While visiting a piece of Alsace, and in line with our latest article about marcs d’Alsace, Monsieur Baco has filled his glass at the J.P. Metté distillery.
It is impossible to guess what lies behind the rounded door if it was not for this discrete sign floating above the street. And yet, this small craft distillery founded by Jean-Paul Mette in the 1960’s, has built a strong reputation as decades went by. His godson Philippe Traber and his wife Nathalie took over the distillery in 1998 and their son Thimothée runs the business alongside his mother today. Three generations after its foundation, the brand is more vibrant than ever thanks to a large spirit range of 88 spirits and 32 liqueurs. From traditional pomace spirits (marcs) to saffron liqueur, Sichuan pepper, asparagus, chamomile flower, basil and even truffle spirits, there is a bottle for everyone. When craft distillation meets diversity: here is J.P. Metté!
Marcs (pomaces) obviously come from the region and more accurately from the village (Sipp, Lorentz and Fuchs). Flowers (fir buds, chamomile, elderflower, acacia…) and wild berries are hand-picked in the surroundings of Ribeauvillé. Fruits come from France as far as possible, sometimes from Alsace (damsons or “quetsches d’Alsace”), sometimes from other regions such as William’s pears from the Rhône Valley. The distillery sometimes must import some fruits and spices from other countries when their production is not developed in France like ginger roots from Thailand.
The fermentations duration differ significantly from one to another depending on the raw materials (from several weeks to several months). Fruits are naturally sweet and can be fermented naturally while berries, flowers and spices need to be macerated in a 75° wine spirit for the fermentation to happen.
Distillerie J.P. Metté has 3 small pot stills with a load capacity of 100, 140, 150 litres. The stills are loaded a first time then a second time with the result of the first distillation. The stills are cleaned between each raw material load in order to guarantee the purity of the final product. The condenser are tubes.
Spirits are aged for at least 5 years in stainless stills that are not hermetically sealed to get a dynamic aging process. “Hors d’Age” spirits are aged in demijohns in the cellar for more than 20 years while “fines” (brandies) are aged in 220 litres-oak barrels that have previously contained either cognac (for the Fine d’Alsace) or Pinot Noir (for both Marc de pinot noir and Vieille Prune).
Market and sales
The fruit spirits market is quite stable and is seldom impacted by the trends that run through more popular spirits markets. The J. P. Metté distillery sells around 22000 to 23000 litres a year with the following breakdown: 1/3 onsite, 1/3 in bars/shops/restaurants and 1/3 abroad (with a strong foot in Japan). Regarding Japan, the distillery has developed a particular relationship with the Land of the Rising Sun. Metté has shared their skills with Distillery Sata-Souji Shoten in Kagoshima in order to create a special range of gins using sochu (sweet potatoe spirit) as a base and Japanese ingredients such as seeweeds, yuzu, shimeji mushrooms, shiso…
We chose to taste marcs and fine because we thought it is more relevant to present tasting notes of spirits showing a wide range of aromas instead of flower, fruit and spice spirits displaying a unique concentrated aroma. The tasting took place onsite within a limited timeframe hence the lesser precision and details than in previous articles. The same tulip glass was used for all spirits.
White marcs (50cl)
- Marc de sylvaner, 45° – (48€)
- Nose: very fresh, herbaceous (eucalyptus, juniper) then more suave.
- Mouth: the attack is straightforward, with a certain “grain”. The mouth is vibrant and fruity. The finish is quite long with a touch of cold coffee.
- Marc de Riesling, 45° – (48€)
- Nose: resinous, reminding of a humid forest. There are some cocoa scents as well.
- Mouth: the attack is smooth; the mid-palate is herbaceous with camphor and white pepper. The finish is long.
- Marc de muscat, 45° – (48€)
- Nose: floral (rose, patchouli) and expressive.
- Mouth: the attack is mild; the mid-palate is very floral (geranium) and the finish is quite long.
- Marc de pinot gris, 45° – (48€)
- Nose: a little musky and fruity (red fruits, a touch of citrus).
