An unusual Grand Cru in that the grape that is perhaps its greatest exponent is Sylvaner. There are not many vineyards devoted to Sylvaner in Alsace at all, let alone Grand Cru real estate, but the Sylvaner from Zotzenberg can be absolutely electrifying, and there are not enough of them that ever make it to the States. It is situated almost in the midst of the town, as is not uncommon throughout Alsace, but it doesn't define the landscape in quite the same way as such dramatically located vineyards as Schlossberg or Rangen. But let's back up...
The Cru and Its Grapes
This excellent Bas-Rhin cru has been widely regarded so since the 16th Century (according to the locals), though its heritage stretches back to at least the mid-14th Century. Zotzenberg's fame was such that--like Kaefferkopf and Sporen (among others)--it's wines were sold under the vineyard name by the beginning of the 20th Century, long before the INAO began delimiting viticultural areas. Its 90 acres of limestone and marl stretches from west to east in graceful amphitheater-like slope on the north side of the beautiful village of Mittelbergheim. Alongside its famous Sylvaner, I have also tasted excellent Zotzenberg Riesling and Gewürztraminer. I have heard anecdotally that Pinot Gris performs quite well here, but I have never seen or heard of a Muscat in production from Zotzenberg, so I do not know if it occupies any real estate. Given Muscat's relatively small percentage of Alsace's overall vine population, it would be safe to surmise that if it is planted in Zotzenberg, it holds a miniscule place there.
The Finest Wines of Zotzenberg (insofar as my experience tells it...)
The export market, alas, represents too few producers of great wines from this cru. In other words, there are simply too few producers whose wines are exported at all. While out of context that statement may be true for Alsace as a whole--demand for Alsace wine remains stubbornly static--this is a cru whose wines should attract attention because of the Grand Cru Sylvaner. The body of wine lovers whose fascination with such things is large enough to support multiple producers in the marketplace, but the only producer I have found in the market recently was Albert Seltz. I have been lucky enough to have a Gewürztraminer (2006) and Sylvaner (2005), both of which were excellent. I have also been thrilled by the wines of Domaine Boeckel, whose wines wines have intermittently been available in the U.S. Among many highlights of my last trip to Alsace were three wines from Boeckel: a banana-butterscotch-rose inflected Gewürztraminer (2007) with a long, mouth-watering finish; a corpulent Riesling (2007) redolent of orange and bergamot that reminded me of the physicality and vividness of a Geisberg or Rangen Riesling (though without the fathomlessness inherent in Rieslings from those crus); and a spectacularly effulgent Sylvaner (2007) whose crystalline minerality dovetailed nicely with elements of citrus and lentils.
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