Your Next Lesson: White Wine From Alsace

Among French wine regions, Alsace is unusual. It’s one of the few places in which the name of the grape takes precedence over the plot of earth in which the vines grow.

In that respect, Alsace may have more in common with Germany than France, which only makes sense. Because of its location in France’s east, practically bulging into Germany, Alsace has been a disputed territory for centuries, reclaimed by France from Germany most recently after World War I.

Its borders, the Rhine to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west, isolate Alsace, leaving it to absorb attitudes and traditions from both sides and making them very much its own.

Back in the 1980s, when I was learning about wine, the tall, slender bottles from Alsace were popular in the United States, touted both for their high quality and as good values. Today, though, the wines from Alsace are relatively hard to come by.

This month we’ll examine the white wines of Alsace. As usual, I suggest three bottles for you to obtain and drink over the course of the next month. As you drink them, I welcome your thoughts, which you can add to the comments section of this article. After four weeks or so, we’ll revisit the wines.

Here are the three bottles:

Trimbach Alsace Riesling 2019, 13 percent (Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, Fla.) $20

Dirler-Cadé Alsace Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2020, 14 percent (T. Edward Wines, New York) $25

Albert Boxler Alsace Pinot Blanc Réserve 2018, 14.5 percent (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif.) $47

Because the wines are not so easy to find, the three bottles I suggest are each made with a different grape. I thought rather than suggesting, say, three sylvaners (as silvaner is often rendered on Alsatian labels), I would try to make things easier.

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If you can’t find these three wines, any whites from Alsace will do, either from these estates or these other excellent producers: Zusslin, Ostertag, Zind Humbrecht, Laurent Barth, Weinbach, Marcel Deiss, Albert Mann, Henry Fuchs, Hugel, Christophe Mittnacht, Beck-Hartweg and Maurice Schoech.

Ideally, your haul would be three bottles with the same array of grapes. But even that’s not necessary. Other options include gewürztraminer (worth its own Wine School unit one day), pinot gris, muscat, auxerrois and a blend of several different grapes, often labeled edelzwicker.

The idea is more to become familiar with the region than any one variety or style. I do want to mention one important variable: The three wines I suggested should all be dry, but in Alsace, that cannot always be taken for granted.

Some cuvées from Deiss, for example, tend toward sweetness, though they are exquisitely balanced. Zind Humbrecht, too, makes some cuvées that will be a bit sweet. It helpfully offers a code on its labels that characterizes the wines on a scale from 1 (dry) to 5 (rich and sweet).

If you have any doubts about the wines, check in with your merchant for advice.

With such an array of wines, I hesitate to suggest any particular types of food to accompany them. Instead, why don’t you tell me what you chose and whether you enjoyed the pairing. I will close with my usual white wine recommendation: Drink these cool, please, but not icy cold.

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