Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pulling cork: the Alsatian standard

      When unsure what wine to order in a restaurant, or for dinner at home for that matter, and there's one from Alsace available, buy it. Standards are exceptionally high and the quality generally better overall than for other wine regions, domestic and otherwise.
      Whites are the staple in Alsace, the grapes Germanic in expression if not in fact - i.e. riesling lives intimately with pinot blanc, both having great clarity, relatively low alcohol and high acid, which results in a crisp finish and never a headache (unless you drink the whole bottle, and even then it's not guaranteed).
      Unfortunately there are few Alsatian estates producing a variety of top wines at really good prices, until recently. The newest, and welcome addition to the market, is Helfrich, a family winery in northern Alsace that offers whites from a brightly sparkling cremant to powerful grand crus riesling and pinot gris costing more than $20 a bottle. But it is the second tier of wines that will have the most appeal - riesling (great body), pinot gris (lean, hint of pine forest), pinot blanc (great nose, hint of kiwi, my favorite) and gewurtztraminer (fragrant but not overpowering) - at about $16. The label's appealingly industrial-chic and the commendable screw-top prevails.
     Helfrich wines go very well with spring and summer fare and should generally appeal to younger wine drinkers branching out from same-old chardonnay and pinot grigio. Alsatian wines are a good match for most things, from goat cheese to rabbit in mustard (see below). Some of the exquisite taste can be attributed to pink sandstone underlying the vineyard in the Couronne d'Or, a piece of which sits next to my glass, not in Molsheim but in Washington, DC.                                            


1 comment: