Among the French wine regions, Alsace is unusual. It is one of the few places where the name of the grape takes precedence over the plot of land on which the vines grow.
In that regard, Alsace may have more in common with Germany than with France, which only makes sense. Due to its location in eastern France, practically bulging into Germany, Alsace has been a contested area for centuries, most recently reclaimed by France from Germany after World War I.
Its borders, the Rhine in the east and the Vosges in the west, isolate Alsace, allowing it to absorb and make its own the attitudes and traditions of both sides.
In the 1980s, when I was learning about wine, the tall, slender bottles from Alsace were popular in the United States, praised for their high quality as well as good value. Today, however, Alsace wines are relatively hard to come by.
This month we explore the white wines of Alsace. As usual, I recommend three bottles to get and drink over the next month. As you drink them, I welcome your thoughts, which you can add to the comments section of this article. After about four weeks we will look at the wines again.
These are the three bottles:
Trimbach 2019 Alsace Riesling, 13 percent (Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, Fla.) $20
Dirler-Cade Alsace Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2020, 14 percent (T. Edward Wines, New York) $25
Albert Boxler Alsace Pinot Blanc Réserve 2018, 14.5 percent (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, California) $47
Since the wines are not so easy to find, the three bottles I suggest are each made with a different grape. I thought that instead of suggesting, say, three sylvaners (as silvaner often appears on Alsatian labels), I’d try to make things easier.
If you can’t find these three wines, any white wine from Alsace will do, either from these estates or from these other excellent producers: Zusslin, Ostertag, Zind Humbrecht, Laurent Barth, Weinbach, Marcel Deiss, Albert Mann, Henry Fuchs, Hugel, Christophe Mittnacht, Beck-Hartweg and Maurice Schoech.
Ideally, your catch would be three bottles of the same set of grapes. But even that is not necessary. Other options include gewürztraminer (worth its own Wine School unit one day), pinot gris, muscat, auxerrois, and a blend of different grapes often referred to as edelzwicker.
The idea is more to familiarize yourself with the region than a species or style. I would like to mention one important variable: the three wines I suggested should all be dry, but in Alsace this is not always obvious.
Some Deiss cuvées, for example, tend towards sweetness, although they are superbly balanced. Zind Humbrecht also makes some cuvées that will be a bit sweet. It conveniently provides a code on the labels that characterizes the wines on a scale from 1 (dry) to 5 (rich and sweet).
If in doubt about the wines, please contact your dealer for advice.
With such a range of wines, I hesitate to suggest certain foods. Instead, tell me what you chose and if you liked the combination. I close with my usual white wine recommendation: please drink this cool, but not ice cold.