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Monday, January 23, 2012

Three Beauties From Alsace

The Three Beauties

A Vineyard Overlooking the medieval village Riquewihr

            Germany is known for it’s white wines and rightly so.  Some are glorious and the varieties endless.  However, just across the border in France, in a region known as Alsace, you’ll find white wines that will inhabit your dreams forever.  Hundreds of vintners it’s true.  But, by luck of a wrong turn and a wicked thirst, I found a special one in the small, but noble town of Rodern.  Metz Bleger bottles a large array of whites and Pinot Noirs, which are also superbly delicious, but today we’re going to meet three beautiful, not to mention luscious, whites: Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.
            The wine cellar isn’t always open.  You have to ring a buzzer at the entrance, and listen for a stout woman to bellow at you from a second story window of the attached house.  “One moment, Monsieur,” she calls with the delicately balanced tones of a framer’s wife who’s just dispatched three chickens with her bare hands.
            We wait and soon a heavy set man, younger than the woman and whom I assume to be her son, opens the heavy oak door of the wine cellar and welcomes us.  At first he seems a little edgy, but as we drink and drink some more and order case after case, he becomes more jovial and starts drinking himself.  Soon all of us are absolutely elated with each other’s company.  We croak in German, French, and English, managing to be misunderstood in the variety of languages.  We laugh, slap each other on the back, promising never to part. After slugging down a half dozen bottles of his wine, and with the assurance that we are all good friends for life, he gives us a wink and brings out bottles of the really good stuff.  We stand and applaud.  Champagne flows, before we go back to white.  The trunk of the car is beginning to sag like a nag’s back as the cases stack up.  No matter.  Back to the business of tasting.
            Besides falling in love with a couple of Pinot Noirs, I select a 2009 Riesling, with a particularly bright and cheerful nose and a medium dry body.  Rieslings can be all over the scale, from dry as a Texas draught to sweet as….. fill in your own suitable metaphor. 
            Another Alsatian delight is the Pinot Gris, this one also the Class of 2009. What, you may well ask, is the difference between Pinot Gris from France and the more familiar Pinot Grigio, a popular Italian wine.  Apparently, both wines are from the same variety of grape, but to my simple palate Pinot Gris is creamier and fruitier, probably because of the difference in soil and climate, or it may be because by this time I have a full bottle of it under my belt and am praying that this glorious day never end.  
At home, I drink both the Riesling and the Pinot Gris anytime, either for just sitting and sipping, or with light meals, or because I’m desperately lonely.
            The Gewurztraminer, (Gur-verts-tramer) (low and behold another graduate of 2009) on the other hand, calls for food.  A bit drier and with the bite of fresh herbs, it stands up well to fish, pork, or chicken dishes, if by this time anyone is still standing.
            The next time you head to your favorite wine shop, look for these three great varieties of white wines.  Mine cost about $9 a bottle.  Tell the wine steward the woman who chokes chickens sent you.


  1. I had some Pinot Gris this past weekend with my dinner and it was much tarter than a Pinot Grigio. I can see how it would compliment rich foods, but I prefer Grigio - smooth and rich. The differences are surprisingly distinct: like a red apple and a green apple. Enjoyed the blog!!

    1. Sounds like you got a bad one. Lots of choices out there!