Wine: Perfect blend of cultures
Alsace is one of France's prettiest wine regions, scattered with medieval villages swathed by the foliage of the surrounding vineyards.
Essentially white wine country, the sun-trap sheltered vineyards nestle on the steep eastern slopes of the rain barrier Vosges mountain range where grapes ripen effortlessly, giving wines with full body, higher alcohol and a spicy fruity flavour.
The setting for Franco-German wars over the centuries, Alsace not surprisingly has been heavily influenced by both cultures.
The wines often have Germanic family names, but their French connection means most are in a dry, food-friendly style. All Alsace white wines have a purity of fruit with never an oaky influence.
The medley of at least eight different white grape varieties means a great diversity of styles, tastes and aromas. Alsace is unique in French ACs by labelling the individual grape variety since inception in 1962. A small percentage of wine is a blend of different varietals and labelled either as Gentil or Edelzwicker.
1) Zind (Chardonnay) 2010 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace 13pc
A complex wine with a rich, warm hay and mineral mature bouquet. Flavoured with citrus peel and ripe golden fruits in a waxy texture. Decant to accelerate expression. Excellent as a Christmas turkey companion or with any rich and herbed white meat.
€25.45 at jnwine.com
2) Gentil 2011 Hugel, Alsace 12.5pc
Scented with lemon jelly and deliciously fruity with lemon drops enlivened with freshly squeezed lemons. Refreshing as an aperitif or with hard cheese.
€14.99 at O'Brien's and Next Door chains nationwide; O'Driscoll's, Cork; Wine Centre, Kilkenny; and Morton's, Galway. In Dublin at Donnybrook Fairs; Vintry, Rathgar; Deveney's, Dundrum and Rathmines; Redmond's, Ranelagh; Fallon & Byrne; Martin's, Fairview; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Shiel's, Malahide and Sweeney's, Glasnevin
3) Pinot Blanc 2010 Trimbach, Alsace 12.5pc
Ripe red apple fruit character, well-rounded and fresh. Elegant and very food-versatile. Ideal choice in a restaurant for a mix of mains or with nut and lentil dishes.
€16.99 at Green Acres, Wexford. In Dublin: Vintry, Rathgar and Deveney's, Dundrum and Rathmines
4) Alsace 2011 Domaine Marcel Deiss, Alsace 13pc
From an unspecified mix of varieties grown bio-dynamically. Ripe melon and mint herbal scent. Complex fruit flavours of red, yellow and green apples underpinned by a peach and citrus finish. Match with pork in a mustard cream sauce.
€18 at frenchwines.ie
5) Andlau Riesling 2011 Marc Kreydenweiss, Alsace 13pc
Mineral and zesty lime aromas. An oily texture coats the tastebuds with a citrus fest of crisp flavours. Pithy finish and a mineral note. Delicious with flat white fish pan-fried in butter with capers.
€19.49 from O'Brien's chain of 32 off licences nationwide
6) Gewurztraminer 2010 Trimbach, Alsace 14pc
Perfumed lychee, ginger and rosewater fragrance. A full-bodied wine, ripe and opulent. Tasty red jelly and rosewater spiced with ginger. Alcohol-driven and ginger spice echoes on the long finish. Match with a Chinese prawn dish spiked with star anise, ginger and scallions.
€21 at Superquinn and O'Brien's chain nationwide and Vintry, Rathgar, Dublin 6