Sunday, July 25, 2021

Alsace Wines’ Heart and Soul - Land Sustainability #Winophiles #DrinkAlsace

Photo Credit: www.vinsalsace.com

Respecting nature is part of the long tradition in Alsace. The Upper Rhine region in Alsace is the birthplace of biodynamic farming. Organic and biodynamic viticulture have widely been adopted throughout the Alsace wine-growing areas. This sustainable farming approach challenges vineyards to smartly manage their use of pesticides and fertilizers, and makes growers implement an overall initiative, through technical means and agricultural practices, to  comply with the sustainable farming standards. These standards focus on respecting the environment, managing the health of vines, and contributing to protecting the landscapes and biological diversity of the overall estate.

Photo Credit: Vins Alsace

Organic and biodynamic farming and grape-growing started to gain attention in the area since the beginning of 1970’s, when the early signs of land deterioration were sunk in: Desertification of rural areas, widened imbalance between the Northern and Southern regions, increasing consumption of energy in farming, and deterioration of soils, air, water and nature. In addition, the need to increase yields of grapes and over production of wines destroyed the balances between fauna and flora, resulting from the incresing use of pesticides by farmers and vineyards. Simultaneously, food quality, knowledge of harmful effects of pesticides on human, and land sustainability became concerns not only among the growers but the consumers. 

Photo Credit: Vins Alsace
Faced with this concerns, organic grape-growing and biodynamic farming attempts to gain a closer look at how the earth, water, plants, air, fauna and flora could healthily interact and cohabitate. Instead of fighting against the natural elements that may stunt the growth and yields of vines, farmers begin to reactivate soil life and stimulate the natural resistance of plants, becoming intune with the natural cycles. While growing grapes with the ancestral wisdom and practices is still important, adopting to organic and biodynamic farming practices becomes an integral part of their modern winemaking process. Winemakers notably manage their vines using zero to minimal chemical fertilizers or synthetic pesticides, gaining regulatory and commercial approvals and recognition. Let's take a look at how three of the pioneers - DOMAINE FREDERIC MOCHEL, DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE HAAG, and DOMAINE ALFRED WANTZ, which are at different stages of their organic and biodynamic farming journey, sustain their land.

DOMAINE FREDERIC MOCHEL


Located in Traenheim, the northern part Alsace, 12 miles west of Strasbourg, the Mochel family has been living in this village that has deep wine history since 1669. As an independent winemaker, Domaine Frederic Mochel respects their terroir, harvest solely in their own vineyard, and fulfill their whole supply chain - make wines, bottle them, and sell them directly from their cellar. They are in the process of converting to organic farming and continue to respect the soils and the vines.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2015 Kaploen en conversion  
Terroir: Traenheim: north-west facing terrasse farming at the altitude between 210 and 265 meters, marly soils; Bergbieten: south and south-east facing on gentle hillside slopes between 210 and 265 meters, marl-limestone-gypsum soils.
Taste: Outstanding notes of exotic fruit and candied lemon on the nose, rich and oily mouthfeel, contrast with crisp acidity and intense fruitiness.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 en conversion  
Terroir: Traenheim and Bergbieten.
Taste: Citrus notes, white flowers aromas, intense acidity, lively and juicy, long finish.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2019 cuvée Henriette en conversion  
Terroir: Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten is located in the heart of a large natural amphitheatre in the northern part of the Alsace wine-growing area.The Altenberg hill ideally exposes to the south/south-east, protecting it from northerly winds. To the west, the Vosges form a protective barriar against excessive rain from the west. This open landscape is bathed in optimal sunlight all day long. 
Taste: Concentrated notes of minerals and and stone fruits on the nose, rich and saline on the palate, mineral and tense finish, and great cellaring potential.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2011 cuvée Henriette en conversion  
Terroir: Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten
Taste: Complex, rounded and well-balanced wine, fruity yet slightly overripe notes on the nose, lively minerality, and fresh finish.

DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE HAAG

Domaine Jean-Marie Haag, which owns around 21 acres of vineyards, is located in the decending slopes of the steep hillsides in the narrow valley called Vallée Noble, south of Colmar. The estate 
is certified in Terra Vitis, sustainable viticulture and HEV (high environmental value). To preserve the quality and true expression of grapes, the harvest of the grapes grown on the hillsides is picked exclusively by hand. The special dry climate that reigns there offers the vines a potential for over-maturity and makes it possible to produce concentrated, finesse vintages with incredible length.  


AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle Riesling 2018 HVE  
Terroir: This Riesling is planted in facing south slope in Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle. Its soils are made up of limestone (Muschelkalk) and Avoltzia sandstone (Bundsandstein), considering one of the highest Alsatian Grand Crus. 
Taste: Full mouthfeel, minerality, bold salinity, great purity, minty aromas, notes of white flower and herbal tea. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2018 Vallée Noble HVE
Terroir: This Riesling is planted in south-facing hillside parcel of the estate that has the  Avoltzia sandstone soil.
Taste: Fresh, salinity, great purity, complex aromatic expression of wild flowers. 

