Alsace: France’s white wine jewel

Alsace: France’s white wine jewel

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By Bob Lipinski

A storybook region dotted with picturesque villages in France, Alsace occupies a narrow strip of land between Strasbourg and Mulhouse. It is no more than four miles wide and about 40 miles long, with a total area of approximately 40,000 acres. It is nestled between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River, just east of Champagne and Burgundy. Alsace is divided into two sections — the Bas-Rhin in the north and Haut-Rhin in the south.

Alsace produces one-fifth of all of France’s white wines entitled to the AOC designation. Because it is located so far north, there is generally insufficient sunshine for the red grapes to ripen fully. Therefore, better than 90 percent of all wines are white.

Some of the better-known wines of Alsace are Riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc, sylvaner, pinot noir, pinot gris, muscat à petit grains, chasselas, and Klevener de Heiligenstein. The wines range from very dry, through semisweet and even sweet. There is also a fabulous dry sparkling wine called crémant d’Alsace.

I recently attended an Alsatian wine press event featuring the wines of Hugel et Fils and Domaine François Baur, which are perfect for hot summertime weather. Below are the wines that I tasted and highly recommend:

2013 Hugel Gentil, a blend of primarily gewürztraminer paired with varying amounts of pinot gris, Riesling, muscat and sylvaner.
2013 Hugel Riesling.
2008 Hugel Riesling Jubilee.
2012 Hugel Gewürztraminer.
2013 Hugel Pinot Blanc Cuvée Les Amours.
NV Domaine François Baur Crémant d’Alsace, made from a blend of Riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris, and chardonnay grapes, while pinot noir is used for the rosé version.
2013 Domaine François Baur Pinot Blanc Herrenweg.
2012 Domaine François Baur Riesling Herrenweg.
2007 Domaine François Baur Gewürztraminer Grand Cru– Brand.
2013 Domaine François Baur Pinot Gris Herrenweg.
2010 Domaine François Baur Gewürztraminer Herrenweg.
2013 Domaine François Baur Pinot Noir Schlittweg.

When searching for cheeses to pair with these wines stay with the soft, mild style, and definitely not too salty. Two cheeses that I like from Alsace that are worth searching for are:

Lingot d’Or (lan-GOH dohr) A brick-shaped, cow’s milk cheese, which is quite similar to Munster.

Munster (MUHN-stuhr). A semisoft to firm, cow’s milk cheese with a somewhat edible, ivory or orange to red exterior; creamy white to buttery yellow interior with small holes; cylindrical, rectangular, and wheel-shaped.

It has a pungent smell sometimes of mushrooms; complex, strong and tangy flavor; slightly salty, nutty taste; sometimes flavored with aniseed, caraway, or cumin seeds. The word Munster means monastery and it was the Benedictine monks, who came from Ireland, in the Munster valley of the Vosges Mountains who introduced cheese-making to this area as early as the seventh century.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written nine books, including “Italian Wine Notes” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple,” available on Amazon.com. He conducts training seminars on wine & cheese, sales, time management and leadership. He can be reached at boblipinski.com or at [email protected]