Being one of the smallest regions in France for many years, Alsace is the home to some of the mightiest of wines. For many a year, I have sought out wines from this region, knowing the quality of the wines produced. As a lover of white wines, it is certainly a region one cannot overlook.
90% of all wine production is white wine, with seven main varietals: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, and one primary red grape, Pinot Noir. There are only 3 AOC’s; AOC Alsace (74%), AOC Cremant d’Alsace (22%), and Alsace Grand Cru AOC (4%). Alsace produces 31% of all white wine in France.
Why the wine lesson? I recently attended “Alsace Rocks” in Chicago. It was an event that I couldn’t miss. The opportunity to sample some of the finest wines as well as those wines meant for early consumption. It also availed itself by having in attendance some of the winemakers from some exceptional wineries. One of the best features (for me anyway) was the “Soil Station.” Wines from various areas of Alsace categorized by the soil on which the vines are planted, thus giving you a side-by-side comparison. Dare I not overlook the Crémant d’Alsace Lounge, a cornucopia of sparkling wines both white and roses.
I could not do justice to try and give you a review of only a few wines. This was an experience! A total culmination of wonderful wines across many price points as well as varietals. One other interesting factoid is that most Alsatian wines are 100% the designated or listed varietal. There is some blending allowed but wines are so designated on the label through specialized notations.
During the seminar we were treated to older wines, starting in 2001 and retreating to 1998, 1979 and finally 1976. Much like their counterparts throughout France, Alsatian wines have the makeup to age, gracefully and with distinction.
One last item of note, the bottle shape. So many people see the tall thin bottles and associate that with sweet wines alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. The shape is actually mandated in Alsace and most of the wines are considered relatively dry. Sort of a “don’t judge the book by its cover” kind of thing.
With Summer fast approaching (actually it is either yesterday or today), the wines of Alsace can be a beautiful accompaniment to lighter fare and outdoor enjoyment. I suggest starting with a nice Pinot Gris or maybe a Pinot Blanc, their flavors light and lively versus Riesling or Gewürztraminer where flavors become bolder. Either way, if you get a chance to sample ANY of the wines from Alsace, I suggest you do so. I think you’ll find some new friends.