There are many contributing factors to what distinguishes one country from the next and one culture to another. The architecture of buildings, the food and wine of the locals, and the farming traditions passed down from generation to generation are just a few. Here in the United States, we tend to fuse our many cultures together simply because we have so many people from different walks of life among us. For regions like Alsace, however, this cultural fusion has occurred over years of being tossed from one country’s ownership to the next.
The long, narrow region running north to South is located in France on the border with Germany. The buildings of Alsace are very Germanic with timber framing and a variety of colors that separate each house. Flowers overwhelm the quaint towns with a picturesque charm that seems to almost unreal. It almost feels like you’re at Epcot and all of your surroundings were planned out to be picture-perfect. During my stay in the city of Colmar, I saw the cutest “tiny house” that was the width of a door frame- a mere sliver in between two buildings waiting to be overlooked.
Alsatian cuisine is a food-lover’s dream. Why chose between French and German food when you can have them both? Like the people here, the food is a delightful combination of French and German traditions. One dish in particular is an Alsatian specialty that manifests desire and creates longing for more half way through. The pizza-like dish that creates such craving is called Flammenkuchen; bread dough is rolled thin and layered with fromage blanc or crème fraiche, onions, and crispy lardons. It’s simple, but sensational.
The wine of Alsace is also unforgettable and desirable. Unlike the rest of France, Alsatian wine takes after German tradition and labels their wine by grape varietal in a tall, fluted bottle. Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Gewürztraminer are a few grapes that dominate here. The dry, sunny climate is preserved as the Vosges Mountains protects the region of wind and rain. Fuller in body and higher in alcohol, wines from this region are known for their aromatic intensity. While dry whites and crisp sparkling wines are well known to Alsace, they also produce sweet wines called “vendages tartives” or late harvest wines. A rare and extremely special late harvest wine, Selection de Grains Nobles can be compared to the botrytis-affected wines of Sauternes and Tokaji. The next time you’re in an ABC store, ask your Wine & Spirits Specialist where the Alsatian wines are and maybe they’ll even have a bottle left of the rare Selection de Grains Nobles!
Janessa Schuster, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Celebration Specialist – Tampa