Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can You Dig It?

Ladies and gentlemen, let's all dig on this a little:

True quality is that which succeeds in surprising and moving us. It is not locked inside a formula. Its essence is subtle (subjective) and never rational. It resides in the unique, the singular, but it is ultimately connected to something more universal. A great wine is one in which quality is contained. Such a wine will necessarily be uncommon and decidedly unique because it cannot be like any other, and because of this fact it will be atypical, or only typical of itself. 

This sentiment came courtesy of Alsace winemaker Andre Ostertag as quoted in Kermit Lynch's book, Inspiring Thirst. This is such a great way of thinking about wine and what constitutes quality.

I hear the world quality used so often in terms of winery equipment and vineyard management - and those things are important considerations - but rarely will you hear an articulation such as Andre's. The unimaginative mantra you hear so often is:

low yields + very ripe fruit + modern cellar equipment + no fining no filtration = quality

Formulas might work for things like Coke, Big Macs and shampoo, but it when it comes to making great wine, there is no exact formula that will get you there. Like with a lot of things, I think people in and around the business of wine tend to get seduced by technology and all that it promises. I mean, if you were investing thousands of dollars and massive amounts of time and energy into a venture you might want to believe that you have a blueprint rather than what you really have - an ever evolving process. [Full disclosure: nothing against Coke, Big Macs or shampoo. These are fine industrial age products, but they are not the same as a great agricultural product.]

I worked along side a winemaker friend who used to like to say we have philosophies, not rules. Makes a whole lot of sense to me. Nature doesn't follow a set formula. Any winemaker who thinks they can force their formula onto vintage after vintage is in for a rude awakening. But let's get back to Alsace and Andre Ostertag for a quick minute.

To get straight to it - try some of Ostertag's wines. They are fantastic. Known mostly for white wines like Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, the domaine's Pinot Noir often flies a little under the radar. Andre worked in Burgundy while studying wine making and he may have picked up a thing or two about Pinot Noir, which is grown in Alsace but not considered one of the region's noble grapes. But really, you can't go wrong with any of the wines from Domaine Ostertag.

Here's a link for the domaine - It's all in French, my apologies to the non-French speakers. Google translator anyone?

And here's a shot of Andre with some of his wines.

He seems like an interesting cat. But in the wine world the story and personality of the winemakers and domaine owners tend to get a little bit too much ink. So while I do like this particular messenger, I think I'll focus more on the message.


~ vs

1 comment:

  1. A couple of US online merchants who carry wines from Ostertag: