The Best in Class from Alsace
I honestly feel like Alsace is the perfect French wine region for the American market, but for some reason, not many people know about it.
Alsace is the only French wine region more or less defined by grape variety, so when you couple American obsession with grape varieties and the 20th century history of the region, it's gotta be a winner. We Americans do love a good World War II story, after all, and damn - we're simply obsessed with varietal labeling.
To close out my pronunciation series, I've listed below the wines I drank from the region over a three month period where I (almost) exclusively only drank wines from Alsace. (Ok, ok, I popped some Champagne for the Biden win, but other than that, it was the Indian summer of Alsace.) Some were good, some were... not my cup of tea... and others still were truly exceptional.
There's no doubt about it Boxler has a helluva reputation both in France and abroad. It's easy to see why with this remarkable Pinot Gris. And just look at the color on this baby! Equal parts petroleum and floral notes on the nose with a touch of honey. On the palate, there's even some orange zest and a bit of wax. This wine is certainly complex, and could do with a few more years of age.
This was a gift from Idealwine.com.
2) Riesling, Silberberg de Rorschwihr, Domaine Fernand Engel 2015, $18
I think this wine was hands down my favorite of this entire series, and WOW what a steal for the quality! Lemon, pear, white flower, wet stone - sign. me. up. It's the dry, beautiful white wine I expect and love so much from the region. I purchased two of these bottles from Wines Til Sold Out just before the pandemic, which I'm pretty grateful for since it was an amazing deal!
GT: either you love it your hate it! Strong floral notes of rose, lychee, and a bouquet of other lovely white florals. While it's not my cup of tea, if you love Geuwrztraminer (or anything from Alsace, for that matter), Famille Hugel is an excellent producer to start with. Not only are these wines exceptional quality but they're also widely distributed in the U.S., with price points from $20-50. I bought this one off wine.com.
4) Grand Cru Osterberg, Riesling, Domaine Kientzler Ribeauville, $45
Of the whole series, there was one wine in particular that stood apart, and that was this little known cru and producer: Osterberg, from Kientzler. I picked this up at my local wine shop, Madame Claude - Jersey City (which I highly recommend by the way!), and it was a bit of a risk, since I didn't recognize the producer or the cru. While some Rieslings are straight petrol, this one was all delicate fruit - apple, apricot, and white peach - mingled with soft minerality and a touch of lemon on the finish. This wine is a knockout and was *way* too drinkable to last in my apartment.
If you like Gewurz but want to explore it in a blend, Vin Gentil was made for you. This one from Meyer-Fonné was subtle, light, and refreshing, which makes it perfect to pair with all kinds of dishes, including brunch. This particular blend also includes Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, and Riesling. I snagged it off Saratoga Wine for about $14.
6) Grand Cru Kanzlerberg, Riesling, Gustave Lorentz, $50
When people say Riesling can smell like petrol, I don't often believe them. Or at least, I didn't, until I tasted this particular gem. On the nose, classic petroleum notes are balanced with stunning minerality (wet stone for me!). High acid, balanced with a bit of residual sugar. Pear and green apple come through on the palate for a delicious wine that's yet again incredible value for a grand cru!
This was a gift from WTSO.
7) Pinot Blanc, Gustave Lorentz, $21
What's not to love about a standard Pinot Blanc, I ask? If you're going to a party or are introducing the region of Alsace to wine novices, this Lorentz surely can't be beat. The pear, the green apple, the balance - it's as approachable as it is delicious and affordable. I discovered this wine on accident while visiting a friend pre-pandemic and what a happy accident it was!
If there's one thing to take away from this series, it should be that the Alsatians are true masters of Riesling. I tasted three Riesling Grand Cru and each one was worlds away from the other. While similar to the Grand Cru Osterberg I tried, this one was more subtle. White florals dominate both nose and palate for me. Unlike the others, however, there was a bit of residual sugar as well, but it was easily balanced with the acidity. A beautiful wine from another amazing producer! Purchased from Mr. D Wine.
Your purchase decisions make a difference. Why do I say that at the end of this article? Because Domaine Weinbach is not only woman-owned (woohoo!) but it is also certified organic and biodynamic. With this wine, and others like it from their portfolio, you're supporting sustainable and regenerative agriculture. It's certainly not the only domaine in Alsace with such great practices, too - the region overall is known by and large for moving the needle in France to sustainable viticulture. This one also came from Mr. D Wine.
For those readers looking to discover Alsace, but not quite sure where to begin, I'd recommend two tools I found very helpful in my research and my quest to taste the most diverse wines I could find from the region: 1) Wine-Searcher, and 2) Alsace Wines Trade Association. But if it's a Riesling labeled "Produit de France" chances are it comes from this region. I hope you find some near you to enjoy! Santé!
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