Introducing this bottling to readers in our December 1997 newsletter, Kermit wrote, “If you have a soft spot for dry, steely Riesling, you won’t find one more typical, and at such a painless price.” The twenty-two years since then have witnessed a few transitions at Kuentz-Bas, and yet that claim is as true today as ever. Olivier Raffin took over the helm in 2017, and in his first vintage, he has produced a white wine that is pure and typique of Alsatian Riesling, perhaps the noblest of the region’s four “noble” grape varieties (the other three being Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer). This dry and mineral blanc carries notes of orchard fruit, chamomile, and honey. The warmth of the vintage, combined with the domaine’s practice of completing malolactic fermentation, created a white wine that has generous body while retaining great acidity and freshness. This is textbook Alsatian Riesling, a standard that is as essential at Kuentz-Bas now as it was when we started importing their wines more than two decades ago.
More than two hundred years of tradition and vineyard pedigree have made the wines of Kuentz-Bas perennial favorites. However, when the family sold the property to famed vigneron Jean-Baptiste Adam in 2004, many wondered what direction the new team would take. Adam, like the estates former owners, has a reputation for being an advocate of Alsatian terroir, and he is the fourteenth generation to continue a family winemaking tradition that began as early as 1614. Winemaker Samuel Tottoli puts a strong emphasis on both terroir and accessibility. The wines are more open than ever while still reflecting the unmistakable character of the vineyards that clients have come to expect from Kuentz-Bas.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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