Alsatian Wines Strike a Balance of Dry and Sweet


At Domaine Valentin Zusslin, where Marie Zusslin and her brother, Jean-Paul, have managed the estate since 2008, there is no question about which wines are dry and which is not.

“In Alsace, heavier, sweeter wines were understood,” she said, noting that that is not the case internationally. To eliminate confusion, the Zusslin wines are dry unless clearly indicated.

From the Clos Liebenberg, a southeast-facing vineyard outside Orschwihr in the southern part of the region, you can see the Swiss Alps on a clear day. Riesling is planted in rows and on terraces. Beehives are nearby for honey and pear trees for making eau de vie. Like all of the Zusslin estate, it has been farmed biodynamically for almost 20 years. Each element of the undulating terrain is different, with varying microclimates, exposures and soils.

“To observe is paramount,” Ms. Zusslin said, a key tenet of biodynamic viticulture.

The Zusslin wines reflect this precision. They are characterized by acidity, energy and a savory quality that I can only describe as saltiness. I especially liked the lively 2014 sylvaner and the gentle 2014 riesling, both from the Bollenberg vineyard, along with the mineral 2013 riesling from the grand cru Pfingstberg vineyard and the linear 2013 riesling from Clos Liebenberg.

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