What I’m Drinking Now: Alsace

helfrich rieslingLooking for a wine that is bright and refreshing to enjoy on our hot summer days?  Now is the time to try white wine from Alsace, France.   Alsace may not be on your radar, but don’t be afraid of the tall, thin bottle; wine from Alsace tends to be complex, filled with character and completely refreshing, and quite representative of the land.  Selections include modern takes on varietals like Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, to the more traditional Alsatian Riesling and Gewurztraminer.   And, in a time when every day wine needs to be cost effective and satisfying, great options can be priced around $12-$16 a bottle. 


A few to look for:
Domaines SchlumbergerPinot Blanc is a clean, crisp white made from combining Pinot Blanc with Pinot Auxerrois, similar to a Burgundian style Chardonnay.  The wine is bone dry, with solid structure and acidity.  Filled with melon, minerals and honey it is produced from vines dating back to Ancient Roman times.  The winery has been in the hands of the Schlumberger family since just after the French Revolution.  Located on the edge of the Vosges Mountains the vines have dealt with ravaging from the phylloxera virus, to almost complete destruction during war times, however dedication to making quality, luscious wines has motivated generation after generation to rebuild, making Schlumberger one of the largest producers in Alsace today.  This well structured wine pairs well with a variety of dishes from shellfish to poultry.  We served this at a recent Uncorked event with a beautiful summer salad to excellent reviews from the group.

Helfrich Winery, another one of Alsace’s oldest wineries is trying to lead the way in an Alsatian Renaissance. Their Noble Varieties varietals are filled with personality, refinement and depth.  They have created food friendly, fresh takes on varietals including a Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.  Made from fruit sourced from the Couronne d’Or (Golden Crown) region that runs through the middle of Alsace, these approachable wines create intense flavors, bright with flowers and sweet fruit. 

Helfrich Riesling is a wonderful pairing to Sushi and Asian food, with delicate aromas of apples and peaches, and a clean finish bursting with Alsatian minerality with well balanced acidity.  Their Pinot Gris is softer than some Italian selections, most likely from the differences in temperature and growing conditions of these vines.  The wine displays a smoky, grassy, crisp flavor with a pleasing finish.  Gewurztraminer is the classic Alsatian varietal, and Helfrich has created a fine selection complete with peach, pear, roses and spice.  All of these Noble Varieties are finished with a screw cap.  I am a fan of the screw cap on wine that you expect to drink young.  Screw caps help preserve concentrated aromas and eliminate the fear of having a corked wine. 

Trimbach is one of the most well know producers in Alsace.  They have been growing grapes in the region for over 400 years. Their Riesling is a favorite, made in a dry style with appropriate acidity and firmness.  It is an easy drinking selection from the Trimbach family, filled with waxy lemon and lime flavors and without the residual sugar and sweetness that some Rieslings display, perfect for an afternoon tasting.

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