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The Silvaner Grape

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About Silvaner

(Synonyms: Arvine, Arvine Grande, Augustiner Weiss, Beregi Szilvani, Boetzinger, Clozier, Cynifadl Zeleny, Cynifal, Fliegentraube, Franken Riesling, Frankenriesling, Frankentraube, Fueszeres Szilvani, Gamay blanc, GentilvVert, Gros Rhin, Gros-rhin, Gruenedel, Gruenfraenkisch, Gruen Silvaner, Grüner Silvaner, Grüner Sylvaner, Grünfraenkisch, GrünSilvaner, Haeusler Schwarz, Johannisberger, Mishka, Momavaka, Monterey Riesling, Moravka, Movavka, Muschka, Mushza, Musza, Nemetskii Rizling, Oesterreicher, Oestreicher, Pepltraube, Picardonblanc, Picardou blanc, Plant Du Rhin, Rhin, Rundblatt, Salfin, Salfine Bely, Salvaner, Salviner, Scharvaner, Scherwaner, Schoenfeilner, Schwaebler, Schwuebler, Sedmogradka, Sedmogradska Zelena, Selenzhiz, Selivan, Silvanske Zelene, Siylvaner, Sonoma Riesling, Syilvaner, Sylvaner, Sylvaner verde, Sylvaner vert, Sylvan Zeleny, Szilvani Feher, Tschafahnler, Yesil Silvaner, Zelencic, Zeleny, Zierfandler, Zierifandel, Zinifal, Zoeldsilvani, Zoeld Szilvani)

Background

Silvaner grapes Map showing central Europe

Silvaner (also quite commonly spelled "Sylvaner") is a very old white-wine grape originating in central Europe, most likely in Transylvania; it is today grown throughout central Europe, most notably in Germany (especially Franconia) and Alsace, but also to some extent in Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, and Slovakia, plus Romania (which today includes the former Transylvania). There have been some experiments in the New World, but little is now grown there.

In Germany, the grape's official name is "Grüner Silvaner"; the spelling "Sylvaner" is generally used in Alsace, Switzerland, and Austria, but is very common elsewhere as well (Wikipedia's article is headed "Silvaner" but uses "Sylvaner" throughout its text).

Silvaner at its best can produce top-quality wines that can go head to head against the greatest white, Riesling; unfortunately, it is not commonly at its best, because the grape's natural vigor coupled with its innately neutral taste easily lead producers to grow it for inexpensive bulk wines. (Great amounts of it go into the bland, fungible Liebfraumilch bottlings once so popular as "cheap wine".) But that same neutrality that leads to blandness when vinification is casual also allows dedicated, careful winemakers to express a good deal of teroir. In Alsace, whose Sylvaners are usually rather simple renditions of the grape, there is one large vineyard (Zotzenberg) whose Sylvaner has special dispensation to be used in Alsace Grand Cru wines.

A Bocksbeutel.

Silvaner wines from the Franconia region of Germany are still typically bottled in the classic Bocksbeutel (shown at the right), though there is a (much regretted) slowly increasing movement away from the shape owing to the difficulties it imposes on long-distance shipping and retail distribution.

Silvaner has, like all the better regional white-wine grapes, a naturally high acidity; in consequence, wines from it will age quite well, but there is also the classic vineyard conundrum of trying to balance off flavor against alcohol content, since the grapes are also naturally high in sugars (so that as they ripen, the flavor increases, but so does the potential alchohol content of the resultant wine). As with so many other grapes like that (Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe, and so on), Silvaner is thus often made into an off-dry or dessert wine by stopping the fermentation before it is complete (leaving "residual sugars" in the wine).

The keys to high-quality Silvaner seem to be these: appropriate soils and vineyard location; keeping yields low; and care in harvesting at the optimum moment. Mind, those are qualities needful for any good wine, but they seem especially important with Silvaner, which in modern times was badly overcropped for cheap bulk wines, thus tarnishing the variety's image. When well made, it has a neutral to slightly floral nose, sharp acidity, notable minerality, and a quality often described as "earthiness".

