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21 March 2007

Alsatian Simplification

In the early days of my budding wine fascination, I approached the 'French aisle' in a wine shop.  After failing miserably to decipher the labels from several bottles, I felt frustrated and downright dim.  I migrated back towards the more accessible labels of Australia, South Africa and California.  For some time thereafter, I hung with English-labeled wine.

Would that I had begun my French foray with Alsace. The Alsace label, while still French, is straightforward.  You see, Alsatian regulations permit wine to be labeled by grape variety.  So even if you have no idea what 'mis en bouteille par..' means, you can still identify wine as being Riesling or Gewurztraminer (no 'ü' in Alsace).  Most Alsatian wine is made from Riesling, Gewurz, Pinot Gris (AKA Tokay Pinot Gris, AKA Pinot Grigio), Muscat (AKA Muscat d'Alsace) or Pinot Blanc.

For non-French speakers and wine newbies, Alsace is a good place to begin French wine exploration.  What you read is what you get.  Except when you don't.  Occasionally, the grape's name is missing from the label.  In its place, you may encounter the term, 'Edelzwicker' (~ noble-blend).  This term is indicative of wine comprised of a blend of Alsace's varieties (e.g. Riesling, Gewurz, Pinot Gris, etc.).  Many of these blended wines are inexpensive introductions to the flavors of Alsace.  Recently, I've noticed a that some producers are offering such blends in the $10-$15 range.  A few are scrapping the Edelzwicker moniker and replacing it with a branded name.  Two examples are Pierre Sparr's "Alsace One" and Zind-Humbrecht's "Zind."

Then there are the minimalist folks at Kuentz-Bas.  K-B's Edelzwicker offering is nameless - sort of.  The bottle is simply labeled, "Alsace."  Confusing?  Perhaps.  However for around ten dollars, 'Alsace' from Alsace introduces you to the surprisingly exotic style of Alsatian wine.

Kbframed The Skinny
Kuentz-Bas Alsace 2005 ($9-$12) [imported by Kermit Lynch]

  • Light straw-yellow in color
  • Scents of lychee/litchi/lytchi, lemon, honey and grape (! - I suspect the grapeyness comes from Muscat)
  • This wine behaved quite differently in the mouth over the course of two evenings: Night 1 - a rich, almost sticky mouthfeel with slightly sweet, or seemingly sweet flavors of honey, mandarin orange and ripe pear; Night 2 - the stickyness faded and I was struck by a greater balance of richness and crispness.  For the record, I prefer night #2's performance

Kuentz-Bas is an ideal candidate for a wine solo on Friday afternoon.  It also would be fine as a duet with sweet & sour pork, honey glazed chicken or a green salad & fresh fruit.


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A Kuentz Bas Selection de Grains Nobles Gewurztraminer Reserve Personnelle, 1983 just happens to feature as my banner image on Spittoon.

It's been in the rack for years, I really should open it, but fear it may be past it. Still KB are stunning wines, just damn expensive here in the UK (if you can find them).


I can't imagine that your food pairings didn't mention the primary function for Alsatian wine--a pair with CHEESE. My s.o. has schooled me so well on whole unpasteurized Alpine cheeses, and the French/Swiss crossovers like Gruyere and Raclette, that I can think of no other wine that works as well with these.

On top of that, I'm a 95% red guy, but when I pick a white, Alsace is my go-to. Usually Tokays and Gewurz's.

I've not seen k-b in Michigan, But I always keep my eyes peeled for new items on the Alsatian 10 inches of shelf.

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I do not know so much about wines, but I have always been interesting in learning some things and I think I have here on your blog, thanks!

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