A IS FOR ALSACE
Itâ€™s easy to ignore Alsace wines because thereâ€™s so little of them around. And maybe youâ€™ve never heard of the place. Time for a two minute lesson:
â€¢ Alsace is Franceâ€™s Cinderella wine region â€“ vineyards on big hills that surround cute, picturesque villages.
â€¢ Everything is so old and well cared for you might think it was a theme park.
â€¢ The region is located in the northeast, but it has warm, dry climate which produces some very rich wines. Almost all are white.
â€¢ Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer are the principle grape varieties.
â€¢ Styles range from austerely dry to rich and slightly sweet.
â€¢ Local food partners are pork, veal, sausages and savoury tarts.
â€¢ 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 youâ€™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 â€“ itâ€™s just created in a richer style.)
Recently one evening we cooked up a charcouterie dish of pork, cabbage and potatoes and explored the LCBOâ€™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 â€“ there were wines in all my three wine categories â€“ fresh, everyday nice and rich. I didnâ€™t include the Gewurztramier because itâ€™s so forceful and tends to dominate. Will report on that later.
FOUR ALSACE WINES TO BUY
Fresh whites â€“ 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 â€“ even a hint of richness. Love how this wine sits on the edge â€“ could be likened to a jazz musicianâ€¦ never revealing whatâ€™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 whiteâ€“ 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 worldâ€™s great â€˜niceâ€™ wines. Itâ€™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 whiteâ€“ 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 Alsaceâ€™s answer to Chardonnay. But itâ€™s richness is unadorned by the vanilla sweet of oak casts â€“ this is a natural beauty. Doesnâ€™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.