When I began tasting wines back in the late 1980s Alsace was one of my first focus areas, and I was even on a tour to Alsace to taste wines from a few selected producers.
Then I fell in love with the Mosel wines – and that sort of ended my romance with the Alsace juice. Seen with my Mosel preference – Alsace wines in general seems too alcoholic, dense and without the nerve, focus and the filigree complexity of the best Mosel wines.
Global warming is however changing this balance, as Mosel wines are getting richer and richer, with either higher residual sugar, or a higher level of alcohol. Kabinetts of today are en reality often comparable with the Ausleses of the 1980s – Spätleses are normally what should be labeled Auslese … some even with gold on the top.
This development is not a good thing with my preference for light low alcohol Reislings. So i thought … why not try some Rieslings outside my normal Mosel comfort zone.
Some weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a tasting with André Ostertag, where he showed some of his wines from Alsace … and some of his impressive pinots from Chile – see the article about the Chile Pinot.
At this tasting Ostertag showed 6 wines from his Alsace portfolio:
- Fronholz Pinot Gris 2011
- Fronholz Riesling 2011
- Muenchberg Riesling 2011
- Riesling Clos Mathis 2005
- Fronholz Gewurztraminer VT 2009
- Muenchberg Riesling VT 2007
First out the Fronholz Pinot Gris 2011, a barrel fermented and barrel aged wine. This is a somewhat unconventional wine in Alsace as barrel ageing on new or slightly used casks is quite unusual. In my view it works well with the Pinot Gris – as it offers another dimension to the wine. The nose is quite rich and exotic (very young) and the palate offered a good grip and weight (from the oak) with a quite dry and salty expression. It’s nicely balanced … and could be very interesting with the optimal food pairing.
Next out the two Rieslings – the Fronholz 2011 and the Muenchberg 2011. Both very young with exotic fruit notes in the bouquet. There is however a big difference in terroir as the Muenchberg have a very lovely expression of terroir that reminds me of the great Erdener Prälat vineyard in the Mosel valley. It’s quite intense both on the palate and in the nose … with a lovely midpalate energy. The Fronholz is more forward with some salty notes … not having the same complexity in my view. Both wines were however lovely .. just prefer them with some more bottle age .. to get the initial exotic sweetness toned down.
The Riesling Clos Mathis 2005 showed me what I like about Alsace Riesling … some matured notes, less sweetness … more Mosel styled if you like. The nose finely perfumed by petrolium and minerality, the palate offer a very nice tension between the crisp acidity and the quite dry fruit. A lovely wine …. would love to try this with some asparagus.
The two last wines – the VT Fronholz Gewurztraminer 2005 and the VT Muenchberg Riesling 2007 … more sweet styled. The Gewurz is quite refined … given the grape variety … with a lovely perfumed nose and fine volume. As expected the Muenchberg Risling 2007 VT offered much more complexity with a lovely pure botrytis and a beautiful minerality in the nose – both delicate and filigree. On the palate pure and quite creamy fruit … a very harmonious and silky effort. The combination of botrytis and a red sandstone terroir can produce some lovely juice.
Concluding remarks …
I must say I really enjoyed the wines from Domaine Ostertag. The Rieslings were my favorites … not a big surprise … but I was actually quite impressed by the fine balance between the acidity, sweetness and alcohol in all of the wines. Need to taste some more Rieslings … from …