‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
This week let’s take a look at a wine region that deserves to be much more famous than it is, and probably would be if it were larger. Its wines aren’t always easy to find, but there are some in the market. And because of the high average level of quality, you can almost close your eyes and pick one.
Welcome aboard to our many new subscribers in Northwest Arkansas. Being from the Ozarks myself, I spend as much time as possible there, and it was a pleasure to see so many old friends and new at the Walton Arts Center wine event.
Try a new wine this week!
Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Or Riesling
If you like Germany, you’ll probably like Alsace, too. Many Germans do, and each year many thousands of them cross the border into northeastern France to enjoy this hilly region nestled between the Vosges Mountains and the River Rhine. The countryside is dotted with charming medieval villages, familiarly timbered houses, good cooking and fine wines. Like the villages, Alsatian wines look German, but like the area’s inhabitants the wine is decidedly French.
It’s easy to understand how Alsatian wines can be mistaken for their nearby German counterparts. The tall, fluted bottles look very much like German bottles. The grape varieties used are some of the same ones used in Germany. To top it off, Alsace is one of the few French wine regions that prominently displays the grape variety on the label. In most regions, wines are named for the place, and the grape sometimes is not even mentioned.
The beautiful region is a great place to visit, being at most a half-day drive from Paris or Frankfurt. It’s one of France’s two capitals of foie gras, the liver that doesn’t taste like liver. White wines dominate in Alsace. The main grapes in this northern climate are the cool-weather-loving riesling and gewürztraminer. Riesling has apple-like flavors and crisp, tart acidity. Gewurztraminer is softer in acid, less tart, but with an innate spiciness that begins with the nose and lingers long after a sip.
Few wines are oaky here. Stainless steel tanks are common, and when oak barrels are used they are often older barrels that have been used enough years to leach out much of the wood flavor. These delicate wines could easily be overwhelmed by very much oak.
Alsatian wines are great wines to remember during warm summer months. They’re fuller than German wines, and quite dry. They can pair wonderfully with many dishes.
Also, there’s a high average quality level in Alsace. This is not an area of mass-produced wines, but rather small- to medium-sized wineries. For around $20, Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer or Riesling, either one, will show you the excellent quality a fine Alsatian white.