Red wines from higher-altitude regions or vineyards are often described as “mountain wines.” The term usually implies marked structure and acidity, leanness and struggle, and conjures up images of a grizzled alpinist. You don’t hear the label applied to white wines as much, but Alsatian whites deserve it. The region’s best vineyard sites—some famously steep and treacherous to work—are situated on the eastern flank of the Vosges mountains as they descend to the Rhine plain and the German border. Having just returned from a family trip to Yosemite, I probably had mountains on my mind, but as I tasted through these wines with colleagues, my head swam with alpine imagery.
Like all the Rieslings here, the Kuentz-Bas is dry with the classic hint of petrol on the nose. Tart green apple makes an appearance, and a bit of pear. Firm on the palate, it offers substance that belies the eminently affordable price. It’s your perfect reference point for Alsatian Riesling.
Perched on a hillside near the village of Epfig, the Fronholz vineyard is known for producing craggy, mineral-driven Rieslings with bracing acidity. The Ostertag family farms their parcels biodynamically, and the Fronholz’s vibrant mix of fruit and earth, flesh and structure, is their hallmark.
Have you ever seen a picture of Denali in Alaska? The highest peak in North America, it’s breathtakingly massive. Boxler’s 2016 Riesling Réserve, sourced from younger vines in grand cru vineyards, struck me as similarly massive—not in a heavy sense, though, but as more expansive. The smallest sip seems to fill your mouth, and the aromas permeate every available bit of headspace. It is creamy and rich, with honey and stone fruit notes. Incredibly fine.
If the Boxler Réserve is an imposing massif, Meyer-Fonné’s Wineck Schlossberg is a vertiginous peak, rising Matterhorn-like, above the surrounding terrain. The most age-worthy of this group of Rieslings, it will need a bit of time to open up. Right now, the summit is obscured by clouds.
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