When 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.
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.
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!