We knew we were approaching something special as we caught a first view of Mittelbergheim in northern Alsace, a couple of church spires and a mosaic of steeply pitched, reddy-brown tiled rooves, perched above an undulating tapestry of lush green vineyards. A member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages of France association), the village and many of its family wineries escaped unscathed from two World Wars, quite a feat when you consider its frontier location and proximity to the German border.
One of most impressive of these surviving wineries is Maison Boeckel, 5th generation growers and winemakers since Frédéric Boeckel founded the winery in 1853, and today managed by brothers Jean-Daniel and Thomas Boeckel. 24 hectares have been fully converted to organic viticulture in the last decade and the family holdings include a proportion of the prized Zotzenberg Grand Cru vineyards, considered one of the finest in Alsace and the only place Sylvaner can be bestowed Grand Cru status.
The history is etched out of stone in the cellars beneath the winery and family home, a labyrinth of dimly lit rooms and caves, housing tanks, barrels and some very old bottles, modern state of the art stainless steel starkly contrasting with black mould-covered walls and ceilings carved out by hand a century prior. These are long ageing wines, from storied vineyards and a long line of dedicated growers, makers and consumers. “I feel extremely lucky”, said Jean-Daniel, “We get to grow the greatest varietals in the world here. I absolutely love Riesling, I enjoy a glass every single day.”