Although my focus on Alsatian wines is very narrow, André Ostertag's 2016 release was the first thing I jumped on when importer, Kermit Lynch's new arrivals were announced. Ostertag has long gone against the grain of Alsatian expectations, crafting dry, disciplined wines that still summon the sunshine that most marks the region. His Fronholz and Grand Cru Muenchberg Rieslings both highlight a vintage imbued with, as André aptly describes, the transparency and purity of a mountain lake. This is the moment of clarity for Alsace.
Many elements stand André Ostertag apart from the norm. He studied viticulture in Burgundy, returning home to employ organic and biodynamic principles in the vineyard in 1998. He also chose to ferment and age his Rieslings completely dry in stainless steel. Even though Alace is tucked into the cool northeast pocket of France, its protection from the Vosges Mountains means it receives the very least amount of rainfall of any region. This abudnand sunshine has long given Alsatian wines a rounded and golden orchard fruit quality, often with a dollop of residual sugar.
Ostertag showcases his departure from this style the vey best in these two ulta-focused, dry Rieslings:
Fronholz comes from a one hectare parcel located at the very top of this southwest-facing slope. Quartz, clay, and marl are all featured here, but it's the particular white sand most responsible for the finely-etched mineral component. Bracing acidity met with late afternoons bathed in sunshine give a pitch perfect balance. A cool white peach, ginger, and faint honeyed quality are all kept dry, chiseled, and racy.
Muenchberg is Grand Cru Alsace at its most regal. "Muench" is derived from the Cistercian monks who first planted vines here in the 11th centrury. The south-facing amphitheater is composed of pink sandstone, volanic sediment, and limestone. At 300 meters above sea level, Muenchberg is all about definition and lenghth of finish. It's unmistakably Grand Cru, harnessing those oily, textural peach and green apple notes, but with a flinty crushed rock character that finishes as if minerality were dancing on the palate.
Today, Alsace is famous for having the highest percentage of organic and biodynmic producers in all of France. While the quality at harvest couldn't be higher, I still find few producers that execute with a similar crystalline sense of harmony that Ostertag is so adored for. 2016 and its cool-fruited style is exactly the vintage I look for here.
2016 Ostertag Riesling Fronholz
$47 per bottle.
2016 Ostertag Riesling Grand Cru Muenchberg
$69 per bottle.