Alsace is unique among French wine regions for at least two reasons. The region has a widespread German influence. This extends to the graceful Riesling bottles that are similar to those in Germany’s Mosel region. The primary grapes are also those favored in Germany including Gerwurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
The second difference is the use of varietal labeling – listing the primary grape as is done in the United States. In other French wine regions, the emphasis is on the appellation, such a Bordeaux or Cotes-du-Rhone. That can be confusing to wine consumers not familiar with the characteristics of French regions.
Alsace is a wonderful French location with which all white wine lovers should become more familiar! Although many great whites are produced, their greatest fame comes from their Rieslings, which are produced in a dry style that contrasts with sweeter German wines.
We recently sampled two standout Rieslings from Alsace: Ruhlmann 2013 Riesling Cuvée Jean-Charles and Meyer-Fonne 2012 Riesling Reserve. Both are outstanding and have remarkably low prices for the quality.
The Ruhlmann Cuvée is yellow-green in the glass with a medium body. The balance is extraordinary. The acidity keeps the wine taut, but it never bites. On the palate there are wafts of lime with a bit of tartness. This is a fresh wine with a smooth texture. It is restrained in terms of fruitiness, but an unquestioned beauty of a wine.
The Ruhlmann family has been making wine in Alsace since 1688. They certainly have learned a thing or two. The Cuvée sells for $19.
We enjoyed the Meyer-Fonne with Teriyaki Shrimp on our patio during what I now might think is one of the last warm days of early fall. This wine is imported by Kermit Lynch, which is usually an indication of a good bottle.
The producer of Meyer-Fonne was founded in 1732. Although the “reserve” tag doesn’t have any legal meaning, the first sip tells you that this is a special wine. It has smooth notes of minerality with a moist pop of citrus flavor. It feels plush on the tongue and is a rewarding wine.
The Reserve has a price tag of $22. It has 12.5% alcohol, which makes it a perfect food-pairing wine. Both Rieslings are good picks with seafood and shellfish.
Alsatian Riesling is a gift to the world. It offers elegance and balance in a wine that will enhance your meals or gatherings. The pricing is such that you can enjoy a tremendous wine from Alsace at the same price as a humdrum domestic Riesling.
Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.