AOC Alsace Gewurtraminer 2019 HVE
Terroir: Planted on the south-western slope of Zinnkoepfle. 
Taste: Floral and spicy notes on the palate, full yet fresh, long, and balanced. 

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2019 HVE
Terroir: Zinnkoepfle
Taste: Aromas of very ripe black fruits, fresh mouthfeel, elegant tannins, balanced and persistent.  

DOMAINE ALFRED WANTZ


Domaine Alfred Wantz, which is located around 
Mittelbergheim consisting of AOP Alsace, AOP Alsace Grand Cru and Crémant d’Alsace, owns 31 acres of vineyards. They have produced organic wines since the 2020 vintage. The organic-farming certification is an acknowledgement of Alfred Wantz's long-term environmental commitment initiated at the end of the 90’s, when he started natural agricultural methods in grass management, ploughing, maintaining of hedgerowsthus, and promoting biodiversity. The estate nowadays adapts to new environmental challenges, reducing the effects from climate changes, while continuing the production of quality wines.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg Riesling 2019 En Conversion
Terroir: Zotzenberg sits in a basin, resting on the south side of the Mittelbergheim 320 -metre hillside. Facing east and south, it has plenty of sunshine. The soils are composed of Jurassic-period and Oligocene marls and limestones, which are drought-resistent and are easy to retain dampness.  
Taste: Aged on lees for nine months, nose nose of citrus and spices, mineral touch, powerful yet balanced, fresh acidity at the finish. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2017 Vielles Vignes En Conversion
Terroir: Produced in the estate's unique sandstone-soil vineyard.
Taste: Aged on lees for 15 months in an oak cask, floral and mineral nose, smooth and pear notes on the palate, and saline final touch.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg Sylvaner 2019 En Conversion
Terroir: Zotzenberg is the unique place where Sylvaner can succeed to the AOP Alsace Grand Cru level. This is the land of Sylvaner, where this grape manages to develop its aromatic potential to the fullest (e.g., bay leaves and verbena), and reveals the finesse and saltiness dervied from the limestone soil. 
Taste: Floral and peppery notes, pleasant and noble bitter taste, and exceptionnal structure. 

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2017 Berg "Eden" En Conversion
Terroir: Eden is a selection of Domaine Alfred Wantz's best Pinot Noir vineyards. This Pinot Noir is aged in old oak barrels for 12 months and is bottled unfiltered to preserve the pesonnality.
Taste:  Complex, rich, subtle nose of cherry and blackberry, discrete vanilia notes, spicy yet smooth notes, and well-integrated tannins. 


To read the entire trilogy of my Alsace wine blogs, check out also my blogs on Food Compatibility and Family Tradition!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

A BBQ Party Featuring Spanish, French and British Hard Ciders #WorldWineTravel

The #WorldWineTravel bloggers are tasting Spanish, French and British hard ciders, detouring the usual path of wines this month. Thank you Cam Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla to host the event and coordinating samples from Winesellers Ltd. For me, one of the lucky bloggers, let's enjoy these international ciders in a BBQ party!

The organic Black Fox Cider, which is made by the Dunkertons in Herefordshire, England, is a medium-dry cider that really allows the taste of a variety of seasonal apples to shine. While it delivers a deliciously rounded taste, the deep apple flavor, lively tangy finish and light honey hues provide a special and interesting kick to this cider. The 90% juice in this cider plus the ABV of 6.8% is most suited for a summer BBQ party during the day when people want to drink, but drink something fun, lighter...and in the case of Black Fox Cider, something better!

Dunkertons Organic Black Fox Cider (SRP$8);
Shop at Drizly
If you want a bit bubbly in your ciders, Daufresne from Normandy, France is one of the go-tos. The Daufresne Brut Cidre is produced from over 20 local apple varieties, blending apples that are sweet, tart, bitter, and fresh and giving it a unique taste of ripen apples and warm spices. With a very fine effervescence, this cider has the elegance of a Champagne, but is also fun, fresh and happy. Since the ABV is only 5%, this is light drinker's dream.

Daufresne Brut Cidre (SRP$10);
shop at Drizly
Sidra Asturiana Mayador comes from the small costal town of Villaviciosa in the Asturias region of Spain. The Sidra Espumante 2017, which is a limited production, is produced from the most coveted apple - sweet, sour and bitter from the best microclimates that favor the growth of top-quality apple groves. It's fermented in chestnut barrels for up to eight months, creating a richer mouth feel and oak scents. The medium-dry style is moderate sweet and light acidic - a definite thirst-quenching beverage in the hot summer days.

