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Domaine Ostertag, Alsace 2015

André Ostertag a true pioneer of Alsace, and an ardent environmentalist. After training in Burgundy, André returned to the family domaine in Alsace with renewed zeal: he lowered yields considerably and introduced viticultural and vinification techniques from other regions to his own home ground. In 1997 he brought biodynamic viticulture to his fourteen hectares of vineyards, including his flagship parcel in the Muenchberg Grand Cru. 

André looks for the nuance of terroir rather than the typicity of a grape varietal. In an act of rejection against the official classifications dictated by the A.O.C., he made up his own categories: Vins de Fruit that express fruit character rather than that of a specific vineyard site, Vins de Pierre reflecting the terroir from which they originate, and Vin de Temps that rely on time and weather to encourage the development of botrytis. He ferments the majority of his wines completely dry, so their versatility at the table surpasses that of many other wines from the region. In Ostertag’s experience, a careful use of oak subtly enhances the traditional Alsatian varietals from the Pinot family, giving them greater depth on the palate. He uses oak sourced exclusively from the Vosges Mountains and, for his Pinots, prefers barriques to the traditional foudres. He rejects formulaic, scientifically engineered wines, and since going biodynamic in 1997, has been an active member of the natural farming community. 

Vintage 2015:
André Ostertag and his team have produced an impressive range of 2015s. The wines were born in a year that André Ostertag describes as the very first “Air/Fire vintage” due to the fact that the year between November 1, 2014, and the end of October 2015 was very wet (with 703 millimeters of precipitation) except the crucial period—for the vines—of May 3 to August 10 that was not just abnormally warm and sunny, but extremely dry (with only 43.5 millimeters of rain). Biodynamic since the late 1990s, Ostertag sprayed teas, cow dung and compost and ploughed and harrowed the soils to prevent them from evaporation, etc.  

To avoid producing heavy wines, team Ostertag started harvesting on September 10-11 with Pinot Gris, just two days after the 2014s had been bottled. The "perfectly healthy" Pinot Blancs and Noirs were next (September 15-16), before the Sylvaners (18-19) and Rieslings (21-26), respectively, and the 30th for a tiny old-vines plot in the Muenchberg. So, by late September all the dry wines were picked, which had never happened before in André's career of 36 vintages. Only the Gewürztraminers were harvested in October, "as rich as they can be" but without botrytis. "2015 was not a botrytis year." Instead, the grapes were shrivelled in perfectly ripe and healthy conditions. Pressing is a soft, slow and long process (eight to 12 hours), fermentations are slow and natural, wines are kept on their lees for quite a while, well-considered rackings are used to let wines breathe and oak is likewise used purely for oxidative purposes - and only for varieties suited to it. There is little or no filtration of any of the wines, which rank among the finest in all of Alsace today..
— Stephan Reinhardt,

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