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Silvaner, a Lovely yet Unloved Spring Wine, Needs Friends

Silvaner, a Lovely yet Unloved Spring Wine, Needs Friends


Zusslin’s Bollenberg Sylvaner is lively, energetic, gentle and savory, but it, too, is not currently sold in the United States. “I think they trust in it,” Ms. Zusslin said of her American importers, “but the market is not that simple.”

Geoffrey Ducroix of Avant Garde Wine and Spirits, Zusslin’s importer in the New York region, said that while he might eventually bring in the Zusslin silvaner, his priority was to establish a market for their rieslings and a pinot noir.

“I do think there is a market for silvaner,” he said. “Why not, if the wine is good? Obviously, it’s a niche.”

Like Mr. Ostertag, Ms. Zusslin believes the future of silvaner requires diligent, conscientious farming and a belief in the importance of the grape, which she called “an underdog that only needs good care to fully reveal itself.”

“Because it is deeply rooted in our tradition, we have to keep it alive and to give it as much care as we can,” she said by email. “Even more when you think about all it has to offer when you put enough effort in its growing and vinification.”

The choices in New York stores for silvaner fans are sadly few, but I highly recommend five very different expressions. Mr. Ostertag’s 2015 is a classic Alsace interpretation: sedate, floral and as clear as a cloudless day in the country. From alpine Alto Adige, Muri-Gries, housed in an ancient but still functioning Benedictine monastery, makes a richer style of silvaner, more textured yet clean and vibrant with aromas and flavors of apricots, herbs and flowers.

As different as those two wines may be, they are in an alternate universe from the 2013 Bergweingarten, made by the Alsace natural-wine producer Pierre Frick. Bottled under a crown cap and made with a minimal amount of sulfur dioxide, the almost universally used stabilizer, the Bergweingarten is the most unusual silvaner I’ve had, with an aroma that seemed to combine apricots with pineapples. On the palate, it was lively, pure, deep and refreshing. Call it singular or call it crazy, it was delicious either way.



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