September 17, 2010 Domaine Ostertag
Domaine Ostertag Muenchberg
Domaine Ostertag Muenchberg 2006
The colour is golden honey. And what most strikes the other senses is a sophisticated floral/mineral interplay. At moments there are notes of pepper, of petroleum, of flower petals, without ever losing the clarity of the fruit. A slightly oiled juiciness cut by citrus. Overall, a suave yet appetizing wine. Transported several thousand kilometres to lie against the twisted foreign branches of a weeping pea shrub, the wine remains graceful. Classy. $$
Domaine Ostertag is located in the northern reaches of Alsace, at the village of Epfig, and somewhat off the tourist wine map. The vineyards total just 13 hectares, made up of 100+ parcels in five villages. Among them is the grand cru Muenchberg, with a wine history that dates to the time of Cistercian monks in the 12th century. The present winery came into existence only in recent times, in 1966, started by the Ostertag family from Germany.
The second-generation winemaker behind the domaine is ANDRÉ OSTERTAG. Something of a radical upstart when he assumed control in the 1980s, he came with a wine education acquired in Burgundy, having fallen under the notable influence of Dominique Lafon. He reasoned that since some of his grapes were Burgundian varietals, they could benefit from new oak barriques (something practically unheard of in Alsace)… although the presence of oak is never more than subtle. Rather, the wines have became noted for their finesse, their dryness and superior mouthfeel. And, not to stretch a point, for a profoundness not common in Alsace. Ostertag added to the number of his detractors in 1998 with his conversion to biodynamics. A free-thinker with a deep-seated enthusiasm for terroir, he has become one of the foremost winemakers in the region.
Yet he is generally soft-spoken, with the mind and intuitive talent of an artist. He has turned his mind to creating poetry and environmental installation art when he finds time away from the vineyards. It is the art of his wife, Christine Colin, which enhances the wine labels of the domaine. (The vine image for the Muenchberg wines represents the dynamics of earth and sky in the vineyard.) Together they have published the artist book AmpélographicA (Voix Éditions).
Ostertag makes 17 different wines. These he divides into three categories: Vins de Fruit, Vins de Pierre, and Vins de Temps. The Muenchberg falls into the middle category — terroir-specific and with a strong mineral sense, and often a 20-year life span. Whatever the wines, they are marked by an individual style. At Domaine Ostertag the boundary between wine and art has faded. Much to our pleasure.