Factoid: In Alsace, Zotzenberg vineyard "Grand Cru" wines may by law consist of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Sylvaner in any combination. Thus, one could produce a 100% varietal "Sylvaner Grand Cru" from that vineyard—but it could not legally be labelled as such, but rather just "Zotzenberg Grand Cru".


Some Descriptions of Silvaner Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "This dichotomy is explained by the vigour of the Sylvaner vine and the grape's neutral flavour, which can lead to blandness unless yields are controlled. On the other hand it gives a blank canvas for the expression of terroir, and on good sites with skilled winemaking, Sylvaner can produce elegant wines. It has high acidity but naturally reaches high must weights, so is often blended with other varieties such as Riesling or Elbling, and is sometimes made into a dessert wine. . . [O]n the best chalky Muschelkalk terroir it can produce wines that can compete with the best German white wines which usually are made out of the Riesling grape. These powerful wines are considered food-friendly and are often described as having an "earthy" palate."

  • Jancis Robinson

    @ Silvaner:
    "The wines it produces are high in acidity and not particularly marked by flavour or longevity, but in the right spot, such as particular sites in Franken and Rheinhessen, it can produce extremely racy, excitingly sleek, sometimes earthy wines that can age well."

    @ Sylvaner:
    "Silvaner is one of Germany's few white wine grapes that seems obviously most at home producing dry rather than fruitier styles of wine, and so could be said to be particularly in tune with current tastes among wine drinkers in Germany. Franken Silvaners may not be the most aromatic wines but, perhaps thanks to the clay-limestone soils there, have a special, sometimes mineral, raciness as well as very firm, full body. To perform well here the frost-prone Silvaner needs a good site and that from the Würzburger Stein vineyard has a long-established reputation. It is still revered at Castell and can make lovely wines on the Steigerwald slopes near Iphofen."

  • Forgotten Grapes

    "When Silvaner is done right, which proper pruning and limited yields, it produces drier, crisper, more acidic wines with aromas and flavors of citrus peel, almond, green apple, and pineapple. Alsatian Silvaners tend to be even drier than their German cousins, and because of their high acidity and dryness, Silvaners are often blended with Rieslings, Elbling, Gewürztraminers and other German and Alsatian grapes that tend to lean toward the sweeter side. . . [W]ell-produced Silvaners (those with low yields from their vines) will give off very fresh scents of green apple and lemon curd. With some wines, you might get a nose of sugar cane while with others, more of a sea salt/sea breeze scent. These particular smells come down to location of the vineyard and where the wine was produced. Either way, though, you’ll be able to tell from the very first sniff that these wines are dry and tart and unlike other German varietals you might have tasted. Because of their high acidity and low alcohol levels, Silvaners can sometimes taste a little on the thin side. However, the well-produced Silvaners will be very dry wines, much drier than anything else produced in Germany; Alsatian Silvaners will be even drier, bone dry. Silvaners typically have a lot of flavor right up front during each sip (called the attack) but then thin out or give way as the wine makes its way down your tongue and throat. Despite this, Silvaners can have decent length to them; it’s in the middle that they kind of fall apart. Green apple flavors will abound along with a lot of dry citrus and perhaps some of that salty flavor you smelled earlier (though it will be more like club soda than straight salt. You might even detect a hint of bitterness to the wine also, as if you’ve encountered a citrus seed or part of a peel. Some Silvaners will also greet you in the middle or at the end with a hint of sweetness as well."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Some of the world's finest Silvaner wines comes from Germany's otherwise undistinguished Franken [Franconia] region. It is significant that Franken is the only Germany wine region where Riesling does not figure among the varieties of note. The clay-limestone soils here give its Silvaner wines substantial structure and body, while the cool climate helps prevent acidity levels from dropping too low. The famous Wurzburger Stein vineyard in Wurzburg is a great example of a location where Silvaner outperforms Riesling. The classic Wurzburger Stein Silvaner is a well-rounded wine with impressive minerality, faint herbal notes and a hint of citrus and melon. Silvaner is one of few varieties able to ripen fully in Franken, and is capable of achieving sufficient must-weights to be sold as Prädikatswein. In Alsace, Sylvaner wines have distinctively full-bodied style with a whiff of earth and smoke on the nose, highlighted at the expense of the scant fruit flavors the variety manages to muster. Some of the finest examples come from Alsace's Grand Cru sites, although most cannot be labeled "Grand Cru" because the variety is almost entirely excluded by Alsace's Grand Cru appellation laws. Only one Alsace Grand Cru vineyard – Zotzenberg – is officially permitted to use Sylvaner in its wines. . . Italian and Swiss Silvaners are typically much lighter and crisper than their counterparts from Alsace and Franken, with faint citrus notes and a hint of pale honey. These wines are invariably at their best within the first couple of years after vintage."