Sidra Asturiana Mayador Sidra Espumante 2017 (SRP$8); 
Shop at Drizly

The Sidra Asturiana Mayador Sidra Natural 2017 (SRP$7) delivers a more rustic version of the cider. It's produced in the traditional "en rama" style which is fermented in chestnut barrels and unfiltered, resulting in a natural still sidra with balanced dry and sour flavors. While the apple taste is still in the forefront, the hints of blossoms, lime, zest of lemon, grapfruit, ferns and grass are present and delightful. It's lighter in body, citrusy and lime-scented. I find this sidra pairs really well with salad, grilled corn on the cob and grilled peppers. 



I think I am all set for the summer with these international hard ciders. Let's check out what the other #WorldWineTravel bloggers pair the ciders with.

Alsace Wines’ Heart and Soul - Family Tradition #Winophiles #DrinkAlsace

Thanks to Teuwen Communications' recent invitation, I have recently signed up to attend the Millésimes Alsace DigiTasting in June, the first wine fair that combines real tastings and virtual meetings with vineyards and winemakers. Wine professionals were shipped with a box of four carefully curated wine samplers by each vineyard of their choice, enjoying the wines and conversations with the vineyards in the virtual wine tasting event. Via the online video and conferences, I learned about the terriors and family traditions that make Alsace wines unique, respectful and timeless. Through tasting wines from four of the oldest domaines in Alsace - DOMAINE MELANIE PFISTER, MAISON JEAN HUTTARD, LES VIGNOBLES RUHLMANN-SCHUTZ, and LEON BEYER, let's look at how family traditions, the commitments from generations after generations, and their past-down lands shape the wines they produce.
Photo Credit: Decanter.com

ALSACE WINE REGION

Alsace is located in the north east of France on the Rhine River plain, bordering Germany and Switzerland. It is globably known for its its very aromatic, floral and spicy white wines, which make up over 90% of the region’s production.  Riesling and Gewurztraminer are among the most significant yields in the production. Alsace wines are produced under three key appellations (53 Appellation D'origine Protégée): one Alsace AOP and 51 Alsace Grand Cru AOPs for both sweet or dry still white wines, and one Crémant d'Alsace AOP for sparkling.

DOMAINE MELANIE PFISTER

Mélanie Pfister is the 8th generation of Pfister family, which established in the northern part of Alsace in Dahlenheim, west of Strasbourg (capital of Alsace). The Domaine dates back to 1780 and currently owns 25 acres of vineyards. It specializes in dry Riesling and Cremant d’Alsace. Since the 2006 vintage, Mélanie took over the operation of the Domaine from her father.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Engelberg Riesling 2017 Engelberg
Terrior: The Engelberg or “angels'hill”  presents a shallow and stony topsoil, on a bedrock of oolitic limestone. 
Taste: dry balance, structured by ripe acidity, noble bitterness, underpinned with minerality, aromas of citrus, pineapple and white flowers, and a long finish.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 Berg
Terrior: The limestone structure in this Riesling driven from the peak of Dahlenheim is obvious. The forty-year-old vines give the wine great precision. 
Taste: Bright, ripe acidity, pure, mineral tension, citrus notes and fresh flowers.

AOC Alsace Assemblage 2018 Paar - Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc Blend
Terrior: Coming from the 50 years old vines.
Taste: Dry balance, deep minerality which is unusal  for this type of wine. Volume provided by Auxerrois but ripe acidity offered by Pinot Blanc. Aromas of white flowers and stone fruits, long lovely finish.

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2017 HÜT
Terrior: Stony terroir, adjunction to the GC Engelberg. Pinot Noir matures in a homogeneously, resulting in a ripe phenolic maturity
Taste: Fuller, fleshy, silky tannins resutling from the aging, notes of redberry fruits.

MAISON JEAN HUTTARD

Jean Baptiste, a young owner of vines, forests and orchards, began to make wine and sell it in 1860. The family business started then and passed down from father to son. By the end of the 40's, the Jean Huttard brand was created and the vineyard was formally established. The next generation, Jean Jacques created a viable wine-growing operation and became a pioneer in many respects: from bottling wines on premises to grassing the vines around 1950 - the infantile stage of organic viticulture. He was then one of the five historic Alsatian producers to launch the Crémant d'Alsace appellation in 1974. In the 1980s, Jean Claude and Martine took over and cultivated 20 acres of vines, becoming "Independent Winegrowers". Following his father's focus on quality, Jean Claude deliberately limits the production to make even better wines and produces micro-cuvées from specific areas. The current generation Maison Jean Huttard, along with Hélène and Antoine,  converts the land to organic since 2018, showing read commitments in respecting man, terriors and landscapes. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2017 Lerchenberg
Terrior: Lerchenberg, "the hill of the larks", is situated in Zellenberg, extending to the Grand Cru Schoenenbourg. This terroir consists of silty-sandy clay which rests on limestone marl. The rich and complex soil allows the optimum ripening of Riesling. Guyot double Poussard pruning and strict disbudding of the buds allows the reduction of yields, the distribution of the sap flow, the conservation of plant capital and the sustainability of the land. 
Taste: Citrus aromas with remarkable finesse, floral notes of white flowers and minerality on the nose, structured wine with a tad freshness, oily clementine skin, finishing with substantial minerality. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 Zellenberg
Terrior: The Riesling vines are 40 years old. The terroir of these four plots of Zellenberg is mainly clay and limestone, infusing the wines with significant minerality. 
Taste: Strong expression of fruity aromas, great finesse, minerality that reflects the terroirs, notes of white flowers and lemon on the nose.

