It was André Ostertag himself who sounded the warning. “Prepare to be surprised by this new wave blossoming at the domaine with contagious energy!” he wrote in late November 2018, when announcing that his son Arthur was taking the day-to-day reins at the estate.
With the new 2019 Les Jardins wines, you can feel the crashing freshness of that new wave rolling in.
This is the fifth vintage since Arthur has been more heavily involved at the estate, and everything on this current offer has been picked, vinified and matured with this third-generation champ at the helm. Benefiting from his father and grandfather’s experience – and their extraordinarily soulful influence – Arthur is having a field day.
The sense of conviction, the free thinking, the tender love of the vines, the vitality of the wines – all of these remain. A new Ostertag harvest remains thrilling territory to explore. Reflecting that, the Les Jardins wines arrive with a different look. In fact, these will change each year, with a variation of a series of engravings specific to the vintage. To illustrate 2019, Arthur has chosen a series of oil drawings on cardboard paper by his mother, artist Christine Colin. The images combine vine leaves and deep colours, like a collection of banners brandished in glory of the vine.
It goes without saying that we’re deeply honoured to represent the boundary-pushing creativity of the Ostertag family, and the future will be full of wonders. It starts here, from the so-called Vins de Fruit up to the latest edition of the family’s singular interpretation of the Muenchberg grand cru.
2019 Ostertag ‘Les Jardins’ Pinot Blanc $47
The Pinot Blanc Les Jardins is a blend of 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 which comes, for the most part, from the slopes of lieu-dit Fronholz. They are based on three “natures” of soil: clay-silt, marl-sandstone, and a touch of granite.
Harvesting began with the Auxerrois on 20th September and continued on 25th September for the Pinot Blanc. In 2019, we vinified the two grape varieties separately to better understand them before blending them for bottling. The grapes were gently pressed as whole bunches using a pneumatic press for nine hours.
Fermentation took place in old Burgundy barrels, with indigenous yeasts. It underwent its malolactic conversion like all our wines, and was aged for eight months on its lees, still in barrels. It was bottled at the end of August 2020, with a balance of 13.1% alcohol and 3.6g/L of natural residual sugars – dry wine, certified organic and biodynamic.
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 mouth is thick yet lent tension by zesty minerality. It is an easy-pairing wine with food, though it will be at its best with oysters, terrines, white meat or hard-crust cheese. – Arthur Ostertag
2019 Ostertag ‘Les Jardins’ Riesling $54
The Vins de Fruit are wines that emphasise the grape’s expression rather than a specific terroir expression. They are not limited to a single site or soil type, and instead embody the intricate parcellation and diversity of Alsatian terroirs that exist even in a small area like a single village.
The Riesling Les Jardins results from a blend of 12 different plots located around the winery, essentially in the village of Epfig. The soils are varied: clay, sandstone, sand and volcanic sediments. These are farmed biodynamically. Most plots are located on gentle slopes with light soils, and this Riesling also contains a varying amount of declassified lieu-dit or grand cru fruit.
We look for an unpretentious, youthful, fruit-driven wine that captures the personality of the village’s terroirs, which are predominantly based on sandstone. They give the wine a particularly delicate, aromatic and mouthwatering character.
All the plots of Riesling Les Jardins were harvested between 30th September and 2nd October. Despite a sunny 2019 vintage with little rain, the work to preserve the coolness in the vines worked because the ripening was very homogeneous.
The whole bunches were pressed very gently for around nine hours in a pneumatic press. The fermentation started spontaneously in stainless steel tank and was exclusively conducted by indigenous yeasts. It went through complete malolactic conversion like the other wines, and was aged on its lees for one year in the same tanks. It was bottled in early September 2019 with a balance of 13% alcohol and 2g/L of residual sugar – dry wine, certified organic and biodynamic.