  • Berry Bros. & Rudd

    "[F]or years and it had a reputation for high acidity, neutral wines, low in aroma and fruit. However today much better wines are being produced through selection of better sites, lower yields, and crucially through harvesting at optimum ripeness - if unripe Sylvaner makes an exceedingly green and mean wine. The very best examples are from Franken."

  • Wine for Normal People

    "It’s a weird grape. It’s super neutral. At it’s best it’s light with some honeysuckle, honeydew, pear, and sometimes basil or fresh herb flavor and a good dose of salty mineral tang. Unlike the enamel busting acidity in Riesling, it’s a pretty chill grape in terms of mouthwatering tartness. It’s weak point: if it’s allowed to grow out of control, it tastes like alcoholic lemon water. . . [In Franconia], viticulturists take great care of their Silvaner vines and as a result the wines are refreshing, flavorful, and great summer sippers. . . Alsace Sylvaner is flavorful and more honey-like than the German stuff — not surprising since that’s a hallmark of Alsace wines. You may also see some from Northern Italy, where it kind of resembles more floral Pinot Grigio."

  • Vins d'Alsace

    "Appearance: the colour is clear, revealing green tinges, thus emphasizing its characteristic freshness. Nose: the nose is fresh and light. It offers a bouquet that is discreetly fruity and floral: citrus fruits, white flowers, freshly cut grass … Palate: the mouth is open and pleasant, structured around a thirst-quenching freshness."

  • Serious Eats

    "In truth, it's not a grape endowed with obvious beauty or sex appeal . .  Silvaner is more like the smart, witty and slightly wry guy whose charm can take a moment to recognize. Silvaner has tried on (and is still trying) a number of guises—from fierce, firm and cut to overly ripe, round and a little sassy, to punkish-alternative and wearing a conspicuous outfit to make a statement."

  • Alsace Wine

    "Sylvaner is grown all over the Europe, but has not caught on in the New World. The most famous examples are the steely, super-dry wines from Franken bottled in the green, flat Bock-bottle. .  Sylvaner gives medium-bodied wines with a lot of brute force and a good body. What it lacks, however, a some type of fingerprint aroma. No grower I have visited has referred to any particular varietal characteristic. From a marketing perspective, this is a tragic fate that Sylvaner shares with the likes of Melon (of Muscadet)."

  • Terroir France

    "Sylvaner gives a pleasant, fresh, fruity and dry wine. The wine has a pale green colour. Sylvaner offers flower and lemon aromas. It is better when drunk young."

  • Austrian Wine

    "Brings neutral, fruity wines. Aged versions usually give a gooseberry expression."

  • Vini Alto Adige

    "An earthy, mineral scent is typical of Sylvaner, accompanied by aromas of fresh herbs or hay."

  • Wine Geeks

    "If yields are kept low aromas and flavors of citrus, apples and almonds are common. The best examples of Silvaner comes from the eastern German region of Franken where the wine can seem electrically charged from the absurd levels of acidity. "

  • VinoDiversity

    "This variety is used to make both sweet and dry white wine styles. As an early ripening variety is can be used in cooler areas. Its characteristic high acidity is an asset in crisp young white wines. Sylvaner is one of those unfashionable varieties that can be worth seeking out. It is not highly regarded, if even acknowledged at all, by mainstream of wine writers and critics. Therefore if someone is growing it and making wine you know they have invested a little passion into the wine."


