André’s son Arthur has joined his father and grandfather at their domaine in northern Alsace, three generations now working side by side. Much as his father did with him, André has given Arthur a lot of freedom to experiment in the cellar. After returning from planting new Pinot Gris vines in Muenchberg, Arthur joined André and me in Epfig to finish tasting their 2016s and presented me with a dry, skin-macerated Gewurtztraminer that he had made. One of his other initiatives has been to add more stems to their younger-release Pinot Noir to give it a bit more structure. Mission accomplished.
To call André Ostertag a revolutionary winemaker is to tell just half the story. He is a pioneer, certainly, but also an ardent environmentalist. After training in Burgundy, André returned to the family domaine in Alsace with renewed zeal: he lowered yields considerably and introduced viticultural and vinification techniques from other regions to his own home ground. He looks for the nuance of terroir rather than the typicity of a grape varietal. André rejects formulaic, scientifically engineered wines, and since going biodynamic in 1997, has been an active member of the natural farming community.
Tragically, Alsace might be the most misunderstood wine region of France. In spite of its long history of viticulture and tremendous diversity of pedigreed terroirs, a past fraught with marketing mishaps has left consumers baffled as to what exactly to expect inside one of these mysterious tall, thin bottles.
The good news, on the other hand, is that a new wave of quality-oriented growers is working hard to put Alsace in its rightful place as one of the world’s most fascinating sources of fine white wine. By embracing tradition, respecting terroir, and making a concerted effort to better communicate the countless virtues their wines have to offer, they have succeeded in putting Alsace back on the map.
Crafted from a number of grape varieties and beautifully interpreting the region’s mosaic of soil types, our Alsace imports are by and large dry whites offering exceptional versatility at table. While each of these selections is ready to be uncorked tonight, the finest among them are also capable of maturing for many, many years in a cool cellar. Expect kaleidoscopic aromatics, lively acidities, and loads of terroir transparency in these skillfully crafted masterpieces. Enjoy a foray into the thrilling world of the world’s most underrated wine region, and certainly do not hesitate to contact our sales staff with any questions as you take off on this mouth-watering adventure.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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