"We have the rare luxury of working for our passion with no other shareholders to please than ourselves. My great-grandfather used to advise his sons: "Run your business so that when you meet the banker he has to greet you more cordially than you need to greet him!" He would be very proud today to know that his family has been invited by its peers to be a member of Primum Familiae Vini".
- Etienne Hugel -
Twelve generations dedicated to Alsace wines in a unique but challenging environment
The Hugel & Fils wine business appears to be shaped by destiny.
In 1639, Hans-Ulrich Hugel left his native Switzerland to escape the horrors of the Thirty Years' War and decided to settle in Riquewihr, at the heart of the Alsace winegrowing region. For 12 generations in direct line, the Hugel family has striven to revive the reputation Alsace wine enjoyed in the 16th century.
History has played a key role in the family's 370-year saga. After almost 50 years of German rule, Alsace was restored to France in 1918 with its viticulture in a pitiful state. Emile Hugel persuaded his colleagues to adopt a policy of "quality first” and fought hard for Alsace to become the first wine region in France to link Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée to the grape variety. One of his sons, Jean, petitioned the AOC regulators to establish a law for late harvest Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles wines, which he was then invited to draft.
Today, in the hands of the 12th generation: Jean-Philippe, Marc and Etienne, shortly to be joined by the 13th generation, the Hugel family's goal is to ensure that in the 21st century Alsace wines will regain their rank among the world's finest white wines. The family has also decisively contributed to the revival of Gentil, a traditional blend of the best Alsace grapes.
The Hugel philosophy, and the secret of their wines, remains firmly based on one simple fact: that "the wine is already in the grape”. Consequently, all their grapes are carefully picked only by hand and classified according to their own strict criteria of quality. Apart from Gentil, all Alsace wines are 100% varietal and must be bottled only in their region of production.
Hugel & Fils, founded in 1639 in picturesque Riquewihr, Alsace, France, is still 100% family owned and managed by the 12th consecutive generation of the family.
The Hugel cellars, under fine XVIth century buildings in the heart of medieval Riquewihr, contain large oak barrels which are more than one century old, including the famous "S. Caterine” cask, dated 1715, named the world's oldest working cask by the Guinness Book of Records.
Hugel's production averages 100,000 cases per year, of which around 90% is exported to more than 100 countries worldwide, where "Alsace” is often synonymous with "Hugel”.
Vines have been cultivated in Alsace for more than 2,000 years and have brought great prosperity to the region. The second driest wine region in France, Alsace enjoys a unique climate that enables the grapes to ripen slowly, giving dry, aromatic wines with great finesse and unequalled intensity: a perfect match for most Western and Asian cuisine.
Hugel wines, with their distinctive yellow labels, express the pure varietal character of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Pinot Blanc, without any "make-up” from oaking or sweetening.
The Hugel family pioneered late-harvest Alsace wines, "Vendange Tardive” and "Sélection de Grains Nobles” and drafted the law that governs their production. Born out of respect for these special wines and a determination to guarantee quality and authenticity, the law is the strictest in force in any of the French AOC wine regions.
Alsace: a climate blessed by the gods
Thanks to its privileged geographical situation, Alsace is the driest wine region in France. Its micro-climate is caused by the distance which separates it from maritime influences, and by the protection of the Vosges mountains.
This climate enables the grapes to ripen slowly to full maturity, giving the wine great finesse of aroma and unequalled intensity.
A mosaic of soils
Because of its complex geology, Alsace has an infinite multitude of combined soil types. Centuries of experience have taught the winegrowers how best to match each vine variety to each type of soil.
Riquewihr: the most noble wines of all the country
From the Middle Ages, Riquewihr was renowned for "the most noble wines of all the country". The family owns 30 hectares (75 acres) of prime sites in and around Riquewihr, located on clay and limestone soils, with the majority classified as Grand Cru, and buys additional grapes from a further 100 hectares (250 acres) farmed under contract.
The Hugel estates are planted with only the noble Alsace grape varieties, with vines averaging 35 years of age. No use of fertilizer, low yields, vines averaging thirty years of age, thinning out of excess bunches, and picking always by hand, are all factors which contribute to rigorously high levels of quality.
For more information, please visit the Hugel & Fils website: www.hugel.com