Riesling is the most commonly grown grape in France’s Alsace wine region for one simple reason: it’s delicious. Most wine lovers are familiar with German riesling, famous for its light body, crisp acidity and occasional sweetness. In contrast, Alsace riesling is fuller bodied, and is almost always dry. Despite their rich textures, Alsace rieslings are crisp and sharply focused due to their bright acidity. The aromas and flavors range from delicate grapefruit, lemon and pear to stewed pears and peaches, opulent spices and heady floral notes. The complexity and depth of flavor is absolutely mesmerizing. These wines pair well with a variety of foods (in fact, they make some of the best Thanksgiving wines for this reason) from seafood and light cheeses to heavier dishes such as pork and charcuterie.
Alsace is located in France’s northeastern corner (so far northeast, in fact, that it has been part of Germany several times throughout history. Germanic influence is seen everywhere, from the cuisine to the grapes grown). The region runs north to south, between the Rhine River to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. Alsace riesling achieves its legendary texture and richness of flavor partly due to these mountains, which provide shelter from freezing western winds and limit the amount of rain delivered to the region, effectively extending the growing season into the fall, allowing the grapes time to develop more ripeness and complex flavors. The region is home to some of the most varied and complex soil types of any wine region, ranging from limestone to clay to volcanic, creating a myriad of flavors and styles of riesling.
It’s hard to pick favorites, but here are just a few of the Alsace rieslings we’ve fallen in love with over the past year:
PIERRE SPARR Riesling 2011 (Alsace, France) $15
LUCIEN ALBRECHT Riesling Reserve 2011 (Alsace, France) $16
DOMAINE OSTERTAG “Fronholz” Riesling 2011 (Alsace, France) $36
HUGEL ET FILS “Jubilee” Riesling 2007 (Alsace, France) $50
Have you tried a riesling from Alsace? Let us know below.
Photo Credit: Vins d'Alsace