- Mouth: the attack is smooth, the mid-palate is marked by fruits (blackberries), spices (cloves, nutmeg). The finish is long with light cocoa aromas.
- Marc de gewurztraminer, 45° – (48€)
- Nose: a little shy with spices (ginger), fruit (litchee) and fresh (eucalyptus).
- Mouth: the attack is mild; the mid-palate is spicy (ginger again) and floral. The finish is rather long.
- Marc de gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives (late harvest form the grand cru Altenberg of the Lorentz estate) 1990, 45° – (65€)
- Nose: fresh and floral. There is a certain delicacy and depth along with some bee wax accents.
- Mouth: the attack is sweet and suave on white chocolate and white pepper. The finish is fresh and very long.
- Marc de gewurztraminer Sélection Grains Nobles (hand-picked over-ripe grape grains form the grand cru Altenberg of the Lorentz estate) 2000, 45° – (78€)
- Nose: bee wax, pastries scents (marzipan, “pains aux raisins”, raisins).
- Mouth: the attack is soft and sweet and is balanced by a “grainy” texture that adds complexity and depth. There is white pepper and nutmeg. The finish is rather long.
- Marc de pinot noir, 45° – (48€)
- Nose: concentrated on fresh grape, forest scents (pine needles, humus), ripe plum.
- Mouth: the attack is straightforward. The mid-palate is very fruity and the finish is long.
Comments: all marcs are well made in my opinion. I particularly like the marc de pinot noir because of its concentration. The marcs de gewurztraminer VT and SGN also impress by their balance while the classic marc de gewurztraminer is more discrete than those of Lehmann or Binner.
Collection FASS (50cl)
Metté have named their spirit aged in oak casks “FASS” which means “cask” in Alsacian.
- Fine d’Alsace (pinot blanc), 8 years old, ex-cognac casks, 450 bottles produced, 42° – (58€)
- Nose: soft spices (vanilla, a hint of tonka), orchard fruits (pear, golden apple) then pastries (almond and pears tart).
- Mouth: the attack is mild. The mid-palate matches the nose: soft spices (vanilla, tonka beans, cinnamon), pastries (almond and pears tart as well). The mouth is textured and the finish is of medium length.
- Fine d’Alsace (pinot blanc), 6 years old, ex-cognac casks, 392 bottles produced, 55° – (73€)
- Nose: full, with cooked fruits (peaches, apples), almonds, vanilla and brown sugar.
- Mouth: the attack is mild regarding the high ABV. The mid-palate mixes concentration and density with plums and saffron aromas along with some light camphor. The finish is warm and of medium length.
- Marc de pinot noir, 6 years old, ex-pinot noir casks, 415 bottles produced, 44,28° – (58€)
- Nose: as fresh as the white version except it’s a bit shier. There are some light woody tones, grape, and candied fruits aromas.
- Mouth: the attack is mild with dry fruits and spices in the mid-palate. The finish is of medium length.
- Vieille prune (“prunes d’ente”), 7 years old, ex-pinot noir casks, 416 bottles produced, 42° – (58€)
- Nose: deep, concentrated plum and cherry whiffs
- Mouth: the attack is rather dry and textured with plums, prunes and roasted almond aromas in the mid-palate. The finish is long with a delicate bitterness.
Comments: It’s a success for the J. P. Metté distillery! The vieille prune captivates with its concentrations and depth while both fines (the relaxed-42°-one and the serious-55°-one) seduce with their “gourmandise”. The marc de pinot noir is good as well but I preferred its white counterpart.
In a nutshell
Founded in the 1960’s, the J. P. Metté craft distillery produces 88 spirits and 32 liqueurs thanks to 3 small pot stills. Wild berries and flowers are hand-picked in the surroundings of Ribeauvillé whereas fruits and spices come from France (as far as possible) and abroad. In addition to the white spirits, the distillery has released a product range named “FASS”, consisting in 4 spirits aged in ex-cognac and ex-pinot noir casks. All tasted spirits pleased us, especially the Vieille Prune!