AOC Alsace Sylvaner 2019 Zellenberg
Terrior: The Riesling vines are 60 years old. The terroir of these four plots of Zellenberg is mainly clay and limestone, infusing the wines with significant minerality. This wine is the impression of the landscape and the reflection of the singularity of the terroirs.
Taste: Superb aromatic complexity, full maturity, volumous and fresh, highly gastronomic.

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2019 L'etreinte 
Terrior: The grapes come from three parcels characterized by clay-limestone soils. They face south-east and benefit from full sunshine. 
Taste: Aromas of red fruits, numerous tannins, full-bodied, roasted coffee, chocolate.

LES VIGNOBLES RUHLMANN-SCHUTZ

It was back in 1688 that a Hungarian knight named Ruhlmann began cultivating vines in Dambach-la-Ville. Beginning in the 1960's, Jean-charles Ruhlmann and his partner Marthe started growing grapes and produced their first commerical harvest. Nowadays, the Ruhlmann-Schutz estate cultivates 125 acres of vineyards. The richness and diversity of the terroirs allows the family to create a generous collection of Alsace fine wines, from Alsace traditional wines to Grand Cru Frankstein or Muenchberg. The family is also well known for its Crémant d'Alsace. Today, the third generation of the family composed by Jacques-Emile and Louise-Anne Ruhlmann and Thomas & Antoine Schutz is now taking over the estate. The estate is in conversion to organic farming.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Frankstein Riesling 2018 Hve
Terrior: The Riesling rapes are from exceptional granitic soils in the Frankstein, yielding  top-notched grapes that have an crystalline golden color appearance.
Taste: Outstanding notes of citrus fruits, stunning minerality, prolonged aftertaste.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2018 Rittersberg - Scherwiller Granit "S" Hve
Terrior: The grapes are planted below the medieval ruins of the Ortenbourg de Scherwiller, with a south-east exposure, enjoying constant sunshine on a granite terroir. 
Taste: Outstanding richness and oily texture, perfect minerality, hints of citrus fruits and lemons.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Frankstein Riesling 2018 Hve
Terrior: The Riesling rapes are from exceptional granitic soils in the Frankstein, yielding  top-notched grapes that have an crystalline golden color appearance.
Taste: Outstanding notes of citrus fruits, stunning minerality, prolonged aftertaste.

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2016 Cuvée a L'Ancienne Élevé en Barrique Hve
Terrior: This Pinot Noir comes from a clay-limestone terroir. The vines are planted in the middle of the slopes and their roots are very deep. The work of the soil is done in alternation. 
Taste: Slight headiness as of polished old furniture, hints of woody and cherry on the nose, fresh, sinuous and elegant, gentle grip of tannin.  

LEON BEYER

The Maison Léon Beyer is one of the oldest vineyards in the region, dating back 1580 in Eguisheim. In 1867, Emile Beyerfounded the "Maison de Vin d'Alsace" (the Alsace wine house, currently run by Léon Beyer, who took over the reins from his father Léon Beyer senior in 1959, and his son Marc. This family business, now in its 14th generation, owns some of the most renowned terroirs in Alsace. A large portion of the vineyards are in the "Grands Crus" sites of Pfersigberg and Eichberg. Wines are produced using a combination of traditional expertises and state-of-the-art equipment, setting the higest standards of quality Alsace wines that are appreciated globally.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Eichberg Riesling 2015 R De Beyer Conventionnel
Terrior: Grapes are cultivated on the best slopes of Eichberg and the surrounding area are the raw material from which are made the prestigious Alsace wines. 
Taste: Deep, rich, full-bodied, intense, juicy, fine and flinty aroma with pithy flavors, green and yellow flavors due to schist in the ground, and cellaring potential 

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Pfersigberg Riesling 2013 Comtes D'eguisheim Conventionnel 
Terrior: Grapes are cultivated on the best slopes of Pfersigberg and the surrounding area are the raw material from which are made the prestigious Alsace wines. 
Taste: Perfumed nose of green apple, nectarine, quince, hamomile and minerals, multilayered and complex flavors of orchard fruits, chewy extract, and finishes with bright lemony acidity and resonating minerality. 

