Posted by: tomciocco | March 27, 2013

UNCOMMON ALSACE

Alsace-Lorraine is one of the world’s best cultural smears, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. This is the green, hilly to mountainous marchland of two huge European cultural tectonic plates – the Gallic and the Teutonic – that is covered with characteristic half-timbered architecture, and a gastronomic range that clearly reflects both France and Germany, wine traditions included.

Most Alsatian wine is white (though the right Pinot Noirs are unique, fun, and pretty cheap – keep an eye out for them) and it is a viticultural region that falls firmly into the “varietal” rather than the “blend” winemaking tradition. Apart from the fantastically named edelzwicker, which is simply the local name for the easy-going, white field blends traditional in Alsace, grape varieties here are bottled solo – as a 100% Pinot Gris, or Gewurztraminer, Riesling, etc.

Alsace also is heir to one of the world’s great traditions of semi-sweet, late harvest (vendange tardive) wines, as well as quite a lot of  sparkling cremant d’Alsace. The former lot of half-stickies is typically bottled in the aforementioned varietal model, while the sparklers tend to be blends of three or more Alsatian grape varieties.

And for a host of reasons, and rather sadly too, a considerable gush of wine that emanates from this area is grown, harvested, and produced in a way that can only be accurately characterized as semi-industrial. A number of medium and large-size concerns apply too many chemicals in the field, utilize machine harvesting, and  add overly generous doses of sulfites to the wines in the cellar.

Well, I’m happy to report that this is an Alsatian wine that clearly shows off its decidedly high quality, and breaks the style norms in the process. Made on a small farm owned by a family that has been in the wine trade since the mid-17th century, this particular bottling is an unusual blend that is heavily dominated by Pinot Blanc with just a splash of Muscat to complete the cuvee’. For me, too many Alsatian wines are dull and clumsy despite their often big, demonstrative natures. This is a wine that soars well above all of the usual pitfalls that plague most of its compatriots, and though a traditional Alsatian wine through and through, is a wine that also speaks with a unique poetry and cadence .

To accompany this expansive and very expressive wine, I made a salad of Savoy cabbage, boiled potatoes, and cubed knockwurst with herbs, a squirt of mustard, and a dollop of mayo, and then butterflied and sauteed chicken breasts in a shallot, mushroom, and wine cream sauce with spaetzele noodles on the side.

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Maurice Schoech Alsace “Cotes d’Ammerschwihr” Blanc 2011

Very pale gold color with a greenish tint. Prettyy and lightly aromatic nose of quince, white currants, fresh herbs, Acacia flowers, ground coriander seeds, and mineral water. In the mouth the wine is very intense and hefty in terms of texture, but with very lively, sleek, and fresh contours, and pure, clean, and crisp flavors of fresh pineapple juice, lime, apple pie, fresh ginger, merengue, and a hint of lychee nuts. Very long pear and sweet baby pea finish.

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