Some Silvaners to Try

(About this list.)

Curiously, for a varietal that is generally disdained, prices on select Silvaners are somewhat high—apparently, those who know and appreciate their Silvaners are willing to pay well for them. Below are a few that seem both well-recommended and of plausible pricing.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Hans Wirsching Dry Silvaner, $15 - $20. Wirsching 'Dry' label
    (Wirsching has numerous Silvaners, easily conflated; the label for this bottling is shown at the right.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    At just three years old, this bottle shows some developed petroleum notes that add interest to the often lackluster Silvaner grape. The mouth has an interesting pineapple element, carrying over to the medium finish. This is a relaxed, food-oriented style that would go well with a Mediterranean fish preparation. 85 points.

    Light, brassy gold with greenish glints. Exuberant, and, surprisingly for a 4 year old white, youthful scents of green apples, gooseberries, and dark, sweet stony minerals. After that nose, one would expect the wine to have some significant weight in the mouth, but unbelievably, it has virtually no weight at all. Despite its weightlessness, it's got some nice, dry flavors of green apple juice and stones. Good acidity keeps it lively, and it has a clean, herb-tinged finish. Very unique! B+ on an absolute quality scale, but maybe an A- if you factor in uniqueness.

    Franconia is the one place where Silvaner does better than Riesling, its more talented and better-dressed sibling. .  The region’s best-known producer is Hans Wirsching, who makes a handful of Grosses Gewächs (grand cru) Silvaners that cost as much as a serious Bordeaux. The basic bottling is not surprisingly the most extracted among these, with 11.5% alcohol. Delicious, but the style struck me as somewhat heavy and over-rich, without the Schleret’s refreshment.

    Hans Wirsching is perhaps the best known, and is one of the few Franken wineries that has distribution in the United States .  . The Wirsching Silvaner is excellent.

    The current primary home for this white delight is Germany, and the Hans Wirsching Dry Silvaner 2010 is a swell exemplar. Vibrant with fresh acidity and minerality, it boasts beautifully integrated fruit (pear, citrus) leading to what my notes call a jolty finish (that's a compliment).

    [It] shows some pretty citrus and floral notes with just a touch of pineapple rind. It’s dry on the palate with a medium-light body and a perfectly refreshing appeal.

    This was one of those impressive wines. Super mineral, lovely vegetable/green notes and very juicy and long. Really impressive for a basic Silvaner.

    This light white wine offers green apple and gooseberry flavors with a hint of minerality. Rating: 14.5/20


  • Abbazia di Novacella Stiftskellerei Neustift Sylvaner, $13 - $22.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Sylvaner is often called 'the Pinot Noir of white varieties' because it's so difficult to grow well. In its native Germany, Sylvaner usually yields rather pedestrian wines. The 2006 Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner is excellent. It is dry, yet viscous, and packed with concentrated white fruits and mineral flavors. 92 points.

    The 2009 Sylvaner is a standout in this vintage. It shows wonderful detail in freshly cut flowers, mint, peaches and pears. There is a marvelous detail and clarity in the glass. The Sylvaner is more restrained than the Kerner – and perhaps a touch less showy – but not one bit less intriguing. 90 points.

    ♣ Wine Advocate: 2009 vintage, 90 points; 2008 vintage, 88 points.

    Aged partly in large casks, this has aromas that recall white flowers, stone fruit, chamomile, subtle oak and flint. The palate offers yellow apple, lemon zest, white peach and smoky graphite alongside fresh acidity. 88 points.

    At the present day, the Abbazia achieves its greatest successes with grapes that don’t fare so well in other places. Sylvaner, an originally Austrian vine which in Alsace and Germany usually makes a fairly straightforward, ordinary wine, here yields a much more nuanced juice with nice hints of complexity and much more evident structure. . . Forest floor (what Italians call sottobosco) aromas, plus flowers. Diane suggested also mirabelles, those delectable yellow plums so loved in Alsace. Nutty and floral palate. Excellent acidity, though still round in the mouth. Long-finishing. Very fine.

