Boxler's Alsatian Grandeur
Legendary, transcendent, and time-honored wines
I often struggle with Alsace. Though Alsace borders the German regions of Baden and Pfalz, it is, counterintuitively, one of the warmest and driest regions in France — more than much of Provence. This is because the Vosges mountain range protects it from all sorts of weather systems. Therefore Alsace is home to some of the most profound, opulent white wines in the world. The top wines from producers like Trimbach command some of the highest prices in the world outside of Burgundy.
Yet outside of the blue chip producers, which I can rarely afford, Alsace offers a sometimes middling array of winemaking approaches, my least favorite of which are baroque, overwrought, and high-alcohol. Besides a dizzying collection of grape varieties — Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Auxerrois, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Chasselas, and more — it's also a region with a lot of soil types and microclimates. To make matters worse, the labeling system is little help for consumers trying to navigate through the region's wide swing of wine styles. While I know that the region is justifiably lauded as one of the world's greatest, I nevertheless find myself confused and apprehensive.
Of course, there are exceptions, and the wines of Albert Boxler are nothing if not exceptional. These are wines that consistently highlight what I like best about the region: lush aromatics and heady satiation reigned in by filigree and detail. It's a balancing act I find few Alsatians can pull off. In addition to two single vineyard Rieslings that are in short supply and are built for the long haul, we have Boxler's Edelzwicker. Ready to drink now, the Edelzwicker is a wine that has inspired many, including our friend Brianne Day in Oregon. It's an affordable introduction to Boxler and a superior example of what Alsace can acheive in the right hands.
The ancestral Jean Boxler moved to Alsace from Switzerland in 1673; but it was not until 1946 that Albert Boxler, who moved back to France from Montana after World War II, began bottling the family wines under their own name. The family's approach to grape growing and winemaking has purportedly changed very little for centuries. Everything is worked organically, harvested by hand, and vinified mostly in big, old oak foudrès, with nothing added except for sulfur. The farming is central to the operation, and they are almost always in the vineyard — a task made easier because the Grand Cru Sommerberg vineyard basically starts in their driveway.
There is a lot of mystery that surrounds great wine but I feel it generally comes down to the basics: healthy fruit and hard work. Of course it helps to have Grand Cru vineyards in your family for 350 years, but being stewards of this inheritance is something Jean Boxler takes quite seriously. The wines reflect this.
Alsace is a region that can be simultaneously confusing, revelatory, and disappointing. It can be maddening to replicate a great experience. Boxler is the one that hits every time for me.