In the world of wine, you cannot get more mainstream than La Belle France. France’s most important regions are the stuff of wine textbooks for beginners: Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Rhône Valley. To see this quartet in a book is to start memorizing maps and charts. Actually, however, to the French wine-drinker, this fundamental and revered group is a quintet, not a quartet; the region of Alsace in eastern France is always in the mix. It happens to be one of my favorite regions as well. But I’m not sure that most wine-drinking Americans get as worked up about Alsace as I do, or as they do about the other big-deal French vino-cyno-sures.
I suppose there’s an anti-white wine prejudice among us—not against drinking it, but against regarding a primarily white-wine region as one of the “greats.” Gee whiz—I personally don’t care what color greatness comes in! There are 51 “Grand Cru” vineyards in Alsace producing grapes for “Grand Cru” wines…and, often, the wines are just as lofty as they sound.
But I have my own personal reasons for Alsace-worship, and it doesn’t usually involve “Grand Crus.”
That pronounced character—a special type of sensual fruit, with lots of steel and extract behind it—carries over into the richer Alsatian wines that are not bone-dry fish-mates. The Alsatian grape varieties—many of them grown elsewhere in the world—are brought to a distinct intensity and concentration here, without the sacrifice of elegance.
Even understanding the label is better here. Alsatian labels, which may or may not have a lot of other info, are based on grape varieties, which makes tracking the wines much easier than, say, tracking Burgundy.
In the beautiful town of Ribeauvillé, there is an old winery—one of the oldest co-ops in France, and one of the best—called Domaine de la Cave de Ribeauvillé. They make a wide range of wines, from terrific entry-level varietals to exalted Grands Crus, intended for aging.
Check out our recipes section for a great and easy to make recipe to go with it!