The fruit for Rolly Gassmann’s Sylvaner is sourced from a 5.5 hectare vineyard planted on clay, marl and limestone soils, in the commune of Rorschwihr. All 21 different types of limestone known in the world can be found in the soils of this village, and the sub-soil there is similarly diverse. These soils, and the particular climate of the sites, were discovered by the monks who first made wine here over 400 years ago, and today some of their methods are still used; vineyard activity is carried out based on the position of the moon and stars, with grape maturity and picking determined by the ripeness of the pips, as well as the skins. Organic and biodynamic practices are used to manage the vineyards, although the Domaine is not certified.
While the winemaking history of the Rolly and Gassmann families in Alsace can be traced back to the 17th century, the Domaine was not established until 1967 when these two families were joined by marriage. Now run by second generation Pierre Gassmann, the domaine boasts 52 hectares in the Haut-Rhin region, 40 of which are in Rorschwihr and 10 in Bergheim. The family is known for their remarkable collection of vintages; they age and store up to five years’ worth of stock – around 1.5 million bottles – and only release wines that they feel are ready to drink. This particular vision led Pierre to create an impressive new winery, completed in 2019 and nicknamed ‘The Cathedral’ by the locals. This six-tier, state-of-the-art construction, built into the hillside, has brought their gravity-fed vinification facilities, cellar and panoramic tasting-room under one roof.
As the cellar is located 500 metres from the vineyard, the grapes arrived at optimum freshness. Upon arrival, the fruit was immediately pressed by gentle pressing for 6-8 hours. Fermentation took place in stainless-steel tanks, using indigenous yeasts, for approximately five months at controlled temperatures of 16-20º C. The wine was then aged on its fine lees for 11 months before bottling, remaining in the cellar until ready for release.
Due to its freshness and gentle bitterness, it’s the perfect companion for salads, tapas, shellfish and grilled fishes