What to drink…
Most Alsace wine is white, and it’s usually made from a single grape variety. These tend to be strongly aromatic, and often have residual sugar. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know the exact sweetness of Alsace wines from their labels – but there are a few clues. Anything labelled Vendanges Tardives or Sélection de Grains Nobles will definitely have some level of sugar, with the latter category denoting very sweet dessert wine. The most helpful producers feature the word sec to indicate dry wines, but most don’t bother, sadly.
Thankfully, choosing grape variety is much easier, as this will almost always be stated clearly. The main varieties are Pinot Blanc, Riesling,
Cave de Turckheim, Booths Vieilles Vignes Riesling 2009 (£52.69 for 6, Amazon – price may vary) Riesling is one of the few white varieties that ages well, and it’s an Alsatian speciality. This old vines example still has plenty of ripe lime fruit and a good drizzle of honey, but it finishes bone dry and the high acidity leaves lip-smacking freshness. Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer, each of which has their own distinct personality. Pinot Blanc is usually quite light and citric, Riesling tastes more like lime juice, Muscat has a musky grape juice character while Gewurztraminer is a flamboyant, extrovert grape variety that reeks of Turkish Delight and tropical fruit syrup.
Because Alsace white is aromatic and often quite sweet, the wines are often paired with spicy food, especially Asian cuisine – but they also make a fine accompaniment to the local Munster cheese. Here are three recommendations showing Alsace wine at its best.
Hugel, Tradition Pinot Gris 2013 Alsace (from £12.50, widely available) Hugel is one of the most reliable producers in Alsace, and the family have been making wine there since 1639. This Pinot Gris has lovely pear-skin fruit flavour with a sweet spice sprinkling on the finish.
Cave de Turckheim, Brand Gewurztraminer 2011 Alsace Grand Cru (from £17.75, Chester Beer & Wine, Virgin Wines and other independents) Gewurztraminer is the calling card of Alsace. This medium-sweet, flavoursome example from the co-op cellar in Turckheim is from a Grand Cru vineyard called Brand and has opulent rose aromas and super-ripe lychee fruit.