Unfortunately in 2017, nationality is a hot topic. But what if your nationality had changed multiple times in your lifetime? What if you lived with your parents in the same village your entire life without sharing their nationality, only the nationality of your grandparents? There are a handful of locations on our planet that have been victims of political tug-of-war resulting from wars and alliances, with the residences of these regions collateral damage. One such place just happens to be one of the world’s greatest wine producing regions: Alsace.
Alsace is located on the eastern border of France and Germany. “Since WWII it has been part of France, but that has not always been the case. “The disputed provinces, on France’s eastern border with Germany, became French territory in the late seventeenth century. Between 1870 and 1945, however, they changed hands four times, passing from France to Germany, to France, to Germany and back to France.” Following WWI and revitalized after WWII, Alsace viticulturalist started a “quality first” policy moving back to producing indigenous, high quality grapes. These efforts were officially recognized in 1962 by the AOC Alsace, followed by AOC Alsace Grand Cru in 1975, and AOC Crémant d’Alsace in 1976. Today Alsace is recognized globally as one of the finest white wine producing regions in the world.
Alsace is a unique wine region. It sits on almost the same latitude as Champagne but has an entirely different climate. Because of the Vosges Mountains to the west, Alsace is sheltered from oceanic influences, resulting in being one of the lowest rainfall regions in all of France. Its semi-continental climate offers a long growing season with sunny, hot, dry days; furthermore, its location is at an altitude of 200 to 400 meters, allowing the vineyards to take full advantage of the sun. These factors combine to create wines that are both elegant and very aromatic.
Another unique feature of Alsace is the 15,000 hectares of vineyards grow in 13 distinct soil types. The soil mosaic includes granite, limestone, gneiss, schist, sandstone, volcanic, and clay to name a few. These soils vary from vineyard to vineyard and even vary within a vineyard, creating wines with distinct flavors and aromas. There are seven main grape varieties growing in these soils: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Sylvaner and Riesling.
Stuart Pigott claims in his book Best White Wine on Earth that Riesling is the best white wine on earth. Winefolly states, “Riesling wine has emerged as the most collectible wine among top connoisseurs and sommeliers alike.” Furthermore, Jeff Lefevere of Good Grape, A Wine Manifesto claimed, “If there’s any problem with Riesling, it’s that it will spoil you for anything else.” I agree with all three of these sentiments. Riesling can change the way one views all wines. It is a gateway to wine Nirvana.
Just imagine one of the world’s great grapes cultivated and produced into wine in one of the world’s premiere wine regions. Well, you don’t have to imagine, all you have to do is go online or to your favorite local retailer and buy these wines. Your wine life will never be the same.
2014 Domaine Bott-Geyl Riesling Les Éléments Alsace France ($14): Pale lemon, medium aromas of white stone fruit, citrus, lemon zest, honey, fading white flowers, minerality; dry, medium+ acidity, crisp with great structure, tastes way above price, elegant, long dry finish.
2012 Trimbach Riesling Alsace France ($20): Pale lemon; medium+ aromas of fresh cut white flowers, fresh citrus, stone fruit, marzipan, crushed stone, and minerality; dry, pronounced piercing acidity coats the palate, crisp and refreshing with a long, dazzling finish.
2012 Emile Beyer Riesling Cuvee de l’Hostellerie Alsace France ($28): Pale lemon; pronounced aromas of ripe peaches, lemon curd, white floral notes, minerality; dry, pronounced acidity, refreshing, elegant, crisp, mouth-coating, long mineral driven finish.
All three of these wines taste beyond their price point. They are great introductions to Alsatian Riesling and great sippers for those long sold on Alsace. Riesling is one of the easiest wines to pair with food. Great pairings are only limited by your imagination; consider seafood, shellfish, poultry, Asian cuisine, sushi, pasta, salad, egg dishes, etc.
My Song Selection: A good bottle of Alsatian Riesling is like a good R&B song, groovy, smooth, and gets better with age.
Get your own bottle of Alsatian Riesling and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!