Before a recent trip to Alsace, I decided to do some scouting on Vivino to try to find some wineries that we should visit. The initial search results were pretty overwhelming, and with more than 1700 different wineries in the region, I realized I would need to narrow it to a more manageable list before I could start making tasting reservations.
The rest of this post outlines the process of how I arrived at my final list. If you’re just interested in the winery recommendations, feel free to scroll to the bottom. For an even more technical look at what I did, the python code I used to do the scraping is available here.
The Top 170 Wineries
I started by scraping the Vivino website for the wineries that had an average rating of at least 3.8. Wines rated above 3.8 are in the top 15% of wines worldwide, and I figured that a winery with an average that high would have consistently good wines across varieties and years. This first pass gave me about 250 wineries, and after I restricted that list to wineries less than 30 minutes away from Colmar (where we were staying) via the Google Maps API, I ended up with a list of about 170 wineries.
Top Wines from the Top 170
Trying to narrow down a list of 170 wineries to four or five was basically a crapshoot, and while I felt confident that any of the wineries on that list would have been good, I wanted to be sure that we would visit wineries that consistently produced top quality wines. So I scraped the Vivino site again for the top 20 most popular wines from each of the Top 170, only counting wines that were rated above a 3.6 (the worldwide average on Vivino), and with at least 30 ratings (to ensure a large enough sample size). The result was a list of approximately 1300 wines, and the following frequency list for how many times a winery from the Top 170 appeared in the list of 1300.
|Domaine Marcel Deiss||20|
|Domaine Zind Humbrecht||20|
People familiar with the Alsace region will no doubt recognize many, if not all, of these names. It is a veritable who’s-who of Alsatian winemakers. At the time I was unfamiliar with any winemakers in the region, so I started reading reviews and spot-checking these results to see if they matched with other people’s experiences, and they did. I was satisfied that I had in fact found some of the best wine-makers in the region, but I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. Though these were certainly well-respected wineries, I was concerned that because of their popularity we might not get the personal experience that makes some wine-tastings so memorable, and that because of their notoriety outside of France, their best wines might be beyond our budget.
The Hipster Wineries
While researching Albert Boxler, I happened upon this post about Justin Boxler, which is a winery that is not well known outside of France, but from the description in the article, offered the type of experience that we were looking for. I also realized that my previous method of only taking wines with more than 30 ratings significantly reduced the chances of one of the “little guys” making the list. So I scraped Vivino again, this time only looking for wines with between 10 and 29 ratings, and an average of at least 3.9. I figured that the higher requirement of an average of 3.9 would give some leeway for regression to the mean in wines with less than 30 ratings. The result was a list of about 750 wines.
I then used the same method as before and constructed a frequency table for how many times a winery appeared in this list of 750 wines, and ended up with the following:
|Clement Weck & Fils||5|
|Bernard Haas & Fils||5|
|Francois Edel & Fils||4|
Since the goal was to find unknown and under-appreciated (hence, “hipster”) wines, the remaining wineries were then sorted by their ratio of hipster frequency to top winery frequency. So, for example, a winery with six on the hipster list and four on the top winery list would be considered less desirable than a wine with frequencies of four and zero, since the idea is to find wineries that are not well known, and thus don’t appear on the top winery list. All the wineries on this list have between 60 and 600 Vivino checkins, which matched with my experience of small, undervalued wineries from Piemonte. I’ll also admit that the fact Justin Boxler appeared on this list made me feel like I was on the right track.
Other Notable Wineries
Looking at combined totals for both top and hipster wineries, the following producers had a high totals, and thus I felt deserved mention.
|Domaine Bruno Sorg||18|
The Final List
Here is the final list of recommended wineries, sorted by rating and number of ratings. In the category column, t corresponds to top wines, h corresponds to hipster wines, and n to notable wines.
|Rank||Winery||Vivino Rating||Num. of Ratings||Category||Website|
|3||Domaine Zind Humbrecht||4.0||13689||t||http://www.zindhumbrecht.fr|
|4||Domaine Marcel Deiss||4.0||7289||t||http://www.marceldeiss.com|
|8||Bernard Haas and Fils||4.0||167||h||https://www.facebook.com/BernardHaasFils/|
|25||Domaine Bruno Sorg||3.8||866||n||http://www.domaine-bruno-sorg.com|
|30||Clement Weck and Fils||3.8||103||h||http://www.weck.alsace/|
|31||Francois Edel and Fils||3.8||60||h||www.bouxhof.fr|
We ended up having only two tastings, at Mann and Joseph Freudenreich. Freudenreich was a nice experience, but the wine was not as good across the board as we had hoped, though it was very reasonably priced. Mann was a slightly less enjoyable experience (we were forced to stand around a small bar, and communicate in broken French and German), but the all the wines were excellent, and among the best we have had from Alsace. I kept an eye out for other producers in restaurants, bars, and wine shops, but many were unavailable, and some that we did find were out of our price range.
The whole point of the list was to give us a starting point for exploring the wines of the region, and I am happy to say it has served its purpose. The code for scraping and process for analyzing is also easily repeatable, so I’ll certainly do a similar project for my next wine trip too. Suggestions on where to go next are always welcome!