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Eichberg Pinot Gris 2016 Comtes D'eguisheim Conventionnel 
Terrior: Eichberg. 
Taste: Rich, exotic aromas of truffle, underbrush, tropical fruit, caramel and honey, dense, juicy and rich, velvety flavors, long finish, bright and creamy, with candied pomaceous fruit note. 

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Eichberg Pinot Noir 2016 Comtes D'eguisheim Conventionnel 
Terrior: Made from 35- to 40-year-old vines that border the Eichberg. Aged 50% in used French barriques, the rest in stainless steel. 
Taste: Aromas of dark berries, black cherry, violet and flint, juicy and nicely precise, energetic blueberry and dark red cherry flavors, a tad powdered stone, textured mouthfeel and a hint of flintiness. 

To read the entire trilogy of my Alsace wine blogs, check out also my blogs on Land Sustainability and Food Compatibility!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Alsace Wines’ Heart and Soul - Land Sustainability, Family Tradition and Food Compatibility #Winophiles #DrinkAlsace


I had attended the Millésimes Alsace DigiTasting® in June, which was not only a fun virtual event to taste so many wines from Alsace, France at the comfort of my own home, but also a fantastic opportunity to learn about the heart and soul of Alsace wines - Land Sustainability, Family Tradition and Food Compatibility. I went deep-dive into how sustainability gains momentum in Alsace, where 32% of the vineyard acres practices organic farming and over 4% of the acres are certified biodynamic in 2020. DOMAINE FREDERIC MOCHEL, DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE HAAG, and DOMAINE ALFRED WANTZ, which are at different stages of the organic and biodynamic journey, are featured in my "Land Sustainability" blog. Like a lot of domaines in France where winemaking is a family tradition, what makes the Alsace wine stories particularly engaging are the family-run businesses' willingness to modernize while continuing with the practice of ancestral wisdom. DOMAINE MELANIE PFISTER, MAISON JEAN HUTTARD, LES VIGNOBLES RUHLMANN-SCHUTZ, and LEON BEYER, which are featured in my "Family Tradition" blog, are some of the domaines that pass down the know-how of winemaking from generations after generations, as far back as from the 16th century, but still don't lose sight of tuning into the changing environments and consumers. In this blog, I'll get to do the most exciting part of the Alsace wine journey, enjoying Alsace wines and see how these wines take the centerstage of the recent causal elegant dining trends, which vegan, vegetarian, lighter foods, fresher alternatives, and ethnic cuisines are cool to serve at home and in causal restaurant settings. FRANÇOIS SCHMITT, SIPP MACK VINS D'ALSACE and MAISON PIERRE SPARR are some of the producers who beautifully showcase their wines with a gastronomic mind. Thanks to the Alsace wine samples provided by Teuwen Communications, I also get to taste some additional fantastic Alsace wines like the Domaine Andre Kientzler Riesling 2018, Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2018 and Domaine Barmès-Buecher - Crèmant d'Alsace 2018. Without further ado, let's taste the wines...

FRANÇOIS SCHMITT

François Schmitt, which owns around 33 acres of the vineyards, is located at Orschwihr nested on the south of Alsace's wine route, on the hillside of Bollenberg and Grand Cru Pfingstberg,  where limestone and clay soils are in the former village and sandstone and limestone soils are in the latter. Their philosophy is to let the wines express the terroir, through the practice of organic and biodynamic agriculture. 

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Pfingstberg Riesling 2017 Paradis Biodynamie
Taste: Minerality, texture, and salty finish.
Food Compatibility: Grilled or stir-fried vegetable medley, lightly fried seafood with mildly spicy aioli dipping sauces.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 Effenberg Biodynamie
Taste: Pronounced acidity, lemony, dense and complex palate.
Food Compatibility: Grilled or steamed shrimp, fish, clams, oysters, Korean seafood pancake

AOC Alsace Sylvaner 2019 Effenberg Biodynamie
Taste: Fresh, semi-dry, fuller-bodied, complex palate.
Food Compatibility: Thai stir-fried noodles such as Drunken Noodle, Pad Thai, Vietnamese lemon grass grilled shrimp or chicken.

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2019 Bollenberg Coeur De Bollenberg Biodynamie
Taste: Ripe and juicy fruit, dense and supple tannins, and oaky notes.
Food Compatibility: Soya-sauced braised chicken, Peking duck, cold noodles with shredded chicken.


