Domaine Andre Ostertag
Andre Ostertag could hardly be called a run-of-the-mill Alsace winemaker. To some traditionalists he is an eccentric, constantly tinkering and experimenting with new styles that break the mould, but in reality he simply seeks to coax ultimate expression from the varieties and his various vineyard terroirs. Open-minded and innovative, he does not restrict himself to conventional techniques or the AOC rule books. He studied in Beaune where he struck up a long and lasting friendship with Dominique Lafon of Meursault before returning to Epfig.
A believer in the advantages of sharply restricted yields, his hand-picked vines produce around just 50 hectolitres per hectare - a different league from the 120 seen in neighbouring domaines. The resulting wines have concentration and immense personality. Other practices seldom seen elsewhere in Alsace include pre-fermentation maceration, an absence of filtration and ageing in new oak. André has been practicing biodynamic viticulture since 1997. He makes his own compost but buys biodynamic preparations from an association as Alsace is not set up for treating vineyards as a farm, due to the myriad of single plot holdings and locations. All biodynamic preparations are used here but at different times according to need. Andre sprays nettle tea onto the vines in the spring to reduce copper. Only uses B500 (horn manure) on the soil. Spray horsetail tea on the vines during moon perigee to avoid fungal disease onset. Andre believes that biodynamy should not be seen as a dogma, they are merely guidelines and it’s for everyone to decide how they employ them. Double Guyot training employed in the vineyard but all vines are trained downwards in order to develop the potent buds close to the trunk, these are needed to produce next year’s canes.
André doesn’t use many clones but the ones he does use are too vigorous so he has to prune them to less bunches. André only picks when seeds inside the berries are ripe as he wants to avoid any hint of green characters. He prefers a higher level of alcohol therefore picks later and at higher ripeness than most others. He believes that as long as the alcohol is well integrated it does not matter how high it is. As a contrast, when his father used to pick grapes, they were ripe at 10.8% potential alcohol. This is much higher nowadays. Andre doesn’t believe in green harvesting. He sees it as a corrective method. Andre ages his Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir in oak barrels, in the style of Burgundy, and on their lees. The Sylvaner, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and all the Rieslings are aged in 100% stainless steel.