Agathe Bursin Muscat Bollenberg 2016
The Bollenberg is part of 3 dry hillsides bordering the village of Westhalten. A fine layer of loess (wind blown silt sized sediment) covers the sides of the hill. This deposit, from the quartenary glaciation, was brought by the wind. It is a pale yellow silt, very fine, sandy and limestone, with very little clay. This soil is particularly favorable to the full expression of the different Alsatian varietals. The parcel of muscat, 44 years old, is a co-plantation of Muscat Ottonel (80%) and Muscat d’Alsace (20%).
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Agathe Bursin was born into a family of vintners. When Agathe was a child, her grandmother let her smell wines and decide if it was dominated by "fleure" or "fruit". In the kitchen, her grandmother made Agathe close her eyes and guess what was put in her mouth. These childhood experiences have contributed to Agathes current interest in flavors and fragrances.
Located in the commune of Westhalten, about fifteen kilometers to the south of Colmar, three famous hills of calcareous formation, Zinnkoepflé, Strangenberg and Bollenberg, form a crown around the village. Westhalten is famous for its Mediterranean-like microclimate. Indeed, this area is among the driest areas of France (500 mm of precipitation per annum), because it is protected by the two highest summits in the Vosges, le Grand-Ballon and le Petit-Ballon. This feeble rainfall over ancient limestone soils (along with fossilized anemones and oyster shells) creates one of Alsace most unique terroirs.
With its fairytale aesthetic, Germanic influence and strong emphasis on white wines, Alsace is one of France’s most unique viticultural regions. This hotly contested stretch of land running north to south on France’s northeastern border has spent much of its existence as German territory. Nestled in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, it is one of the driest regions of France but enjoys a long and cool growing season. Autumn humidity facilitates the development of “noble rot” for the production of late-picked sweet wines, Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
The best wines of Alsace can be described as aromatic and honeyed, even when completely dry. The region’s “noble” varieties, the only ones permitted within Alsace’s 51 Grands Crus vineyards, are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris.
Riesling is Alsace’s main specialty. In its youth, Alsace Riesling is dry, fresh and floral, but develops complex mineral and flint character with age. Gewurztraminer is known for its signature spice and lychee aromatics, and is often utilized for late harvest wines. Pinot Gris is prized for its combination of crisp acidity and savory spice as well as ripe stone fruit flavors. Muscat, vinified dry, tastes of ripe green grapes and fresh rose petal.
Other varieties grown here include Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chasselas, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir—the only red grape permitted in Alsace and mainly used for sparkling rosé known as Crémant d’Alsace. Most Alsace wines are single-varietal bottlings and unlike other French regions, are also labeled with the variety name.
While Muscat comes in a wide range of styles from dry to sweet, still to sparkling and even fortified, it's safe to say it is always alluringly aromatic and delightful. The two most important versions are the noble, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, making wines of considerable quality and Muscat of Alexandria, thought to be a progeny of the former. Somm Secret—Pliny the Elder wrote in the 13th century of a sweet, perfumed grape variety so attractive to bees that he referred to it as uva apiana, or “grape of the bees.” Most likely, he was describing Muscat.