It's a shame we don't see more wine from Alsace in our market. The region offers a diverse range of wine styles whose common traits are an abundance aroma and flavour. I was lucky to have been invited to the glamorous Ritz Carleton to attend a seminar on Alsatian wine presented by Taylor Thompson, Wine Director of Toca.
Nestled away in the NorthEastern corner of France, Alsace finds itself in an ideal location. Following the Rhine River, it is protected by the Vosges Mountains, which makes this cool climate area one of the driest and sunniest regions in France - excellent conditions for grape growing. This wine producing area offers an array of grape varietals such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat. If sparkling wine is more your style, you're in luck! Made in a similar method as Champagne, a Cremant d'Alsace makes an excellent aperitif.
Alsatian wines usually don't find themselves on the wine shopping list, especially when looking for a match with food. With a sturdy backbone of acidity, Alsatian white wine is commonly paired with fish but why not try the region's Riesling with pork, or Pinot Gris with poultry, or Muscat with asparagus.
One of the problems facing the wines of Alsace is that consumers, in general, don't know what to expect from the tulip-shaped bottles. The sweetness levels can vary between producers, often with no indications on the label. However, a new generation of young winemakers are pushing for dry whites which are more in fashion with consumer tastes. With all their travels and experience working around the globe, they are bringing fresh ideas and techniques to the region in an effort to further define Alsatian terroir.
From the region's history to a breakdown of soil composition, Taylor kept us engaged as we tried not to be distracted by the "cheese cave" close by in the restaurant. He led us through a guided tasting of the regional styles and what made them typically Alsatian.
Thanks, Angela Aiello, for the invitation to join this tasty learning-lunch! If only all my previous schooling was accompanied by delicious food and wine.
To learn more about the wines of Alsace
Blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois. This is a tart, simple, and refreshing sparkling wine. Light floral tones with plenty of citrus and green apple. Enjoy before a meal to get you salivating. Or, add a dash of creme de cassis to make a slightly modified Kir Royale.
Sylvaner is not a grape that I typically seek out due to its neutral characteristics. However, this wine offers more than expected; fresh herbs, pear, green apple, and a slight floral tone that is supported by a mineral backbone.
Identified by it's grape-like aroma, this wine is very perfumed with slight honey, floral, and citrus notes. Dry, with pleasing body and texture.
There's a general misconception that all Riesling is sweet. When it comes to general Alsatian Riesling (Alsace AOP), it must be dry. With a softness to the texture, this dry Riesling highlights that intense crushed-rock minerality that can be found in wines from Alsace.
Fruit is sourced from hills around the tiny village of Bergheim. A mineral-driven, dry Riesling that exhibits a slight oily texture. There was a certain "Je ne sais quoi" mustiness to this particular example. However, it has an appreciable amount of lively acid carrying flavours green apple and lime.
Ripe, displaying honey and slight candied stone fruit. Full texture from lees aging along with a hint of spice on the finish.
Fruit sourced from older vines, this was one one my favourites in the flight. Concentrated, with great texture and weight. Textbook Gewurztraminer aromas and flavours. Packed with fruit and floral notes, the acid held it together happily.
Not the most refined example but there is plenty to enjoy. Exhibiting softer acid, an abundance of lychee, ripe apricots, and floral tones, this is certainly on the juicier side. Chill well.