Of all the classic wine regions in France, Alsace is the one most often forgotten, hidden away on the country’s eastern border close to Germany and Switzerland. It has a unique climate: summers are surprisingly warm and dry thanks to its inland location, although winters are generally icy.
Due to one of the most complex geologies of any wine region in the country, Alsace has the ability to produce exceptional riesling, pinot gris and gewürztraminer, with muscat, pinot blanc and pinot noir not far behind. All are generally bottled as single varietals. There is also fantastic diversity, with the personality of wines dramatically different depending on the prevailing soil and aspect.
Alsace’s finest sites are the Grand Crus, the first of which were identified in 1975, with further vineyards added in 1983, 1992 and 2007. These sites make up only 4% of the total vineyard area and include some of the higher vineyards in the region with the best sun exposure.
2011 Famille Hugel Grossi Laüe Riesling, A$134
This is the Famille Hugel Grand Cru equivalent, made from their finest plot in the heart of the Schoenenbourg. Despite its 10 years of age, the wine is still incredibly youthful and full of energy. Exotic nashi pears, citrus and chalky aromas are topped with fresh honey just starting to emerge. The palate is power-packed, with forceful and complex fruit of superb length that unravels layer after layer of detail. A great wine with a long life ahead.
2011 Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Kitterlé Pinot Gris, A$72
It is fantastic to see aged Grand Crus like this, available at peak drinking. Mid-golden in colour, there is a beautiful array of aromas to be found – from youthful pear and nectarine through to quince and honey with exceptional concentration. The palate is rich and bold; the fruits are beautifully balanced with significant residual sweetness which drives a long and powerful finish. A superb Grand Cru release from a strong vintage.
2019 Mader Pinot Blanc, A$35
A beautiful example of regional pinot blanc showing the subtle side of this variety. Pale in colour, it opens with focused yet understated aromas of chalk, citrus and white flowers, with an attractive little peppery edge. The fruit is very youthful on the palate with more of its chalky character shining through, followed by a long and seamless finish with razor sharp balance. A super wine best served with delicate seafood dishes.
2019 Mader Pinot Gris, A$43
A thoroughly modern and engaging style of Alsatian pinot gris, with beautiful purity of fruit and strong varietal typicity. Perfumed aromas of freshly cut pear and citrus are lifted by musky and spicy complexity. The palate is then bright, clean and pure with excellent fruit concentration behind a textural palate that is long and supple – with an acid twist to finish. Approachable now, it also has the balance to drink well over the next 5-8 years.
2019 Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc, A$32
An interesting and richer style of Alsatian pinot blanc, with ripe and exotic upfront fruit characters; aromatic custard apple and pear with a strong chalky/mineral undertow provide some aromatic backbone. It’s then dry and full flavoured with an almost creamy texture that makes it approachable, supple and delicious. It’s big and seductive for this variety, and probably best enjoyed young.
NV Kientzler Brut Crémant d’Alsace, A$41
Crafted solely from the Auxerrois grape variety, which is related to chardonnay, and aged for 21 months on lees, this is a dry, refreshing and complex sparkling wine that is gently aromatic with pear, citrus and chalky aromas. It’s crisp without being tart, with delicate fruits and honeyed autolysis characters making for a restrained and savoury food-friendly style. Considerable length is icing on the cake.
2019 Domaine Andre Lorentz Riesling, A$27
This is quite a serious Alsatian riesling for the price and shows that pretty generosity of fruit the region is known for. Pink Lady apple aromas with flower blossom sit over a core of citrus fruits with an attractive aromatic lift and youthful vitality. Great balance to be found on the palate with crisp acidity, a touch of sweetness and a textural creaminess all coming together with a hint of earthy minerality to provide a delicious finish.
2017 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés, A$40
This traditionally powerful style of Alsatian pinot gris is still youthful, despite its five years of age. Deep straw in colour, it shows layers of bold pear compote, guava and baked apple fruits with distinct floral overtones. That generosity of fruit continues on a punchy palate with a rounded texture that is kept in check by an acid bite before a lingering, creamy finish. A good match for quality washed rind cheeses.
2018 Famille Hugel Riesling, A$42
There are few more recognisable labels for Alsatian Riesling than Hugel with their Classic Riesling a standard bearer for the region around the world. This wine is pretty and already at peak with its attractive mix of gently aromatic floral, citrus and almost diesel aromas with good fruit generosity. It’s dry and showing some earthy aged characters supported by balanced acidity making it perfect now and over the next three to five years.
2018 Dopff au Moulin Gewürztraminer, A$23
From one of the largest producers in Alsace comes this elegant example of gewürztraminer with straightforward lychee and blossom fruits plus some exotic green mango in the mix. It’s then silky and spicy on the palate in a midweight style, with restrained sweetness and a lingering finish. It’s well pitched for anyone new to the variety or looking for a white wine to match spicy seafood dishes.
2018 Wolfberger Pinot Gris, A$20
Wolfberger is a dependable producer of good-value Alsace and this wine is no exception. It is gently aromatic and on the lighter side of regional pinot gris, but delivers a good concentration of orchard fruits – pear and nectarine in a bright and clean style. In the mouth there is good impact of fruit with a touch of sweetness and a creamy texture, so lots of matching potential with richer dishes, such as pork with crackling. Well priced, too.
2018 Dopff au Moulin Riesling, A$20
The perfect place to start a journey into the wines of Alsace is this juicy, dry riesling. Light coloured and perfumed, it is a bright and clean style with apple, citrus and green mango fruit given additional interest thanks to some savoury, earthy complexity. Good mouthfeel with fresh acidity and some exotic floral fruit on the finish make it ideal to drink young with fresh seafood.