Alsace Wines – Beyond the aromatic whites

Alsace is probably most well known for the aromatic whites – Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewertztraminer.  It is also well known for their sparkling wine, Cremant d’Alsace, amde in the classic champenoise method.  But, Alsace also produces some lovely Pinot Noir’s will excellent QPR.

Tucked away in a corner of eastern France, Alsace has long been a disputed territory.  In the confluence of Germany, France, and Switzerland, the Alsatian culture is a fitting blend of these three.  Bouncing back in forth across the arbitrary borders that conflict cause, the Alsace region has maintained an independant mentality.

 

When the AOC was created in 1962, wines were not required to be bottled in the region and there were no Grand Crus.  That quickly changed in the mid 1970s, and in 1976 the AOC of Crémant d’Alsace was created, to showcase the sparkling wines of the region, which had been produced since the 1900s.  Using the Méthode Champenoise (Champagne style, secondary fermentation in the bottle), these bubblies are made from the local aromatic whites of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Auxerrois, as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The rarest of Crémants is the rosé, make entirely of Pinot Noir.

 

Sitting down to dinner on this evening, we were treated to the Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV.  This $20 sparkling wine comes from a producer that has been making wine for 400 years; with a 14th generation winemaker at the helm, the estate recently went biodynamic.  Aged in foudres and on the lees for 9 months, it is bursting with strawberries and bright citrus it is a delightful summer sipoper.

 

Other Crémants to enjoy:
Allimant-Laugner Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NVthis popular producer offers another history lesson as the Allimant and Laugner families have been making wine since 1724.  Now run by 10th generation winemaker Hubert Laugner, this mineral drive rosé comes from vineyards on the granite slopes of the Vosages.  It is zesty and driven by blood orange and red fruit, and is a great option for weekend brunch!  $18

Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Rose Brut – this budget busting $12 sparkler is a house staple.  Easy to drink, easy to find, grab it while you can!

 

Moving in to more undiscovered territory, we started to explore the Pinot Noirs of the region.  With 90% of the wines produced in this region being white, and 18% being Crémant, there is only a smattering of red wine available.  The vast majority of this red wine is Pinot Noir, used both for the illusive Crémant Rosé, as well as still wines.

 

2015 Rieflé Pinot Noir Bonheur Convivial – Another historical house, the grapes for this wine are grown on the limestone loess and were fermented on native yeast.  Aged in French oak for 10 months, the result is a low alcohol (13.5%) wine with floral notes wafting out of the glass, followed by bright cherry and dusty strawberry, Jolly Rancher notes and mouthwatering herbal notes.

wines of Alsace, Alsace Wine2012 Hubert Meyer Pinot Noir Fut en Chen – Dark ruby with a muted nose, rustic and more ore savory notes are followed by black cherry, cranberry, and rhubarb flavors.

 

 


2012 Domaine Ostertag FronholzThe youngest house in my roundup, Domaine Osterag was founded in 1966.  Famous for the Muenchberg Grand Cru vineyard, but this Fronholz Pinot Noir comes from top top of the hill of Epfig.  Known for the minerality, the grapes are 100% destemmed and aged in neutral barrels for a year.  Grippy and full of limestone, the subtle cherry comes out after a bit of air.  Exuding earth and crushed minerals it’s another lower alcohol winner clocking in at 13.7%.  $45

Special thanks to Thierry Fritsch of the Vin’s d’Alsace, for his expressive humor and pure passion for Alsace, and to Teuwen Communications for the lovely event!

 

 




Wines of Alsace – beauty in diversity

Wines Of AlsaceWhen I think of the wines of Alsace, my mind immediately wanders to the sparkling Cremant d’Alsace, an amazingly affordable priced bubbly.  Then, I meander to the aromatic whites of Gewurztraminer and Riesling, before setting on the classic Pinot Gris.  With so much diversity in style, even within a single varietal, it’s easy to forget that there is more to the region than these four styles of wine.

Located on the northeastern edge of France, the Alsace region has been French,  German, and everything in between for hundreds of years, with a strong tradition of wine and food.  Following the path of the Rhine river, this narrow strip of rolling hills and alpine villages lazily follows the river through over 100 wine communes.

Over 90% of still wine from Alsace is made with white varieties, lending to the claim of “pure expression”.  The expression of the region, the cuisine, and the styles of winemaking are all evident in these wines.  Typically, when I think of Alsatian whites, I gravitate pairing with spicy foods – Thai, Indian, Burmese. Recently however, I was delighted at the flavors that danced on my tongue pairing delicious whites with Moroccan food.  Logically, this makes sense – the sensual flavors with the bold spices are perfect for the cooling white wines of the region.  Stunningly versatile, we had fun mixing and matching the p;airings with the delicious food.

Starter:

Eggplant, cucumber, oregano, pepper, za’atar – a ragout of sorts that was beautifully flavorful.  I skipped the Kanpachi since I have a food allergy, but the za’atar was magnification with the 2013 Meyer-Fonne Pinot Blanc Vielles Vignes.  The creaminess of the eggplant and pungency of the oregano and peppers really played off the unctuous Pinot Blanc.

Second:

Chicken with preserved lemon, green olives; Snapper with red charmoula

Cous cous with brown butter; Carrots with dates, pecans, urfa and mint; Potatoes with buttermilk and onions; Beans with tomatoes, feta, and za’atar crumble

This was an incredible feast for the senses and there was SO much food!  Both of the wines served as excellent pairings but I preferred the 2010 Riefle Riesling Grand Cru Steinert Bonheur Exceptional with the chicken.  The aromatic spice of the dish played perfectly off of the aged Riesling’s own spice, as well as the slightly oily mouthfeel.  The Snapper was delicious with the 2012 Albert Boxler Pinot Gris Reserve.

Cheese – typically you might think of pairing a sweet, dessert style wine with a sweet dessert.  However, the balance of the sweet wine with the creamy, sharp, and pungent cheeses was imply mouthwatering.  The 2012 Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum Vendanges Tarvide is still full of life, with beautiful acid, honey notes and caramel syrup, while maintaining apricots and acid . The pairing of Point Reyes Blue cheese with a dash of honey and this was was sublime.

Thank you to Mourad for an amazing Moroccan feast, and to the Wines of Alsace for the surprising pairings.  Alsace’s marketing motto is “Pure Expression” and these wines hit the mark, while showing us how you can be versatile and don’t have to stick with tradtion when pairing the aromatic white wines of eastern France.  With excellent QPR and price points friendly enough for every wallet, it’s easy to experiment with Alsatian wines.  Try a bottle with your favorite ethnic cuisine, or with BBQed chicken.  Go ahead and try an older Pinot Gris with pork chops.  The beauty of wines with versatility is that you can!

Next time you are in the mood for North African cuisine, think Wines of Alsace! 

 

Thank you Wines of Alsace for the delicious meal, and inventive pairings!

Pop! Goes the world…

Sadly, Lucien’s twin brother decided to have a party by him self while I was on vacation, and popped his cork without anyone around – thus soaking my futon with tasty Cremant.  However, his pink colored bro Luke, is here and quite tasty!

The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose, from Alsace, is a fantastic budget bubbly.  This rose is 100% Pinot Noir, and is a pale salmon pink, with some copper flash.  The teeny tiny bubbles tickle your nose with strawberries, raspberries, and bitter orange.  For under $20, this is a STEAL for a special occasion, or everyday.

I love my bubbles, and I love my bubbles with potato chips.  I’m munching on some tasty local triple cream cheese, and it’s the perfect compliment.  At a price like this, you can afford to celebrate life everyday.

 

Thank you to the importer for sharing these bubbles with me!