The Wines of Alsace
These notes are mainly from the "Guide to the Fine Wines of Alsace" by Hugel & Fils, "The World Atlas of Wine" by Hugh Johnson (3rd Edition), and Parker's "The Wine Buyer's Guide", together with some personal prejudice.
"Alsace makes Germanic wine in the French way. The tone is set by the climate, the soil and the choice of grape varieties: all comparable with the vineyards of slightly farther north, down the Rhine valley, which are in Germany. What differs is the interpretation put on these things - because today German and Alsatian winegrowers hold opposite points of view of what they want their wines to be. In a nutshell, the Germans look for sweetness, the Alsatians for strength. German wine at its best is not for the table but for the drawing-room or the garden. Alsace wine is the great adjunct to one of France's most splendid cuisines. Alsace gives the flowery-scented grapes of Germany the body and authority of such table wines as white Burgundy - proper accompaniments to strong and savoury food."
"True connoisseurs of wine must find it appalling that so many importers trip over each other trying to find yet another excessively priced, overcropped, generally insipid Italian Chardonnay or French red Burgundy, while ignoring the treasures of this fairy-tale viticultural area in the most beautiful wine-producing region of France."
Alsatian wines are in the main, unlike most French wines, named after the grape variety. They come in tall green bottles, the "flute d'Alsace".
Cuvee means blend.
Grand Vin is wine over 11% alcohol
Reserve Exceptionelle, Grand Reserve (ditto)
Grand Cru The new appellation for wines of the best varieties from the best, designated, vineyards
Mise d'Origine All Alsace wine is now bottled in Alsace
Vendange Tardive Late-picked wine, implying more strength and/or sweetness
Selection des Grains Nobles Wine of hand sorted over ripe grapes equivalent to a German Beerenauslese. Botrytised (noble rot).
Cremant d'Alsace is a sparkling wine made from the Pinots, Riesling and Chardonnay. The Rose version is made from Pinot Noir only.
Recommended with tarte flambee, onion tart, cutlets in white wine, choucroute and baeckaoffa.
An all-purpose white, it goes well with white meat, fish, frog's legs.
Perfect as an aperitif, inspired with asparagus. Parker recommends it with Oriental cuisine.
Serve with terrines, meat pies, pâté en croûte, fish in sauce. The Vendange Tardive wines go well with foie-gras, raw or smoked fish and dishes "au gratin".
Serve with grilled or poached fish, with white meat, and with lobster, crayfish and crab.
Best drunk by itself as an aperitif or with pungent pork and fish dishes, lobster thermidor or a l'Americaine, or with foie gras or a rich cheese such as Muenster. Try it with lightly seasoned oriental dishes as well. Usually alcoholic (13.5-14%). Ages 5-15 years or8-25 for Vendange Tardive.