Alsace is probably the least known premium white wine region in the world. Boring labels and gothic script don’t help, and when most people see the tall, thin Alsace bottle they think Germany. And sweet wine.
The quaint villages and steep vineyards of Alsace look Germanic, but the wine is very French — bone dry and a little pricey. But it can be awfully good and refreshingly different from everywhere else in the world.
A very dry and hot climate enables Alsace to produce white wines that are richer than what we get from other French regions. They have a natural fruitiness without any influence of oak.
If you’re up for exploring good wine in a tall bottle (even taller than German wine) I highly recommend a new arrival to the shelves made from the Pinot Blanc grape.
Pinot Blanc is a lot like un-oaked Chardonnay, except there’s less of it about. Alsace is the principal producer of this grape and it can be a really delightful discovery for those who have never tasted it. Pinot Blanc hits the middle ground between light and rich, modest and glamorous, and has a natural beauty — so delish that you might find yourself saying “Where have you been all my life?”
Alsace Pinot Blanc is a good all evening white — from apéritif to the last chicken wing. Now we just need a label design that does justice to the wine’s personality and charm. And what’s with all these F-in F’s?!
P.S. This Saturday’s Vintages recommendations are now posted on www.billysbestbottles.com. Don’t miss buying a case of this yummy Rhône — Dom. de l’Ameillaud ’04, VDP de Vaucluse, France ($9.95)..