Alsace is a white wine lover’s paradise. Red grapes may not perform well here, but so many different white grapes do that vineyard maps of this region of France near the German border can look like artful abstract mosaics. Their wines can taste as wildly different as funk tunes and waltzes sound.
Here, French grapes like pinot gris and pinot blanc grow alongside German varieties like riesling and gewürztraminer, and all come in the tall, gracefully fluted bottle associated with German styles. Alsace has its own unique take on each grape, though, which can flummox even the most experienced wine drinkers. Grapes associated with sweet wines, like riesling and muscat, are almost always fermented dry in Alsace, while grapes like pinot gris that are more often dry elsewhere frequently feature a peachy sheen of sweetness.
Alsace wine labels are an exception to the French rule in that most name their grape variety as well as their regional appellation, and this is doubly true for the very finest wines. But the region does have a long history of making delightfully fragrant white blends with up to eight local grapes, which sometimes carry the local moniker “gentil,” or “nice” in French. This cheerfully labeled version from Hugel is one of the best examples of this style available in the United States, and also one of the driest. Featuring a delightful floral fragrance of jasmine or mimosa blossoms and a tart, clean finish like that of ripe nectarines, it is hard to beat as a partner for seafood and white meats and makes a remarkable partner for highly seasoned foods like curries and sausages.
Hugel “Gentil” White Blend Alsace, France; $13.99 (sale price through Sept. 29, regularly priced $15.99); PLCB Item #5259.