SIPP MACK VINS D'ALSACE

The Sipp Mack Winery is nestled at the summit of Hunawihr, a picturesque wine village between Ribeauvillé and Riquewihr. Today, the family winery is run by Jacques and Laura Sipp and their daughter, Carolyn who joined the team since 2009. The family’s mission is to produce top-notched organic Alsace wines that express their varietal character consistently. The 63 acres of vineyards are predominantly calcareous clay soils indigenous to in Hunawihr, Ribeauvillé and Bergheim. The winery’s flagship wines are from the Grands Crus Rosacker and OsterbergIn excellent years, the winery also produces Late Harvest wines.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2016 Rosacker Bio
Taste: Notes of flint on the nose, fresh red apple notes, zest of lemon, complex palate.
Food Compatibility: Mini Chinese puffs with ground curry beef, mini vegetable quiche, fried shrimp toast.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2018 Vieilles Vignes Bio
Taste: Lovely lemon blossom aromes on the nose, lively mouthfeel, a touch of minerality.
Food Compatibility: Chinese dim sum, fried tofu cubes with soya dipping sauce, sweet potato fries. 

AOC Alsace Gewurztraminer 2018 Vieilles Vignes Bio
Taste: Exotic fruit and rose on the nose, juicy mouth of lychees and mangoes, semi-dry. 
Food Compatibility: Spicy Korean chicken wings, Thai pineapple fried rice, Vietnamese summer shrimp roll with spicy and sour dipping sauce.

AOC Alsace Pinot Blanc 2019 Tradition Bio
Taste: Dry Pinot Blanc with apricot and citrus notes, long final with a crisp acidity. 
Food Compatibility: Steamed oyster with ginger and scallion, hummus with pita chips.

MAISON PIERRE SPARR

Maison Pierre Sparr is located in the heart of the Alsace wine region. While the domaine has 38 acres of its own vineyards, they also souce grapes from 325 acres of land managed by other experienced growers. The diversity of grapes from various combinations of soils and terriors propel a large porfolio of wines by Maison Pierre Sparr, ranging from sparkling Crémant, Late Harvests, Noble Rots, Clos Sainte Odile to high-end Grands Crus and fitting all the gastronomic needs and consumer budgets. The taste of the folllowing wines in the Maison Pierre Sparr attest to how food-friendly these wines are. In fact, Maison Pierre Sparr's website does offer great wine pairings to the foods and trends (i.e., Aperitif, fish and shellfish, poultry and white meatthat would impress even the pickiest foodies. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 Sol Calcaire Raisonnée
Taste: Dry and elegant wine with hints of minerality, well-balanced and long lasting finish.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 Raisonnée
Taste: Aromas of fine minerals, ripe voluminous body on the palate.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Mambourg Gewurztraminer 2018 Raisonnée
Taste: Expressive spices and fruit aromas, balanced sweet and acidity.

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2018 Clos Sainte Odile
Taste: Well-structured, red fruits on the nose, tart cranberry note on the palate.
Kientzler Riesling 2018 (SRP$19); Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2018 (SRP$17); Domaine Barmès-Buecher - Crèmant d'Alsace 2018 (SRP$24)
- Widely Available in US (sales links below) 

Taste: Elegant floral and mineral notes,  full, ripe pear palate with lemon freshness, vibrant acidity,  fresh, dry, with a pure, tangy finish.

Taste: Distinctive acidity and fruit, slightly sharp pear fruit and petrol on the nose, sweet and sour chewy pear and mildly sweet white grapefruit flavor on the palate. 

Taste: This sparkler is a blend Pinot Gris 48%, Auxerrois 36%, and Chardonnay 16%. Bright, medium bodied, refreshing citrus, charming textures, fringed with brioche, meringue, and jasmine-blossom tea.

To enjoy more wines from Alsace, check out #Winophiles bloggers' Wine of Alsace posts...

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Dry Lambrusco from Riunite with One-Person Shabu-Shabu Dinner #ItalianFWT

Riunite Movendo Lambrusco Dell'Emilia: Dry, not sweet, ABV 11%, fruity with spice notes

Riunite Lambrusco has been a controversial wine in the US. It was a 'sweet' brainchild in the 70's and 80's by a few wine producers from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, catering to the export market of America and creating an amabile-styled Lambrusco wine that suited to American tastes of the time. While a lot of US consumers back then loved this wine for its sweetness, easy-drinking, affordability and popularity brought by its catchy commercials, some did not like this 'Kool-Aid' wine. Many Lambrusco producers from Emilia-Romagna denounced this marketing and export scheme and found it simply hurting the Lambrusco tradition which wines can also be dry or off dry. Putting all the controversies aside, Susannah Gold from Avvinare invited the #ItalianFWT bloggers to celebrate the National Lambrusco Day on June 21st, a bit ahead of schedule, with a glass of Lambrusco of our choice. I was so luck to find a 'surprise' bottle of dry, non-sweet Riunite Lambrusco Dell'Emilia and enjoyed it with a one-person Shabu Shabu dinner. 

Riunite Lambrusco with Shabu Shabu Dinner

This Riunite Movendo Lambrusco Dell'Emilia, which has a ABV of 11%, was a mystery to me as it was the only bottle, somewhat dusty,  sitting at the lowest shelf of a tiny wine store in southern New Jersey. The tasting notes at the back of the bottle offers big promises, "flavor in motion...each vivacious sip offers black-fruit flavor...spice notes." With my predisposition of what a typical Riunite Lambrusco was, the historic controversy around this brand, the very marketing tasting notes, and for a retail price of $9, I was sold on the spot!

