It was, naturally, great to be in France in spring. Among myriad highlights, it was a reminder just how revered André Ostertag is in his homeland, the full charms of the estate gracing every great wine list in Paris and Beaune, and across the border in neighbouring Germany.
André is a treasure, and he’s a man who treasures nature as highly as any other being on planet wine. It’s apt, then, this reimagining of the so-called Vins de Fruit of his range – henceforth known as Les Jardins du Domaine Ostertag. As André explains: “For the winegrower who is dedicated to his land and proud of his roots, it’s a precious advantage to be able to harvest the fruit of multiple and individual terroirs, exploring the full potential of each plot, catching the expression of a place in a wine, allowing each and every small garden of vines to show its real personality.”
In this context indeed, a winegrower is just like a gardener. Each vine – with its soil, sub-soil, microclimate, plant, endemic flora and fauna – has its own expression, needs and cycle that growers need to take into account whenever they act.
“At Domaine Ostertag, our winegrowing reality is based entirely on this diversity,” he continues. “We grow vines on 88 different plots that gather 172 actual cadastral parcels, all of that from five villages; 88 small gardens of vines that we look after with constant care to highlight each place’s own identity. Just like in gardening, the work is strenuous but always driven by a strong sense of aesthetics, harmony and balance that are inseparable from the notion of great wine.”
The Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are still fermented and matured in barriques, to imbue them with character and, as André puts it, to stretch the varieties in both depth and length. These appear alongside the Riesling that is still dominated by fruit from around the winery, from the village of Epfig and towards neighbouring Itterswiller and Nothalten.
2016 Ostertag Pinot Blanc Les Jardins RRP $43
Vins de Fruit are wines in which the primary expression of the grape is put before from any specific terroir consideration. They are, in a way, André Ostertag’s village wines, and embody the complexity and diversity of the Alsatian terroirs. The Pinot Blanc Les Jardins is a blend from six small gardens of vines, farmed biodynamically, and located in the town of Epfig with a small part coming from the Clos Mathis parcel in Ribeauvillé. Half the plots are true Pinot Blanc, the other half is Auxerrois. They are based on three “natures” of soil : clay-silt, marl-sandstone, and a touch of granite.
Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois is a classic combination in Alsace. The former brings the structure and the latter the flesh. However the result is rarely interesting given the poor aromatic and depth potential of these grapes. Ostertag’s vision is to make them in the Burgundy way. This is a kind of tribute to the grape’s origins but also highly suitable as oxygen contact helps build character without wearing the wine out. Indeed, since 1988, the Pinot Blanc at Domaine Ostertag has been entirely fermented and aged in oak barriques (228L, just like the Pinot Gris). The goal is to stretch the wine both in width and length, to nourish it with the lees to give it structure and salinity, and develop greater aromatic complexity.
The 2016 vintage was hand-picked on 28th of September and 4th October. It was gently whole-bunch pressed in a pneumatic press, for about nine hours. It was fermented entirely in used oak barriques with its natural yeasts, and went through malolactic fermentation. It was kept in the same barrels for 11 months, and bottled at the end of August 2017 with a balance of 12% alcohol and 2g/L of natural residual sugar.
The result is an uncommonly full-bodied and structured Pinot Blanc, yet bone-dry and mouthwatering. It exudes fresh and fruity aromas of yellow peaches and nectarine. A hint of hazelnut comes out with air. The mouthfeel is dense yet lent tension by its zesty minerality.
2016 Ostertag Riesling Les Jardins RRP $49
The certified organic and biodynamic Riesling Les Jardins is a blend from 12 different plots located around the winery, in the village of Epfig and towards neighbouring Itterswiller and Nothalten. The soils are varied: clay; sandstone; and sand with volcanic sediments.
The result is a fruit-driven wine in which André captures the personality of the village’s terroirs, which are predominantly based on sandstone. They give the wine a particularly delicate, saline character.
The 2016 fruit was hand-picked on 10th, 12th and 17th October. The grapes were gently whole-bunch pressed with a pneumatic press. The juice was then slowly fermented with wild yeasts, and the wine aged on its lees in stainless steel tank for one year. It was bottled in early September 2017 with a final balance of 12.5% alcohol and 3g/L of natural residual sugar.
The result is a delicate Riesling driven by white flowers, white peach and vine blossom aromas. In the mouth it’s round and salivating, with fine and long acidity, and a salty sensation through the finish. There’s real nobility in this graceful Riesling.
2016 Ostertag Pinot Gris Les Jardins RRP $62
The certified organic and biodynamic Pinot Gris Les Jardins is the result of a blend of four small gardens of vines, farmed biodynamically and located in the towns of Epfig, Itterswiller and Albé. Three distinct natures of soil form these parcels: clayey sandstone; loess; and schist. A small part of the Zellberg’s youngest plot was also blended into this village cuvée in 2016, coming from a clay-limestone-sandstone soil.
Since 1984, all of Domaine Ostertag’s Pinot Gris has been made entirely in Burgundy oak barrels. The 2016 vintage was hand-picked on 4th October; it was very gently whole-bunch pressed for eight hours, and fermented with natural yeasts in 228-litre barrels (no new oak). After malolactic fermentation and a total of 11 months ageing on lees in the same barrels, it was bottled in late August 2017 with a final balance of 13.5% alcohol and 5g/L of natural residual sugar.
The result is a fresh and intense Pinot Gris, with a very refined floral and slightly smoky nose, plus notes of ripe yellow fruits, citrus fruits and honey. In the mouth the complexity of the soils and the barrel vinification is felt through a combination of full body and vibrant, refreshing personality with an intense mineral tension for just a “village-level” wine.
AND ALSO ON THIS SHIPMENT…
2016 Ostertag Riesling Muenchberg Grand Cru RRP $107
Muenchberg means the “mountain of the monks” and was first planted in the 12th century by the Cistercian monks. We own 2.05Ha of which 1.65Ha are planted with Riesling. Muenchberg is one of the most unique grands crus of Alsace because of its very particular soil of red sandstone and volcanic sediments. It’s a wonderful south-facing amphitheatre of vines in a closed valley, in the Vosges foothills, protected to the west by the 901m Ungersberg peak. The altitude ranges between 250 and 300m which prevents excessive heat and helps to keep complexity in the wines. Like all the domaine’s vineyard the Riesling vines are farmed using biodynamic principles, and certified organic. We pay particular attention to manual tasks on the vines, because machines may be sometimes necessary but they will never have “man’s hand’s intelligent sensitivity”. – André Ostertag