We have decided to emphasize a region of wine this year for Thanksgiving rather than the usual list of wines that go well with Turkey Day.
The wines of Alsace, or “Vin d’ Alsace,” can pair beautifully with meals at Thanksgiving.
Alsace is located in the Northeastern side of France, abutting Germany, in a valley along the Rhine River. The Rhine separates France and Germany. There are two parts to this “cool climate” region -- The Bas-Rhin, to the North, and Haut-Rhin, to the South. The best vineyards have long been associated with the Southern area of Alsace, the Haut-Rhin.
Only 10% of wine produced in Alsace is red wine -- Pinot Noir, and can be difficult to find here in the United States. Their prize wines for Thanksgiving are their white varieties.
Why? The white wines of Alsace have wonderful aromas, flavors and acidity -- all the things that make wine wonderful for pairing with Thanksgiving meals. Their floral and peachy smells fly out of the glass. The brilliant acidity of the wines tingle the tongue enabling you to enjoy all the flavors your meal has to offer.
The white wine varieties from Alsace include Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Muscat. All Alsace ‘AOC’ wines (areas of wines of quality), must contain no less that 100% of the grape variety in the bottle that is on the label (this differs from the United States for instance that only requires 75% of the grape named on the label). The Alsace AOC allows blends but they must be labeled “Edelzwicker” or “Gentil” or a named wine.
Cremant d’ Alsace is the fastest growing AOC in Alsace. It is a sparkling wine AOC that produces quality sparklers using the same method as used in Champagne. Cremant d’ Alsace is the only AOC that allows the use of local Chardonnay grapes, but most of the sparklers are produced from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and a grape called Auxxerois. If you know anything about us at Brut Detroit, you know we love bubbles! We highly recommend you try a Cremant d’Alsace for its great quality and even better prices.
The Alsace Grand Cru AOC (the best recognized wines) account for 4% of the total production of wine in the region. There are 51 grand cru plots that are only allowed to use a single variety or blend of just four official grape varieties. In Alsace these four grapes are referred to as the ‘Noble Grapes of Alsace’: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer. The Grand Cru wines of Alsace usually have a higher minimum alcohol levels which require richer grapes in production. Because of this, the best grand cru plots are in the southern regions of Haut-Rin on the low southern and southeastern facing slopes. Grand Cru’s are rich, honeyed and age worthy.
And for dessert . . . . yep, Alsace has that too!
Vendanges Tardives translates to ‘harvest late’ and this wine is produced from the 4 Noble grapes of Alsace. These wines carry honeyed notes that comes from botrytis (or Noble Rot) -- an actual rot on grapes that when controlled, produce sweet grapes for dessert wines.
Selections de Grains Nobles are another option of sweet wines produced in Alsace in a style similar to Hungarian Tokaji or a Sauternes from Bordeaux. These wines also have honeyed character developed from the labor intensive hand picking of only botrytis-affect grapes.