A is for Alsace

It’s easy to ignore Alsace wines because there’s so little of them around. And maybe you’ve never heard of the place. Time for a two minute lesson:
• Alsace is France’s Cinderella wine region ““ vineyards on big hills that surround cute, picturesque villages.
• Everything is so old and well cared for you might think it was a theme park.
• The region is located in the northeast, but it has warm, dry climate which produces some very rich wines. Almost all are white.
• Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer are the principle grape varieties.
• Styles range from austerely dry to rich and slightly sweet.
• Local food partners are pork, veal, sausages and savoury tarts.
• Prices tend to be mid-range to expensive.

Q. How can I spot an Alsace wine?
A. Look for very tall, Riesling-style bottles.

Q. When should I open an Alsacian wine?
A. When you’re serving poultry, pork, ham or seafood. Consider starting with a crisp Riesling and moving on to a rich Pinot Gris. (Pinot Gris is the same grape as Pinot Grigio ““ it’s just created in a richer style.)

Recently one evening we cooked up a charcouterie dish of pork, cabbage and potatoes and explored the LCBO’s Alsace offerings. Everyone raved. Fortunately I made notes and here my top four picks from that night. The big lesson for everyone was the range of styles ““ there were wines in all my three wine categories ““ fresh, everyday nice and rich. I didn’t include the Gewurztramier because it’s so forceful and tends to dominate. Will report on that later.

Fresh whites ““ refreshers, aperitifs or seafood partners. Can be extremely dry when first tasting.
PIERRE SPARR 06 Riesling ‘Extreme’, Alsace 618546 $14.10
Razor-edged tartness. Wonderful mineral freshness to get your taste buds going. Summer aperitif or oyster wine. Handy screw cap.

LEON BEYER 06 Riesling Reserve, Alsace 81471 $15.25
Another seriously dry refresher, but with some body and texture ““ even a hint of richness. Love how this wine sits on the edge ““ could be likened to a jazz musician”¦ never revealing what’s coming next. Get a bottle and get taken to the edge. Best as aperitif and for the first half of the night.

Everyday Nice white”“ comfortable, easy drinking wines that can be enjoyed anytime. Friendly and social.
PFFAFFENHEIM 06 Pinot Blanc, Alsace 22855 $13.55
Pinot Blanc is one of the world’s great “˜nice’ wines. It’s your childhood sweetheart, you fav movie or comfy sweater. The Pinot experience is part fruity flavours, part refreshment and a big part pleasure. Try this and see what I mean. Family chicken/pork supper or weekend brunch. Would be perfect for Thanksgiving.

Rich white”“ wines with a big comfy, feeling. Feels luxurious and slightly sweet. Best at the dinner table.

LEON BEYER 06 Pinot Gris, Alsace 165241 $16.25
Pinot Gris is Alsace’s answer to Chardonnay. But it’s richness is unadorned by the vanilla sweet of oak casts ““ this is a natural beauty. Doesn’t tire your senses after a few glasses. Leon Beyer has been sending us excellent Pinot Gris for as long as I can remember. Chicken or pork.

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