    Three of the Italian [Sylvaner] wines were particularly good, including two from the Abbazia di Novacella winery: a refreshing and light Sylvaner ($22) and their Praepositus ($35) that was more minerally, with a bit of an earthy note.

    Light yellow color with green highlights, fresh fruity aromas of pear and melon. Good-bodied and with a decisive minerality and dry taste.

    Straw/greenish colour. Typical steel. Clean nose, quite leafy and greenish with some stone. Uncomplicated and nice sylvaner-nose. Medium bodied and again the lightly greeny sylvaner-fruit with a slight bitterness in the finish. A little mineral. Medium acids and length. Some alcohol in the finish. Nice sylvaner.

    Celestino Lucin, winemaker for Abbazia di Novacella, an abbey in Italy's Alto Adige region that dates to 1142, is renowned for his white wines. This Sylvaner from the 2010 vintage is no exception. The grapes are grown on steep hillsides surrounding the abbey. Yields are low. And the result is this complex Sylvaner with a flowery bouquet and mineral undertow. It tastes of honey and pear, and its crisp acidity makes it an ideal food wine.


  • Dirler-Cadé Vieilles Vignes Sylvaner, $17 - $24.

    Some quotations and facts:

    One of my perennial favorite sylvaners is made by Domaine Dirler-Cadé: their 2011 Sylvaner Cuvée Vieilles Vignes presents penetrating aromas and flavors of green apple, ripe pear and fresh herbs. This fresh, moderately sweet wine finishes with a ripe flavor of white stone fruit and a delicate minty nuance.

    Perhaps rightly, silvaner (or sylvaner, as it’s often labeled in Alsace) receives little attention. It’s often a relatively neutral grape with little of interest in the way of flavor or texture. But well-made versions like this from Dirler-Cadé can be delightful warm-weather quaffs. Its delicate floral and herbal flavors, lightly fruity and lightly savory, are perfect for an outdoor lunch and whiling away the afternoon.

    ♣ Wine Advocate: 2008 vintage, 89 points; 2007 vintage, 89 points.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar: 2010 vintage, 90 points; 2011 vintage, 89 points.

    Bright straw-green. Very tropical nose for sylvaner. Then fresher, in fact almost tart, on the palate, with a mouthwatering quality that nicely frames the minty coriander, green apple and apricot flavors. Finishes long and almost tannic. Clearly, it's the mineral-rich Saering (roughly 50% of the grapes used to make this wine come from this grand cru) that provides the freshness here. This is actually Dirler's favorite wine in 2010! Similarly surprising is the fact that the 2010 sylvaner is much riper and more tropical than the 2011, most likely due to the difference in yields (30 hectoliters per hectare vs. 50). Atypical but exciting sylvaner. 90 Points."

    Pale straw. Penetrating aromas of green apple, ripe pear and hazelnut complicated by fresh herbs on the inviting nose. Fresh and moderately sweet on the palate, with ripe white stone fruit and delicate mint and marjoram flavors. The brisk finish left me wanting more. These grapes were harvested on September 20, and about 50% were from 40-year-old vines situated on the more calcareous parts of the eastern slopes of the Saering grand cru, with east and southeast exposures. The pedigree of the grand cru origin of these grapes is noticeable in the silky, deep mouthfeel of this excellent sylvaner.

    Half of this comes from Grand Cru Saering, 6 g/litre sugar. Lovely rounded apple and pear fruit with a broad texture and a hint of sweetness. Nice depth: smooth, ripe and with attractive pear fruit, as well as a hint of honey. 92/100

    I found three very good Sylvaners from Alsace made by Albert Boxler, Dirler-Cadé and André Ostertag—all producers noted for Sylvaners in a region where the grape still gets fairly short shrift. The rich 2011 Albert Boxler Sylvaner ($30) was a great wine with food, while the 2011 Domaine Dirler-Cadé Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes ($20) and 2012 André Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes ($23) were both lighter than the Albert Boxler, with more minerality.

