I get a lot of press releases and wine samples asking me to endorse a certain holiday or event, but one that I agreed with wholeheartedly was the pairing of Alsatian white wines with the Super Bowl. Alsace is a part of France that is all about sausage, bacon, beans, and sauerkraut. Not only are these foods wonderful during the winter with the right wine, but you're likely to encounter such ingredients at any reputable Super Bowl party spread and I think you'll find that Alsatian wines (still and sparkling) go great with them. I tasted some of these with a traditional party dish incorporating tiny Frankfurters ("Li'l Smokies") braised in BBQ sauce.
Some of these white wines might seem a little austere on first sip, but add a little pork fat and salt and suddenly you can taste all of the great layers designed by the traditional family winemakers of the region. And if you read the company tasting notes in the original French, you'll see pairing suggestions for salted meats and cheese and other goodies.
Before I go any further, I'm not a huge fan of American football, but due to my year spent working in Cleveland I always root for the Browns. And thus, despite no particular interest in the San Francisco 49ers, I have to cheer against the Baltimore Ravens. (Explanation here)
2011 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbés
70% Auxerrois, 30% Pinot Blanc
$14, 12.5% abv.
Light and thin with a little green apple. Probably the true textbook Alsatian Pinot Blanc, with a mild body that allows for pleasant and gentle sipping over the afternoon.
2009 Trimbach Pinot Blanc
80% Auxerrois, 20% Pinot Blanc
$14, 12.5% abv.
Light and creamy with just a touch of lemon on the finish. Low acidity with a round mouthfeel. While not sweet, it reminds me a lot of a lemon meringue pie. This one goes exceptionally well with potato chips, where the crunch and salt activate the palate.
2009 Cuvée Les Amours "Hugel" Pinot Blanc
100% Pinot Blanc
$16, 12% abv.
Very mild and restrained, mineral and a little earthy, well-aged. Aromas of wet stone and just the tiniest hints of red apple peel. This is what I consider a perfect Alsatian white, a tremendous bargain, and I'm going to go on a mild rant here about art. If you give a chimpanzee a brush and some paint, he might make something interesting if you grab the canvas at an opportune moment. Otherwise, Bonzo is going to keep going until the substrate is covered completely with a dark smear of paint and potential angry simian flingings. What separates human art from animal art is the decision to stop when it is right. I could take a wine and keep making it fruitier, more acidic, higher in alcohol, hell, I could end up with a bracing cordial if I kept to it. But the judicious decision to stop at some point is what truly separates us from the animals. The Beatles didn't need fifth or sixth musicians. The Mona Lisa didn't need some cherubs around her quizzical gaze. My wine doesn't have to go crazy in every direction in every glass.
Wines from France aren't the only ones that do subtlety and restraint, and there are plenty from Gaul that violate those concepts. But often I'll encounter wines like this one that remind me why that one country is so highly regarded in the realm of wine writing and criticism.
Note: These wines were received as samples.