Sunday, March 8, 2015

The New Alsace

Lately, I've excitedly introduced a slew of Alsace wines. At the risk of sounding shrill, please allow me to pontificate more. If you already drink a fair share of Alsace wines, my apologies. But if you haven't had any Alsace wine in recent memory, or none at all (God forbid), then I urge you to wake up and consume some of the most satisfying and affordable wines in the world.

Almost as long as I've been drinking wines, I've been drinking Alsace wines. The bright yellow label on tall green bottles of Hugel and Trimbach first caught my eye. I also fell hard for Leon Beyer, then Marcel Deiss, Zind-Humbrecht and Ostertag.

But more recent discoveries like Marc Tempe, Sylvie Spielmann, and Laurent Bannwarth have made me love and drink Alsace wines even more. These wines are made with little intervention, and their flavors have a depth and purity of expression that I find only in a few wines.

In Alsace they eat everything--pigs and cows nose to tail, vegetables and mushrooms, duck and seafood--which doesn't surprise me because these wines go with everything. They are a source of comfort in winter and a thirst-quenching refreshment in the summer.

Experience the joy in wines even more, drink Alsace wines.

Alsace Riesling Zellenberg, Domaine Marc Tempe 2010 $27.00
Selection from various parcels in the Zellenberg commune where Tempe is based. The vines are biodynamcially farmed and average 50 years-old. The grapes are vinified and aged in foudre with native yeasts, without additives and with just a minimal dose of sulfites. Yields were low in 2010 but quality is superb. If you love dry Riesling, then you will find this structured 2010 Zellenberg brilliant. And like some of Alsace's greatest dry Rieslings like the Frederic Emile and Clos St. Hune, this Zellenberg benefits from aging. A great buy.

Vin d'Alsace White "Envol", Domaine Sylvie Spielmann 2010 $19.00
This unique dry Alsace white shows the greatness of field blends. In 2008 Sylvie Spielmann took over a neighbor's plot situated between her two vineyards that is planted to Sylvaner, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling averaging 30 years-old. She immediately converted it to biodynamic farming to invigorate and awaken the vines, producing a wine with intense flavors that have balance and harmony. All the grapes are vinified together with indigenous yeasts, without additives, and with just a small dose of sulfites. A complex wine that will continue to evolve over the next decade.

Alsace Gewurztraminer "Qvevri", Domaine Laurent Bannwarth 2011 $48.00
100% Gewurztraminer from biodynamically farmed vines. Following the Georgian winemaking approach, the skins were macerated with the juice to extract as much flavor from the skins. It was vinified naturally, using native yeasts and without addition of sulfites or any other additives. Then the wine was aged in terracootta Kvevri for at least a year and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Along with the deeper color, the flavors offer fantastic depth and richness with lovely tannins. This is immediately new and strange and very likable.

Alsatian Riesling "patience...", Domaine Laurent Bannwarth 2009 $35.00
This was vinified for at least 24 months on its lees before completing development and arriving at peak--on its own, using natural yeasts, without temperature control, without additives, and without added sulfites. After vinification the wine was allowed to settle and rest for at least another 12 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. I've never had Riesling like this that offers such broadness and depth of flavors. Instead of being laser-focused, it is a full-blown, harmonic ensemble.

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