The result is a delicate Riesling driven by white flowers, white peach and vine blossoms aromas. The mouth is round and mouthwatering, with a fine and long acidity, and a saline character on the finish. There is a real nobility in this graceful Riesling. It has a dimension close to the Vins de Pierre yet without reaching their density. – Arthur Ostertag
2019 Ostertag ‘Les Jardins’ Pinot Gris $64
The Pinot Gris Les Jardins is a blend of four small “gardens” of vines, farmed biodynamically, and located in the towns of Epfig, Itterswiller and Albé. These plots are based on three distinct natures of soil: Clayey sandstone (50%), loess (15%), and schist (35%). The blend is completed by several single-vineyard plots: a young (15-year-old) site; a recently acquired plot in the Zellberg’s clay-sandstone-limestone soils; a plot in the Fronholz on the opposite side from the one we bottle as lieu-dit; and any over-producing rows in the Muenchberg grand-cru that we don’t include in the top bottling.
We’ve been making Pinot Gris our own way since 1984, using 228-litre Burgundy oak casks for fermentation and aging, and taking it to a fully dry balance which is even now pretty unusual in Alsace. We never look for overripeness with Pinot Gris, which is usually the first grape we pick during the harvest. It is gently pressed with the whole bunches for around nine hours and ferments spontaneously in 228-litre Vosges oak casks, none of which is new. It stays on gross lees in the same barrels for 11 months.
The 2019 was picked in three stages depending on the sector, between 20th and 26th September. It was bottled in early September 2019 with a balance of 14% alcohol and 3g/L of residual sugar – dry wine, certified organic and biodynamic.
The result is a fresh and intense Pinot Gris, with a very refined floral and slightly smoky nose, and 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 structure. Best served at around 10°C, it will suit chicken salads, grilled fish and aged cheese but is also a perfect apéritif wine. It has good aging potential (around seven years) but is still best enjoyed in the blossoming character of its youth. – Arthur Ostertag
2019 Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes $47
At Domaine Ostertag the Sylvaner vines have an average age of 55 years, and have been farmed biodynamically since 1998, like the whole vineyard. The vines are between 30 and 80 years of age, and half of the plots are located in single-vineyard sites. It is made from 10 small plots in total, located in Epfig and Nothalten, with five natures of soils: sandstone; clay; marl; granite; and alluvium. They have a deeply established root system which brings a surprisingly rich mineral structure for this variety which has the reputation of being quite dilute.
2019 was a sunny year with very little rain. Thanks to its thick skin, Sylvaner can withstand periods of drought as long as we are careful about the load of grapes on each vine. The 2019 was picked on 18th September 2019 with the Sylvaner from Nothalten, a granite/sandstone sector, which always matures earlier than the Epfig sector, harvested on 27th September.
The 2019 vintage was bottled in late August 2020. The whole bunches were gently pressed in a pneumatic press for nine hours. It fermented gently with its natural yeasts and was aged for one year on its lees in stainless steel tanks. It has a balance of 13% alcohol and 3g/L of residual grape sugars – a dry wine, certified organic and biodynamic.
This vintage marks a renewal of the label. The Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is the totem wine of the Ostertag estate and we take great pleasure in living with this grape variety that is so demanding in the vineyard as well as in the cellar. It is an unloved grape variety that has been subjected to years of intensive production despite the fact that in reality it has all the makings of a great white wine. A small wine will become great! Though it can be kept for several years, it is in the carefree freshness of its first years that it gives the most pleasure. – Arthur Ostertag
2018 Ostertag Clos Mathis Riesling $86
The Clos Mathis belongs to Ostertag’s long-serving former vineyard manager, Hubert Mathis. This remarkable 0.6-hectare vineyard surrounded by stone walls is located in Ribeauvillé, in line with the grand crus Geisberg and Kirchberg. The soil is composed of a granitic mother rock and gneiss, with poor fertility. The vines are grown on terraces, on a very steep south-east facing slope which benefits from hot days and cool nights. The heat is tempered by cool winds coming down at night from the valley that ends just after the vineyard. This particular location allows slow ripening, preserving acidity and finesse in Riesling.
Hubert Mathis inherited this plot from his parents. He has entirely rebuilt it and was initially selling the grapes to a local merchant, until 1997 when he and André decided to reveal this very beautiful historic vineyard which has been esteemed since the Middle Ages and the time of the Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre.
