Pinot Blanc, rare and exciting in Burgundy, its homeland, sometimes comes off as a bit ordinary and yawn-inducing to many in Alsace. There, where it is often over-cropped and planted in ill-suited terrain, bottlings can be bland. In contrast, the Ostertags long ago took to working their six small Pinot Blanc plots—or “gardens,” as they refer to them—biodynamically and by hand. Plus, in a nod to the grape’s Burgundian roots, they ferment and raise their Pinot Blanc in old barrels sourced from friends in the Côte d’Or. The result is, well, rare and exciting, to say the least. Floral and peach aromas give way to a rich, mouthwatering structure. Best to drink it now, given its vibrancy.
This experimental Sylvaner cuvée—unlike any I’ve ever tasted before—is the result of a single parcel picked ripe, yet with loads of acidity still present, and left to ferment slowly but surely for the next eighteen months on its lees. While the rest of their 2018 Sylvaner was in bottle and shipping around the world, this bit remained bubbling away in tank. The wine is raw, unusual, unrefined, with high acidity and richness all at once. For those who like to explore, it offers a nice foray off the beaten path for Sylvaner.
Ostertag’s “Mountain of the Monks” parcel has absolutely everything going for it: nine centuries of uninterrupted grape cultivation, an insane swirl of lava and sandstone in the ground, perfect southern exposition, steep, horse-plowed slopes, old vines, and a pristine location in an undeveloped hidden valley, far from the rattle and hum of modern society. What more could a grand cru want? The wine reflects that swirl in the soil, with the sandstone’s discreet sensuality and charm rolling in the glass along with the volcanic lava’s strength and fire. If you can’t wait to drink it now, consider decanting it for a few hours to settle that fire. If you have the patience, give it five years to see where it will go.
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