Paul McKirdy, Chef du Cave at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, was next in line for a good GBUK grilling. We wanted to find out everything there was to know about Paul; from how he first started out in the wine industry to his favourite Zind-Humbrecht wine (tough decision, no doubt!) and all the happenings and goings on at Zind-Humbrecht.
The Domaine Zind-Humbrecht story began in 1959 and today comprises of 40 hectares, including some of the very best parcels in Alsace’s top Grand Cru and Lieu Dit sites. Crafting a range of elegant and expressive wines from these diverse terroirs, the vineyard was fully certified organic and biodynamic in 2002. Have a read of the full interview below:
How did you start out in the wine business and why?
I started out in the wine industry in Australia, where I worked for two European wine importers who also had specialist wine shops in Melbourne and Sydney. I was a client at the Melbourne shop … and one day they offered me a job!
Which of your wines are you most likely to be found drinking at home?
At home I probably open more bottles of the Muscat Goldert Grand Cru than any other wine. It is a unique, intensely terroir driven, saline, dry white wine, which works for pre-dinner drinks or with a variety of dishes; from risotto primavera (in cooler vintages such as 2016 or 2014) through to Thai style crab cakes with chilli and coriander (in warmer vintages such as 2015 or 2017). It inspires wine geek friends and yet it is also highly approachable for those who just like a glass of wine.
If you could work in any other winemaking regions, which would it be and why?
I would probably choose between the Langhe in Piemonte, Italy (for the wines, food, people and culture) or somewhere much more off the beaten track such as Entraygues Le Fel by the River Lot in the south west of France, far away from it all.
Is there a winery dog or pet?
Between our team of horses that we use for ploughing, to the sheep that help to keep the weeds in check we are a very animal friendly winery. As for pets; visitors to the winery are often welcomed by the owner’s Shar-Pei’s Lola and Noah who make up for their diminutive statures with their huge personalities!
What’s your take on sustainability, biodynamics and organic wines?
Our wines are certified organic/biodynamic, and we make every effort to ensure that the production process is as sustainable as possible. In doing so we aim to make the very best wines we can, whilst ensuring that future generations are provided the foundations to do so when their time comes.
What green practices do you follow in the vineyards and winery?
In addition to our 25 years of working organically/biodynamically we use our own horses for ploughing; sheep in winter for controlling the weed growth between the rows; we make our own compost from manure and the marc (skins and stems) from the winemaking process; we avoid chemical use in the winery and so on.
Is winemaking an art or science?
There is science and art in everything around us, and everything we do so it makes little sense to have to choose between the two. Perhaps it is best to say that winemaking is a craft, which for me is the practical use of science for the purposes of artistic expression.
Favourite local food/recipe?
Nobody understands cabbage until they have eaten homemade choucroute made using the very best quality ingredients. Perfect, winter warming food that just gets better every time it is reheated … and a welcome excuse to open another bottle of Riesling!
Which is the most challenging wine to make? Why?
Gewurztraminer. In the vineyards due to; variable yields, erratic ripening and the need for full phenolic ripeness. In the cellar due to; low acidity, high pH and the accompanying risks of bacteria spoilage. But, when mastered, it makes some of the finest wines in the world.
Who, dead or alive, would be your 5 chosen dinner companions?
Why share the bottle with five freeloaders?
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stick to your guns, continue to think outside the box and try to have a little patience!
If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be?
Either an architect or landscape designer.