02 March 2013

February Cremant d'Alsace

I think I've had more Alsatian wine in the past two years than I've had in my entire life, and that is a good thing. While I'd sampled some in the past, I mostly thought of them as pale versions of German Rieslings and not as important as French Burgundies.

With age and experience, you learn to appreciate the subtleties in certain regions. Alsace famously sits in a region that has variously been part of France or Germany or various factions of the Holy Roman Empire, but when we drill down to terroir we're not talking about politics or language but rather the fact that this long and thin region sits between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine river.

Thanks to longtime family friend Mike Whitfield, I got to try some spectacular Alsatian wines when he cooked dinner for my family on my 35th birthday. I started taking the region and its wines far more seriously at that point, and since then I've been lucky to sample bottles from the great producers of Alsace. Lately I've gotten a lot of requests for advice on wedding wines. I keep recommending Cremant d'Alsace as the perfect combination of elegance, class, and affordability for a big gathering. Plus, if you're a wine lover, it's something that you'll actually enjoy alongside your guests. Let's take a look at two examples that I tried in February...

NV Clément Klur Crémant d'Alsace Brut
Katzenthal, Alsace
Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois
$19, 12% abv.

"A version of the traditional crémant, but without added brimstone." They're talking about the fact that there are no added sulfites, but I love this translation. Lovely notes of quince with a crisp, medium acidic flavor and a bright finish. Try this with a dinner of blackened catfish because it will stand up well to the spices and strong flavors in the dish.

NV Pierre Sparr Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé
Haut-Rhin, Alsace
100% Pinot Noir
$16, 12% abv.

Alsace doesn't grow a lot of Pinot Noir, but what is grown is light and mostly used for rosé or sparkling wines. This one has great aromas of wild strawberries and watermelon with a crisp finish. Just a touch of fruit on the palate, and firm acidity. I served this with a bunch of appetizers where the salty snacks brought out the best in the wine.

One interesting side note to these bottles... I noticed a tiny and unfamiliar logo on the bottle of the Klur. Because that winery does organic and biodynamic wine production, and because the incomplete gold stamping was vague, I thought that it was either a map of the Earth or a map of the Moon. I took a photo close up with the macro settings on the camera and discovered that it was a picture of a pregnant woman drinking with a bar through the circle.

Later, I found a Washington Post article about the labeling law on certain French products. Not being female and not ever having been pregnant, I was not aware of this symbol, but will keep it in mind along with all of the various Kosher and recyclable symbols for future reference.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

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