One look at Jean-Christophe Bott’s scarred and grape-stained hands is enough to see that he is a man of the earth. Jean-Christophe and his wife, Valérie, have been running the domaine since 1993, although it’s been in the family since 1795. They farm in and around the village of Beblenheim, in the heart of Alsace’s celebrated Haut-Rhin, not far from the historic city of Colmar. Their 15 hectares of vineyards are spread among 75 parcels in seven communes, from Ribeauvillé to Kientzheim, “the pearls of the vineyard.” Given that they farm eight grape varietals among five Alsace grand crus and three lieux-dits, including Sonnenglanz, Mandelberg, Schoenenbourg and Furstentum, protecting their terroir has become a full-time occupation. In addition to getting certified in organic viticulture, the Botts have taken their beliefs to the next level by seeking biodynamic certification. They believe that biodynamics allow the wines to best showcase their terroir, heightening the aromatics and complexity of the wines. The Botts do everything by hand with a fastidiousness and passion that one finds only among true artisans. Special cover crops are planted and tilled into the soil, herbal infusions boost the immunity of the vines, and only natural treatments are used. The region’s most famous producers practice this kind of farming, and this husband-and-wife team is well on its way to be counted among them.
The grapes are harvested by hand and collected in small cases to protect the wines on their way to the winery. The grapes are slowly and gently pressed in whole clusters for 6 to 18 hours. The musts are allowed to settle for 24 hours at a cold 6°C on their wild yeasts. After about three or four days, alcoholic fermentation begins and will last for a lengthy three to six months. Winters in Alsace can be particularly cold, which can temporarily suspend or slow the fermentation. The spring thaw generally restarts the process, which imbues the wines with greater complexity and aromatics. Once fermentation is complete, Jean-Christophe ages the wines on fine lees from four to eight months, and bottles them in September, a full year after the harvest. Each wine rests in bottle for an unspecified time, often years before their release. Tasting the vineyards of Bott-Geyl in their liquid incarnations can be an eye-opening experience into the soul of Alsace.