20th June 2018 by Sam Johnson
On return from his trip to Alsace Sam explains why you should start thinking about trying Alsatian Wines.
The roads in Alsace wind up into the rolling foothills of the Vosges Mountains and all you can see is expansive green fields stretching out into the distance as far as the eye can see. The architecture is notably Germanic and brings life to The Brothers Grimm fairy tales with their gingerbread houses. Numerous times throughout its history Alsace has flip-flopped between being French and German and, as such, has a distinct identity all of its own; “I’m Alsatian first, and most definitely French second,” Eric, Master Sommelier now working in London, told me.
It’s hard to travel to the region and not be blown away by its beauty and swept along with their culture of Haute Cuisine and breath-taking wine. But stop a man in the street, and he’s unlikely to be familiar with Alsatian wines; show him the tall, thin bottles they come in, and he’s bound to tell you ‘it’ll be too sweet for me, that!’
That’s the thing about Alsatian wines; those in the know adore its complexity, the breadth of styles available and are often evangelical about their qualities. However, those who have yet to discover the wines of the region are so easily put off and are missing out on so much! Though, it is hard to blame them for they know not what they do… or something like that.
Vins Alsace, the overarching trade body in charge of the wines of Alsace, have a lot of work to do to bring their wine to the people, and this was the purpose of my recent visit to the region along with 20 or so other wine professionals from the UK. Yes they released a new logo, yes there was a big wine tasting, but the main aim of the trip was to wine, dine, schmooze and amuse us until we too fell in love with the region, so that we could come back and tell the UK how awesome it is, in the hope that you may listen and go out and buy some of their wine.
Well – at least for the first part of their plan – it worked! I can’t claim to be a convert as I have always been a fan of Alsatian wines, their lesser-known grape types and their food-friendly nature, whether it be the fresh, zippy Rieslings or the luscious off-dry Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminers. But, having now experienced the region first-hand, I am certainly ready to tell anyone who will listen about the wonders of the land that lies between the Vosges and the Black Forest.
My main piece of advice to anyone who may be looking to give Alsatian wines a go is simply to have an open mind. Forget the German-sounding sugar juice that your father gave you on your 18th Birthday, and don’t be put off by grape types that you have never heard of before! Like I said, Alsace has such a breadth of styles available, that there really is a wine for you, no matter what usual preference, and that makes the region truly unique.
Next time you’re looking for a dry, crisp white why not go for an Alsatian dry Riesling that has plenty of fresh citrus fruits and not an ounce of sweetness? Or for your next curry night, why not take an aromatic Alsatian Gerwurtztraminer? With its delicate rose petal character, you won’t be disappointed. Or if you’re feeling particularly brave, go for something you might not normally, like a Sylvaner or Pinot Blanc and you might just find your new favourite hidden gem.
It can be difficult in writing to truly express how a wine tastes, or even to put forward such a compelling case for a single wine or region that the reader is desperate to try it. But let me assure you that there is an Alsatian wine out there for you, and let me allow the beauty of the region speak for itself, and if that doesn’t peak your interest and give you the urge to try something new, I don’t know what will!
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