Alsace in Winter

January 20, 2017


I Love Alsace in the Winter, as French wines are sure to brighten the longest winter day. Often we lean to big, dense, heavy reds to fill our bellies and keep us warm in the winter months.

When it comes to winter wines Alsace, France is the apotheosis – the epitome – of the perfect winter escape in a glass of wine. The wafting aromatics of Alsace’s lavishly textured white wines can feel like welcome rays of sunshine, no matter the weather outside.

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Picture a Bavarian Village in a snow globe and you are looking at Alsace. Located tightly against the German border along the Rhine River, Alsace has only been an undisputed part of France since 1945. It is an incredible amalgam of French and German architecture, cuisine, culture, tradition, language, and of course... wine. Renaissance villages dot the riverside with cobblestoned walkways always in the shaded area, as the vineyards are planted to the exposed hillsides of the Vosges Mountains.

Alsace produces 90-95% white wines. The noble grapes of Alsace are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris. It is interesting to note that Alsace is an exception to the rule when it comes to French wine, in that the grape variety will appear front and centre on the label.

Although her wines are influenced by their German heritage, they are more often than not closer to a dry style rather than sweet. Many producers from Alsace include a sweetness chart on the back label... so make sure to turn the bottle around and take a peek.

Alsatian wines are incredibly food friendly. They have an innate ability to bring a dish alive and create a vibrant experience. Of course, they tend to pair well with salty and savoury dishes such as those found in classic Bavarian cuisine: sauerkraut, sausages with mustard and roasted potatoes.

A well-adorned cheese board and some Alsatian Riesling can be a moment in heaven. Believe it or not, the modern-day classic involves pairing Alsace Gewurztraminer with curried dishes. The beautiful floral notes of the spicy Gewurztraminers and tiny hint of sweetness become a perfect match for the floral, herbaceous and spicy Indian, Middle Eastern and North African style foods.

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Let’s look at the main grapes of Alsace and some of their offshoots:

MUSCAT Always a fully dry, light bodied experience with melons, floral and grape notes.

RIESLING Alsace’s most noble wine can come in bone-dry versions through to late harvest style. Use alcohol content to decipher.

GEWURZTRAMINER Typically near-dry in style, fuller bodied and somewhat slippery or oily in texture. Very floral and distinctive with higher alcohol content.

PINOT GRIS Fuller bodied for this grape variety, often carrying a little extra sweetness. Perfect with fish and poultry – especially a turkey dinner. A great cocktail wine.

EDELZWICKER OR GENTIL Edelzwicker indicates the wine is a blend using the four noble grapes. These are great cocktail party wines, perfect for gatherings and great all around food wines. Typically dry to off-dry. Again, look at alcohol content.

CREMENT D’ALSACE Sparkling wines made in the Traditional Method using Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner. Think Champagne, but more affordable, with a fresher fruit forward style.

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