    With a golden yellow color, the Sylvaner had apples, hints of peaches, stone, and gravel with a chickory finish. The wine could have used a bit more acidity, but I felt that the expression of terroir and stone finish balanced it out.

    Hidden treasure: 2009 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes Massive, multi-dimensional aroma of melons, white flowers and herbs. The taste is totally dry with yellow apples and grapefruit, lush acidity, a dense mid-palate and a long aftertaste. Great on the table.


  • Weinbau Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Kronsberg Silvaner Trocken, $17 - $20. Wirsching 'Trocken' label
    (Wirsching has numerous Silvaners, easily conflated; the label for this bottling is shown at the right.)
         ($17.84 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    When you dip your nose into your glass, the first thing that hits you is the lovely minerality emanating from the wine. Then aromas of citrus, white blossom and pear fill your nostrils. This Silvaner might not be powerfully aromatic, but it’s very pleasing, conjuring up a spring breeze. On the palate, those subtle aromas expand in the most delicious way, framed by a juicy acidity that makes you salivate. The citrus notes are refreshing and lean towards mellow lemon, while distinct notes of Bosc pear follow. There are some delicate herbal elements of anise and fennel as well. What’s most enticing about the Wirsching Silvaner is how pleasing the wine feels in the mouth. It’s round, silky-smooth and absolutely succulent. Although highly sippable on its own, the Silvaner would pair marvelously with anything.

    I had a few Silvaners from Germany. The one that really stood out was the delightfully floral 2012 Weingut Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Silvaner Trocken. It had a dry, mineral finish and a profile that one friend called "yummy." At $17 a bottle, it was also a good deal.

    Despite the significant problems in the Franken in 2011, the end result were wines of clarity and power, at same time as great finesse—in short, some superb wines. I particularly liked the Wirsching collection, which seemed to have layers of citrus, honey and mineral notes.

    [V]ery good. Higher toned minerality than the basic estate Silvaner. Very elegant and complex already. Lovely little wine.

    Very pale, almost watery color. The nose showed zesty citrus notes and a green/herbal character that reminded me a little bit of young Chablis. On the palate this is quite light in body but packs a lot of flavor. I would guess that there is just a hint of residual sugar left to provide a counterweight to the truly zingy acidity that follows and really grips the palate. The finish is there, but nothing special. In sum, a very refreshing bottle for those looking for a crisp white.

    2012 Silvaner Trocken (dry), which shows some pretty citrus and floral notes with just a touch of pineapple rind. It’s dry on the palate with a medium-light body and a perfectly refreshing appeal.

    A light, direct steely nose. Decent minerally palate. Good easy drinking at a fair price.

    This product of Silvaner grapes is dry and bold, with a crisp minerality which will pair well with seafood and cheese.


  • Domaine Weinbach Sylvaner Réserve, $19 - $20.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Sometimes [Silvaners] put on quite a show and Weinbach makes a good one. Lemon, Granny Smith apple, mild raclette, parsley and mint. Plenty of mouth watering acidity for a great mid-afternoon sipper (even when it's 3 degrees outside). It has more weight than Silvaner aus Franken, but less wet-rock stinkiness and spice. Plus, it's by far the most affordable Domaine Weinbach wine available. Why Sylvaner continues to have a minute fan club, I don't understand.

    They take white wine seriously in Alsace, but the grapes are typically Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Blanc - not unfashionable Sylvaner. What's nice about this surprisingly elegant and dry wine is that it pairs effortlessly with the acidic foods of summer, from sorrel soup to tomato and mozzarella salad.

    Made with a grape rarely found in Alsace anymore, this intriguing wine tastes of green apples, with a distinctive overlay of smoky spice. Quite long on the palate, its crisp acidity keeps it in fine balance, though I suspect that it’s not a wine that will benefit from aging. In the near-term, though, it will be delicious when paired with delicate foods that themselves have a smoky or spicy edge (smoked trout, for example, or many kinds of sushi). 90 points.

    Sylvaners are often bland, yet this slightly sweet apricot-infused example has lots of personality.