Easy to do Shabu Shabu meal for one person with this small electric pot
This dry Riunite Lambrusco in fact is a decent table wine. It's a truly dry Lambrusco that has notes of cherry, plum and cinnamon. It is less fizzy than the other Lambruscos I enjoyed in the past. I would definitely pour it in summer parties. But for now, I enjoyed this Lambrusco with a one-person Shabu Shabu dinner. 

Fast-cooking food like sliced meats, seafoods, tofu puffs are great in hotpot
Shabu Shabu means hotpot meals in Japanese. The raw sliced meats, seafoods, noodles and vegetables of your choice are cooked in the boiling water right at the dining table, dipping the cooked food in a wide variety of sauces like chili oil, garlic and scallion infused soya sauce, and hoisin. The process of hotpot meal which cooks the food at the table and eats it at the same time may not make a lot of sense to some people. But hotpot culture especially in Asia such as China, Japan and Korea is a food tradition that is embraced in friends and family gatherings. All year around, people sit around the dining table at home or in hotpot-themed restaurants, spend time cooking the food in the large hotpot, and enjoy each others' company for hours. Practically speaking, when I traveled in China a few years ago, hotpot meals were the only thing that my family felt safe to eat at times.

Pre-made peanut butter based dipping sauce from Little Fat Lamb can be easily purchased in Asian grocery store
My family likes (vs loves) Shabu Shabu and can mostly eat it in the winter. I, however, love it, all seasons around, and there seems to be a lot of prepped work...taking out the family-sized large pot and the portable stove just for a one-person meal. I was so happy to find the electric one-person pot in Amazon. With the chilled Lambrusco and air-conditioning, my Shabu Shabu diet will be even easier this summer.

To celebrate the National Lambrusco Day, let's check out which Lambrusco my blogger friends are drinking:

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Learning Spain - Aragon's Four Wine Regions: Carinena, Somontano, Calatayud, and Campo De Borja Through Eight Wines #WorldWineTravel

Al Gairen Selection Sommelier's Garnacha Blend from Carinena with a Grilled Steak
Spain will be opening up to US tourists in June for post COVID 19 pandemic travel. People, who are itching to resume wine tourism, for just a little bit longer, will continue to have a bit relief on the virtual #WorldWineTravel to Spain. Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on a Farm invited the bloggers to explore the wine regions of Aragon, an underrated wine region that produces quality wines at  great price points. Although Aragon may not be everyone's top places to visit in Spain, there are many sight-seeing spots in the capital, Zaragoza and nearby towns to explore, plus the bonuses of its diverse wine and food scenes

Photo Credit: https://www.aragonwineexpert.com/

ARAGON TERROIRS 
Aragon, which is located in the northeast of Spain, consists of four wine DOs (Denominación de Origen): Carinena, Somontano, Campo de Borja, and Calatayud. The climate in Aragon wine region is considered as moderate continental, but changes drastically from one end to another because of the mesoclimates (i.e., in-between macroclimate and microclimate) created by the terrains around and in-between the Pyrenees mountains in the north and the Iberic mountains in the south. The eastward-flowing Ebro River and the large Ebro Valley area lie in the middle of Aragon, sandwiched by the mountains.

North: Pyrenees mountains, South: Iberic mountains, Middle: Ebro River and Ebro Valley; Photo Credit: Maphill.com
Although the temperature can drop drastically in the areas closer to the Pyrenees, the areas that are closer to the Monegros desert could have an unbearable heat spike. Given the wide range of grape-growing conditions attributed by the altitude spectrum, vineyards that are affected by the various mesoclimates, yield a diverse portfolio of wines in spite of all being under the overarching wine producing region, Aragon. The most typical grape in the region nowadays is Garnacha, due to market demand and strong adaptability of the grape to the local growing conditions. Other popular varieties grown in the region include Aragon-indigenous grapes like Carinena, Parraleta, Macabeo, Alcanan, Moscatel, as well as non-Aragon natives like Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Gewurztraminer. 

DO CARINENA

The majority of Carinena's vineyards are situated at relatively high altitudes, between 1,300ft and 2,600ft. The continental climate is coupled with extreme seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations - namely the the cold northerly winds and warmer summer temperatures. The climate builds intensity to the local grapes, especially the indigenous Carinena grape, which gives the name to the town. Garnacha, which is today's most flavored grape there, also expresses big flavor and intensity due to the landscape. Carinena is a black-skinned wine grape variety and has become a common grape for blending in other other Spanish wine regions like Rioja and Priorat or in France. While Carinena vines can usually produce very large yields, it’s somewhat vulnerable to damages caused by mildew and rot.  Wines produced from old vines of Carinena are of much higher quality than the ones made from young vines.  

