Monday, February 21, 2022

Alsace’s Unsung Hero Wines

                                       Alsace makes both high quality still & sparkling wines

Forbe’s  called Alsatian wine, "The best, and best value, white wines you've never drunk."  Alsace, a relatively unknown and unfashionable wine region for most Americans, forms France's northeastern border with Germany.  Perhaps Alsace's misconceived association with German sweet wines is the cause for discerning USA wine lovers to miss out on the dry sensational wines of Alsace?   

 Alsatian wines are some of the best values on planet earth

Wine from Alsace is a phenomenal bargain.   When dining at a Michelin star I always turn to the Alsatian wine section of the wine list.   First, I love these wines---and so do knowledgeable sommeliers who understand their food-friendly beauty.  Second, because of the lower demand for these unknown gems, prices for Alsatian wines represent some of the best values on a wine list. 

                                     Alsace is a treasure trove for well crafted white wines

There are three main white grapes in Alsace:

Pinot Gris

You may know this grape by its Italian name, Pinot Grigio.  While they are the same grape, the varietal reaches rock-star status in Alsace.  Alsatian Pinot Gris is often a full bodied wine with tropical and stone fruit flavors.  Citrus is often present, as is a spicy nuance. 


     This grape may be another reason why Alsatian wines is not fashionable:  no one can       pronounce it (plus this varietal is often associated with its sweet German counterpart).  Dry Gewurztraminer can be quite seductive:  think luscious aromatics like an intoxi- cating perfume.  In addition to floral notes (often roses), there’s also an exotic layering of passion fruit or lychee.    


     Like Gewurztraminer, Riesling is also a highly aromatic grape.   In Alsace young            Riesling flavors can range from lemon/lime to pineapple, apricot and nectarines,            and are often laced often with floral aromas.  The varietal’s high acidity make it an        especially food-friendly choice.

                  The Christmas "marches" in Alsace are some of the most special in Europe

Wine-Knows will be visiting Alsace this year (December 6-16) during the region's world-famous Christmas markets.   With roots in the Middle Ages, modern day Christmas markets are some of the most magical celebrations in all of Europe.  Why not join us to learn about Alsatian wine, and experience Europe like you've never seen it before?

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Wine on the Rocks

                                         Rocks can be instrumental in making a complex wine

This is not an article for novices on wine coolers or putting ice in your wine.  It is an article for serious wine lovers on the important role that rocks can have in a vineyard.  Rocks can be instrumental in the difference between a ho-hum wine, and some of the best wines on the planet.   Perhaps the most famous wine rocks are those of Bordeaux and the Rhone (especially Chateauneuf du Pape).   But, many other world-class wines owe part of their greatness to rocks.

                                     Galets can vary from pebble-sized to larger rocks

The French actually have a specific term for these vineyard rocks. They are called “galets.”   Galets can vary anywhere in size from several pounds to large pebbles.  Regardless of size, however, rocks are integral to the growth of vines and their fruit in several ways.  Rocks absorb heat from the daytime sunshine and then slowly release the heat back during the night.  During cold winters this is important so that vines don’t freeze.  During cool summer evenings, on the other hand, heat retention and heat transmission are critical for vine’s growth and fruit ripening.


Rocks can also be critical for drainage.  Vines need proper drainage in order to produce quality fruit.   Layers of pebbles or even smaller sized rocks can create a perfect drainage system and allow the vine to send its roots downward to seek water and nutrition for the plant.   In this search downward through the vineyard’s stratum, the plant also brings back nuances from the earth that create complexity in wine.


                                                   "Graves" is all about it's "gravel" soil

Rocks are an important part of the vineyard’s terroir.  In the case of Bordeaux’s left bank and Chateauneuf du Pape, both of these wine districts lie beside large rivers.  In Bordeaux, millenniums of granite from the Pyrenees have been washed downward and were deposited in vineyards when rivers overflowed their banks.  Graves, one of Bordeaux’s premium districts, actually takes its name from the word for “gravel.”  Graves' vineyards are littered with rocks that have been broken down by the water's churning action as the rivers carry rocks toward the Atlantic.      

     This Chateauneuf du Pape vineyard is located a croissant's toss from the Rhone River

The Rhone wine region lies beside the Rhone River.  Alpine rocks have been washed down via the Rhone for ages.  Chateauneuf du Pape is the flattest part of the region, hence, its vineyards are laden with galets from the Rhone’s flooding.   On the other side of the world in New Zealand, there’s the Gimblett Gravels wine district, an area known for its world-class red wines.  The Gimlett Gravels are located in an old river bed filled with rocks.  In this case, the river actually changed course and left in its wake a perfect terroir for growing wine grapes:  several feet of deep gravels.   

If you're looking for a novel idea for a wine-tasting, why not consider a "Wine on the Rocks" soiree?