A question any expert in their field often gets asked is, how can I find a bargain? Our answer to this question is to look at white wine from the region of Alsace. Over the years this region has been part of Germany, and part of France (which it still is now). There is a distinct German influence in the region and the wines are quite Germanic in style (in a good way, don’t think Liebfraumilch). They tend to produce Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gemuztraminer and Sylvaner wines. We would argue that these wines are some of the best of their variety in the world.
So why are these wines good value for the consumer?
They are more approachable than a lot of french wines because they put the name of the grape used to make the wine on the bottle. This does not tend to happen in the rest of France which means you are buying the name or the area, rather than the grape. One of the difficulties with buying wine in France is that you don’t often know which grapes have been used to make the wine in the bottle you’re buying. Look at a selection of french wines and then look at the labels, and see how many have the grape variety on it. This can put people off buying French wine – especially those who like to stick to a particular grape.
There is also an image, or perception, problem. All wines in the Alsace region are sold in the Germanic flute style bottle and this does conjure up images of Blue Nun and German wines of old. Therefore, the wines do not attract a high price because they do not command the same level of reverence as, say, a Chablis. As with all things, without the famous name you don’t pay the same price tag.
Not having the same level of fame and reputation also has other perks for wine enthusiasts. Nick Ryman, who runs Maison Liedberg, was fortunate enough to visit Zind Humbrecht in Turckheim and to meet the great wine maker, Olivier Humbrecht. He tasted Grand Cru quality wines with this internationally renowned wine maker which was an interesting and amazing experience. This kind of experience would be much less accessible in a better known wine region.
Despite the reasonable price the wines produced in this region can be of very high quality. The huge aromatic complexity means that the wines can be partnered with strong flavours such as Chinese or Thai food.
Another tip would also be to look at sparkling wine from this area. The Cremant d’Alsace has only been produced commercially since 1976 so this is still in its infancy in wine terms. They tend to mix the grapes and add some Riesling and this makes for a very rich and intense sparking wine. These sparkling wines represent much better value for money than a mediocre champagne.
So if you like trying new wines and are looking for good value then look out for wine from the Alsace region.