Sample April wines from Alsace
With grapevines across the northern hemisphere bursting with new buds, rejuvenated vineyards are returning to life with visible changes unfolding daily. In Alsace, tucked away in northeastern France, the transformation is especially dramatic.
A solid core of around 280 Alsace producers capitalizes on the region's unusually dry and sunny climate by farming organically and biodynamically. Since these growers forego applications of synthetic chemical fungicides, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, their vineyards and the surrounding soils “pop” with vitality.
Green leaves soon unfurl on the vines. Grasses, wild flowers and vetch emerge rapidly in the rows between vines. Snails in profusion feed on the greenery. Even the odd sheep or two grazes among the vines. A closer look at the moist, humus laden soils around the vines reveals worms aplenty.
“The idea is to keep as much humidity as possible in the soils and to force the vines to work and perform like well-trained sportsmen,” says Domaine Zind-Humbrecht winegrower Olivier Humbrecht. Approximately 15 percent of Alsace's 38,000 vineyard acres hold organic and biodynamic certification.
Out of this vernal explosion of life, a few months later the vines deliver high-quality grapes with complex aromas, pure flavors, and marvelous freshness. Exhilarating wines result to provide scintillating pleasures especially appealing during spring's often brisk weather. Try the following wines from organic and biodynamic growers:
• 2014 Rolly-Gassmann, Pinot Blanc, Alsace (Luxury 74541; $19.99): Nobody works the vines with more commitment and passion than Pierre Gassmann and his dedicated team of year-round workers. Gassmann strives for fully ripened fruit with exquisite purity. His winemaking trademarks of seductive aromas and concentrated richness shine in this engaging and delightful wine. The golden color offers ripe grapefruit and peach aromas opening to luscious fruity flavors. A touch of creaminess and zesty acidity balance the vibrant fruity finish. Pair it with grilled ahi tuna with a mango salsa sauce. Highly Recommended.
• 2013 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Muscat, Alsace, France (Luxury 49530; On sale: $19.99—limited availability at the Waterworks and Sewickley Premium Stores): Muscat grapes naturally unfold forward, exotic fruit aromas suggesting sweet flavors. Yet in this case, Olivier Humbrecht delivers a beautifully balanced dry wine. Delightful white-flower, peach and brown-spice aromas lead to bright pink grapefruit, quince and tangerine flavors. Fresh acidity and mouthwatering mineral notes frame the zesty, dry finish. Pair this truly delicious and mouthwatering wine with pan-fried brook trout with brown butter and caper sauce. Highly Recommended.
• 2014 Domaine Bott-Geyl Riesling “Les Éléments,” Alsace (Luxury 45345; $20.99): Winegrower Jean-Christophe Bott blends labor-intensive, meticulous work in the vines with minimalist, non-interventionist winemaking. The approach pays off handsomely with wines offering delicious, precise fruit and elegant balance. In this wine, aromas of citrus and brown-spice lead to ripe, beautifully balanced citrus and apple flavors. It finishes fruity, yet dry. Pair the wine with grilled chicken with a fruity glaze. Highly Recommended.
• 2014 Domaine Mittnacht, “Cuvée Gyotaku,” Vin d'Alsace, France (Luxury 99024; $24.49): In 1999 the Mittnacht family's vineyards received organic and biodynamic certification. Today their carefully cultivated grapes continue to shine with purity as highlighted by this lovely wine. The blend of pinot blanc, riesling, muscat, pinot gris and gewurztraminer unfolds grapefruit and ripe pear aromas. Ripe fruit flavors balance seamlessly with subtle creaminess through the soft, dry finish. Pair it with either sushi or pan-seared scallops.Recommended.
Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.