understand that high-emotion politics were involved here, so this could be inaccurate) because its wines are traditionally blends. As the producer refused to discontinue the blended wine in order to comply with Grand Cru regulations, the clos stands apart. Situated right next to the Grand Cru Osterberg, the Clos du Zahnacker, which is produced and marketed by the Cave Vinicole Ribeauvillé yields marvelous wine of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, and is every bit the quality of a true Grand Cru, although it is very much a vin de garde: subdued in its youth and spicy and vivid after a decade in the cellar.
A Famous Wine Goes Down, but the Clos Lives On
One of the many casualties of the mandates of the Grand Cru system was the blended wine from the Clos Gaensbroennel in Kirchberg de Barr. Now represented solely as a Grand Cru Gewurztraminer, Alsace Willm originally created it as a blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Sylvaner (though one person closely attached to the vineyard tells me it was actually Sylvaner Rosé, which is a forsaken varietal, but as I understand it, an Alsace original).
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