The 1997, 1998 and 1999 vintages were dedicated to working on the soils and starting to farm the clos biodynamically, in order to reveal the soul of this beautiful terroir. The first vintage as part of the single-vineyard range of the domaine, under the Clos Mathis label, was 2000.
Clos Mathis gives birth to classic, distinguished, long-lived Rieslings. Some aspects can make it seem austere in its youth, the structural elements (acidity, mineral tannins) in the foreground while textural and aromatic elements are rather timid, but with time the Clos Mathis becomes a sappy, classically dry wine in the breed of greatest Alsatian Rieslings.
In 2018 the hand-picked grapes were gently pressed with the whole bunches for about nine hours. The wine ferments spontaneously in stainless steel tank and is kept on its gross lees until a couple of weeks before bottling. It was bottled in early September 2019 with a balance of 13.5% alcohol and 2g/L of residual sugar. – Arthur Ostertag
2018 Ostertag Heissenberg Riesling $100
Heissenberg means “the hot mountain”, so named for its heat-driven microclimate. This lieu-dit located in Nothalten has a particularly hot micro-climate, due to its south-facing exposure combined with a limited airflow. It’s a very steep hillside, located in a small “combe” between a granitic and a sandstony massif. As a result, it has a bit of both geological formations with mainly pink sandstone but also gneiss and a splash of volcanic ash resulting from the nearby Muenchberg.
Heissenberg is a candidate in the current process of creating premiers crus in Alsace. This is a vineyard where only a careful farming with low yields can produce interesting wines. The climatic personality of the place is so strong, that without a terroir vision, the wines result flabby and flat. But with an organic and biodynamic approach, old vines and strict yield control, the sub-soil expresses in a unique, dense and structured mineral core that brings a very special balance. This is what the label shows: when sky and earth are in perfect balance through the vine, harmony comes in the wine.
The 0.75 ha of vines are close-planted and grown biodynamically, like all the domaine. They produce small, very concentrated and aromatically rich grapes, of exceptional structure and intensity. The wines are never based on a high acidity, but rather on dry extract that brings a combination of noble bitters and salty minerality. The hand-picked grapes are gently pressed with the whole bunches for about 10 hours. It ferments spontaneously in stainless steel and is kept on gross lees until a couple of weeks before bottling. It was bottled early September 2019 with a balance of 13.5% alcohol and 4 g/L residual sugar.
It is a great gastronomic Riesling with a pronounced personality, which requires spicy and aromatic courses of white meats, fish served with sauce, or aged hard cheeses. Above all, a pairing with foie gras is always superb. – Arthur Ostertag
2018 Ostertag Muenchberg Riesling Grand Cru $135
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 necessary sometimes but they will never have “man’s hand’s intelligent sensitivity”.
The 2018 Riesling grapes were hand-picked and gently pressed as whole bunches in a pneumatic press for about 10 hours. It fermented in stainless steel with natural yeasts, and was kept on lees for one year. It was bottled in early May 2020 with a balance of 13.5% alcohol and 7g/L of residual sugar – dry wine, certified organic and biodynamic.
The Muenchberg Riesling has incomparable elegance and intensity. The delicate texture of the sandstone meets the power of the volcano in a sensual yet highly vibrating wine. The feminine charm of sandstone balances perfectly the masculine fire of the volcano. The finish is everlasting, salty and spicy, of rare complexity and nobility. Patience is always rewarded with the Muenchberg wines. Drink them either in their first spring after a long decanting, or after at least five years of cellaring. – Arthur Ostertag
Greenish pale gold. Heady, lily-perfumed, rich Riesling nose with some development. There’s a hint of mint in this satin-textured wine that is absolutely chock-full of flavours. Ripe Riesling fruit with just a little bit of richness but a dry finish and perfect balance. It’s a bit of a coiled spring. Much more density than many an Alsace Riesling. Long and layered on the finish.17/20 Jancis Robinson, jancisrobinson.com