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Sure, Alsace Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer can be expensive and on the sweet side, but there’s much else to recommend.
According to the UK wine trade, Alsace wines don’t sell. Some put this down to the Germanic bottles, others to their cost or the sheer number of wines each winery produces, but personally I think it’s due to the unpredictable sweetness, particularly in the region’s most distinctive varieties, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
There has been a drive of late to persuade producers to label more clearly, but in the meantime, if you enjoy the drier styles of Alsace wine – and I do – it pays to experiment with the other varieties the region has to offer.
The easiest starting point is sylvaner, a grape the Alsatians seem to have mysteriously grubbed up in large quantities but that may yet be their calling card, in much the same way that Grüner Veltliner is for Austrian wine. There are a few off-dry examples, but most inexpensive ones, such as the attractive Léon Beyer Sylvaner 2009 (£7.95, The Wine Society; 12% abv), are really refreshing. It’s a good summer drink with seafood, salads and even with meze, as I discovered the other day.
Dry riesling, however, is Alsace’s great glory. Unfortunately, grand cru wines are pricey over here, but I found a brilliant bargain in the Luss Riesling 2008 (£13.40, Vine Trail, vinetrail.co.uk; 12.5% abv), a pure, delicately fruity Riesling from biodynamic producer Léon Boesch that I think bears comparison with a grand cru. It’s lovely with white fish in a creamy sauce, as they have it in Alsace. Tesco, meanwhile, has a perfectly decent Finest Alsace Riesling from the very good 2008 vintage (£7.79 in larger branches, or £44.40 for a case of six online; 12% abv).
The other Alsace wine that I like a lot is Pinot Blanc, a food-friendly white that’s as good with Italian food such as seafood, vegetable pastas and risottos as it is with Alsace specialities like tarte flambée and onion tart. The best I’ve tasted recently came from Bruno Sorg, a small producer in Eguisheim who makes exemplary wines at very fair prices. Or at least he does in Alsace – the cellar door price of his Pinot Blanc 2009 (12.3% abv) is a modest €5.60 (£4.94) a bottle, but the cheapest I can find it over here is £11.49 from Palmers Wine Store, which is a bit of an Alsace specialist, and that is £2 cheaper than the £13.50 charged by Bottle Apostle and Fortnum & Mason. If you’re an Alsace wine fan, there’s a lot to be said for taking a trip to the region to stock up in person.
the wine from this unheralded region of eastern France
Story By Fiona Beckett
Courtesy of The Guardian