Carinena grape clusters; Photo Credit: winetraveler.com

DO SOMONTANO
Being in the mountain range, many mesoclimates emerge in Somontano due to the variation of altitudes. Vineyards that are located on high-altitude slopes benefit from intense summer daytime heat and low night-time temperatures, allowing their grapes to strike a balance of residual sugar and acidity. Vineyards at the foothills are cooled by winds traveling down from the mountains, but are also affected by the heat from the hot summer day temperatures that can climb up to 95 Fahrenheit. Unlike the rest of Aragon, Somontano is greener and lusher due to the more frequent and heavier rainfall and an abundance of rivers and creeks intertwined in the region. Enriched soils consists of clay, sandstone and reddish brown soil. Somontano is famed for rustic reds made of Moristel, Parraleta, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha, and Syrah. Its whites, Gewurztraminer, Macabeo, and Chardonnay are also fancied by wine lovers.


DO CALATAYUD

The climate in Calatayud is continental, with extremely hot and dry summers. This effect, nevertheless, is moderated by the high altitude of vineyards that are situated on the south-facing slopes of the Sierra de la Virgen mountain range. Some of these vineyards reach 2625 ft above sea level. Frosts in extreme winters can set in for months, damaging the vines. Most vineyards sit on loose, rocky soils, and limestone, with naturally good drainage. Due to the harsh climate, yields are typically very low, which adds to the scarcity and quality of the wines. Calatayud is renowned for its big and bold red wines, mostly made from Garnacha grapes. Garnacha represents more than three-quarters of vineyard plantings in this region. Tempranillo and Mazuelo are the other main red varieties, while the region's fresh crisp whites are made of Macabeo, Malvasia and Chardonnay. The Garnacha-based rosado (rose) is also popular in this region.


DO CAMPO DE BORJA

Campo de Borja's altitude shapes the characteristics of the wines. Vineyards around Pozuelo de Aragon and Magallon, which are low-lying between 1150ft and 1500ft, have Garnacha ripened early and produce structured wines which have higher alcohol. Most of the vines, which are at middle-elevation between 1500ft and 1800ft, are planted on mild slopes with high exposure to the sun, producing juicier and intense wines. The highest vineyards, on the slopes of the Moncayo at elevations of up to 1800ft, are at the coolest climate, and produce wines that are delicate, leaner, and balanced. Rain is scarce throughout Campo de Borja. The vines are susceptive to damages from spring frosts and cold northerly winds. The soils of Campo de Borja, which all provide good drainage and nutrients to the vines, drive its wine styles. The low-lying areas have brown limestone soils. The middle areas' soils are made up of deposited stones and iron-rich clay. The highest elevations, in the Moncayo foothills, are rocky and rich in iron and lime. 


8 WINES TO EXPERIENCE THE REGIONS

SRP: $10
Grape: red blend, mainly Garnacha 
Palate: Aromas of smoky wood, pencil lead, spice, lavender, black berries, structured, medium-bodied.  
Overall: a table wine that you get the best bang for your buck. It's ideal with a simple red-meat dish such as grilled steaks, beef stir-fried or cubed lamb skewer. 
SRP: $50
Grape: 60% Garnacha, 20% Vidadillo, and 20% Carinena, sourced from a single 100-year-old vineyard 
Palate: black cherry, cinnamon, clove, leather, black licorice, firm tannins, and bright acidity.
Overall: This is a serious red wine that will please a lot of wine lovers. 

SRP: $15
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: mineral, white pepper, lavender, and cherry, excellent depth and grip, and impeccable balance.
Overall: A serious wine at a bargain price 

SRP: $39
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: ripe black fruits, black licorice, smoky wood, and violets, full-bodied, concentrated, and opulent on the palate, a great long finish
Overall: A memorial wine that represents the bold reds of the region 
SRP: $12
Grape: Chardonnay
Palate: apple, peach, fennel, guava, passion fruit, with a tad minerality, fruity, and a long crisp clean finish.
Overall: A unique Chardonnay that pairs well with lightly spicy Asian dishes 

SRP: $16
Grape: Cab Sauvignon
Palate: dark berries, hint of vanilla, bright and vivid acidity despite of the vintage, toasty notes, medium tannins, long and persistent finish
Overall: A wine that goes well with aged cheese will be a crowd pleaser among red wine drinkers

SRP: $14
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: rich, abundance of raspberry, earthy, slightly smoky, a punctuating finish
Overall: A big and flavorful Grenache that goes well with meat stews

SRP: $24
Grape: Garnacha
Palate: cherry preserve, balsamic notes, cocoa and toasty flavors, oaky, rich, velvety, and balance
Overall: A great Grenache that expresses the style of wines from the region 

Let's travel with the rest of the #WorldWineTravel and see where in Aragon they are heading to