André Ostertag’s newly christened “Les Jardins” cuvée of Pinot Blanc is the driest we’ve seen from him in a while, with a salty tanginess that quenches thirst and invites a hankering (in me, anyway) for raw hamachi. As I told André when I saw him in December in Epfig, I learn something important every time I taste with him. This time it was that the Pinot Auxerrois for this cuvée is sourced from both the Fronholz (quartz) and the Clos Mathis (granite) vineyards, which goes a long way in explaining its raciness and finesse.
This Riesling from André’s estate vineyards around Epfig has a very transparent, crystalline nose and the type of purity and focus that is virtually impossible to achieve with any other white grape. There is a reason—there are many reasons, really—why Riesling is so prized across northern Europe; when it is “on” (as in this cuvée), it is a real thoroughbred that is tough to catch. A touch of creaminess rounds out the edges and makes this deliciously drinkable right now.
Clos Mathis shares a hillside in Ribeauvillé with the famed grand cru of Geisberg. André’s vines are planted on steep, granite terraces. This bottling is always the nerviest in André’s superb lineup of Rieslings and ages exceptionally well.
Zellberg is a steep limestone hillside beautifully rendered on the label by André’s wife, Christine. The site has enabled André to master his style of dry Pinot Gris, vinified in the Burgundian fashion. As it ages—slowly and gracefully, in my experience—it is a worthy rival to white Burgundy in all ways except price. Hot stone and white pepper liven up the backbone of this extraordinarily complex, unique white.
The monastery seated at the foot of this grand cru of “monk’s mountain” still exists. The lieu immediately invokes contemplation due to its isolation and total silence. André has learned how to capture this magic in bottle, rendering a wine that delivers both power and nuance, intensity and weightless energy. With an amazing grainy texture and a soft but distinct stoniness of volcanic origin, this Riesling is a tour de force from Ostertag.
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