    A glass of Domain Faller Weinbach Sylvaner 2010 made me crave oysters, with its full-bodied spice notes.

    The 2006 Domaine Weinbach, Sylvaner Reserve also from Alsace fared much better with a lightly floral nose and very dry finish.

    Lively, intense and crisp with lovely fruit: grapefruit, pear, melon and tangerine. Dry with assertive acidity. So crisp and lively with lots of personality. 90/100


  • Domaine Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes, $19 - $27.
         ($21.34 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    André Ostertag of Domaine Ostertag loves sylvaner and his 2011 Sylvaner Les Vieilles Vignes shows what he can do with it: you’ll also love the wine’s rich notes of quince, apricot and white peach. The oldest vines here are nearly 75 years of age, the youngest 35, and in Ostertag’s talented hands the results are bound to be special. Note that a tiny percentage of this wine is made from the very rare sylvaner rosé sub-variety, which is less vegetal than the more common sylvaner vert and possesses a distinct hazelnut note.

    Light golden yellow going clear to the rim. Once again, really aromatic on the nose. Notes of pineapple, apples, cream and stones with the palate showing minerality. Mid bodied and refreshing, good acidity, well balanced and enjoyable. The wine is well put together and has a profile from nose to finish that is consistent but uninspiring. The mid-palate is really fruity and concentrated but the watery disappearing finish puts pay to the 90. 89 Points.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (1 November 2012), 91 points.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (April 2010), 89 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (28 April 2011), 88 points.

    Ostertag’s 2007 Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is delightfully and (for this variety) surprisingly floral and citric in aromas, with fresh lime, honeydew melon, wafting perfume, and familiar suggestions of chalk and cherry pit informing a texturally caressing yet refreshing palate. Would that there were not only more of this wine to go around, but more testimonies from the cellars of other growers as well to the potential charms of Sylvaner! 89 points.

    Andre Ostertag isn’t one to flaunt his use of biodynamic principles – he much prefers his wines to stand alone. His ‘Les Vielles Vignes’ is much the same, filling an entry-level spot in Ostertag’s line with an eye for clean, ‘straight,’ dry flavor and zero ostentation. Pears, pineapple and lime zest grace the palate, before secondary characteristics of wet slate and dehydrated apple chips kick in.

    I found three very good Sylvaners from Alsace made by Albert Boxler, Dirler-Cadé and André Ostertag—all producers noted for Sylvaners in a region where the grape still gets fairly short shrift. The rich 2011 Albert Boxler Sylvaner ($30) was a great wine with food, while the 2011 Domaine Dirler-Cadé Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes ($20) and 2012 André Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes ($23) were both lighter than the Albert Boxler, with more minerality.

    Ostertag’s Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is delightfully and (for this variety) surprisingly floral and citric in aromas, with fresh lime, honeydew melon, wafting perfume, and familiar suggestions of chalk and cherry pit informing a texturally caressing yet refreshing palate.

    [André Ostertag's] Sylvaner vines average 40 years old and grow in clay, gravel and granite. The resulting wine delivers rich depth of fruit with terrific balance. The golden color unfolds grapefruit, honey and floral aromas. Ripe peach and citrus flavors carry through the dry finish. Pair with seafood crepes. Highly recommended.

    A perfect wine to kick off the beginning of Spring. Fresh, crisp and easy to drink. The perfect cocktail wine for a Thursday evening or just hanging out in the back yard while playing fetch with the dog on a Saturday afternoon. Also a perfect accompaniment to crab or oysters. Sylvaner is one of the classic grapes of Alsace that is unfortunately being replaced in many areas by the more popular Riesling grape. Tastes/Smells: Green apple, lemon, white flowers, lemon zest, white peach, wet stone. Body: Light. Tannin: None. Acid: Medium. Sugar: None. Length: Short. 88 (A-).


For a Splurge

One can spend a great deal of money on some of the more elevated specimens of Silvaner, but one that is much praised but not absolutely astronomical in price is the Kuenhof Sylvaner, from the Valle d'Isarco in the Alto Adige region of Italy; it is available at retail for from $25 to $34.



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