Jean-Luc Mader is as exciting – and as unique – a find in today’s Alsace as Francois Raveneau was in 1970s Chablis. And that’s not an exaggeration. In fact, in terms of quality, value and especially style, Mader may be even more “out there” than Raveneau was.
Not only are Mader’s wines some of the very few in Alsace to still be classically dry; they also somehow manage a richness, sapidity and power with surprisingly reasonable alcohol and virtually no residual sugar that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere in Alsace today.
In part, this is due to their superb (and now biodynamically farmed) old vineyards, with some of the lowest yields in Alsace. The greatest of these boasts the oldest vines (now 70 years) at the very top of the great grand cru “Rosacker.” Trimbach’s “Clos Ste. Hune” is from 40-year-old vines in the middle of this vineyard. (One of the few Alsatian grand crus to still be as it historically was.) And in fact, Jean Trimbach told Food & Wine’s Lettie Teague that Mader’s is the other “Rosacker” he most admires.
Mader’s “straight” 2011 Riesling is over 20% from this old-vine “Rosacker holding. It also comes from the grand cru “Schlossberg,” as well as the excellent lieu dit “Muhlforst.” All of the vines are old. The 2011, in what looks to be the best Riesling vintage of recent years, is Jerome Mader’s finest to date. It’s also insanely underpriced for what it is.
Keep in mind, Alsace experts like Tom Stevenson and Jacqueline Friedrich have long regarded Mader as one of the best, and best-value, producers in Alsace. But since young Jerome Mader took over in 2005, converting the estate to biodynamic viticulture and further reducing its already tiny yields, the quality has absolutely soared. Yet the prices – and general disdain for marketing, or any other sort of fluff – remains the same. As Mader told Teague: “We do nothing to sell our wines; we just answer the phone and the doorbell.” Yet they always sell out anyway.
2011 was a textbook Riesling vintage – with a very cool summer and a positively brilliant fall. Of course, Mader raised the price a euro, but it’s still a value almost beyond compare. This is a scintillating dry Riesling that really deserves five years, and will surely improve for ten or more. Yet I know I’ll be drinking a lot of this wine this summer.
And just wait until you try the 2011 “Rosacker!”