As days grow longer, we find ourselves turning towards lighter menu options, which in turn set us thinking about white wine. One of our go-to spots for complex whites that are terrific for drinking on their own but also pair well with a wide range of foods is Alsace, in the northeast corner of France. With about 1,000 producers making wine from several aromatic white varieties, Alsace offers a lot of choice. The cream of the crop from this narrow 75-mile-long region along the Rhine River, just across from Germany, come from 51 grand cru vineyards. Covering hillside sites that offer the best sun exposure and ideal growing conditions, vineyards that were first given official status in 1975 have been home to wine of great renown for hundreds of years.
Its proximity to Germany is the reason that so many of the family-owned winery names as well as varieties grown here such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer here have Germanic rather than Gallic origins. Pinot Gris, which is French through and through but is also cultivated in Germany, is at home in Alsace as well. Aromatic whites are those that have notes of floral and spice in their bouquet in addition to stone fruit and citrus flavors. For the most part, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris from here are dry, but even those with higher residual sugar exhibit vivid acidity that keeps them from seeming overly sweet. This brilliant acidity is also one of the reasons that these wines age so well; far from being easy-drinking whites meant to be consumed young, they will last for years if stored properly and bring joy to your palate in years to come. You will note some slightly older vintages among our picks; while these are drinking well now, they still have plenty of life left in them.
Dry Riesling is terrific with anything breaded and fried, including Wiener schnitzel and fried chicken. It’s also terrific with sushi and mixed raw bar. Riesling with a touch of residual sugar works well with foods that combine sweet and spicy elements such as General Tso’s chicken or shrimp with sweet chili sauce. Gewürztraminer’s more floral profile and notes of ginger make it a natural alongside chicken tagine, pork fried rice, or green curries. Although Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, Pinot Gris from Alsace is made in a complex, mineral-driven style. The classic pairing is flammekueche, a local pizza-like flatbread topped with cheese, onion, and bacon, but we also enjoy it with fondue, raclette, or spicy dishes like tandoori chicken or even buffalo wings. These wines are also go nicely with green salads that include cheese and fruit among their ingredients. Here are nine whites from Alsace to help you welcome spring.
Domaine Marcel Deiss 2017 Mambourg Grand Cru Alsace
Mambourg’s reputation dates to 783 AD; during the Middle Ages it belonged to monasteries and vines were tended by monks. This multi-variety field blend of white grapes is fermented and aged in barrels for 12 months and has floral, stone fruit, and baking spice aromas. It is generous in the mouth with amazing roundness and bright acidity and flavors of yellow peach, ripe apricot, and jasmine. An excellent wine to pair with spicy food.
Domaine Zind Humbrecht 2020 Hengst Grand Cru Gewürztraminer
Translated roughly as “stallion” in local dialect, the vines of the Hengst are situated on a steep southeast facing slope near the village of Wintzenheim in Alsace. The vines are 69 years old and produce concentrated, flavorful grapes. This wine is pale gold in color with aromas of Bartlett pears, ginger, white peach, and cinnamon. It is soft on entry, with voluptuous body and flavors of citrus blossom, white stone fruits, and dried sage. The winemaker is quick to note that although the wine has 16.5 grams of residual sugar it does not taste sweet; in fact, the sugar contributes to the generous mouthfeel. Drink now or through the next two decades.
Trimbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 2013
The Trimbach family has been making wine since 1626, spanning 13 generations and almost four centuries. This wine is a tribute to the Lords of Ribeaupierre who ruled over Alsace during the Middle Ages. It has amazing youthfulness for a 10-year-old wine, with aromas of tropical fruits, fresh ginger, ripe summer peach, and rose petal and flavors of nectarine, caramelized pineapple, and honeysuckle. Enjoy now or hold; in our opinion it will continue to improve over the next 10 years.
Albert Boxler 2015 Grand Cru Brand Riesling Alsace
This luscious wine is made by Jean Boxler using grapes from the renowned Grand Cru Brand vineyard. His grandfather Albert started the estate after World War II and became the first generation of Boxlers to sell the family wine commercially. It is straw colored in the glass with aromas of Fuji apple, Meyer lemon, and white citrus blossoms and has racy acidity with flavors of Anjou pear, lemon zest, and brown baking spices. Drink now or over the course of this decade.
Jean-Baptiste Adam 2016 Vieilles Vignes Le Riesling Kaefferkopf Alsace
Grapes used to produce this enchanting Riesling come from the Kaefferkopf Grand Cru. It has an enticing bouquet of acacia honey, honeysuckle blossom, and caramelized orange peel. There is elegant texture in the midpalate with flavors of yellow peach, dried mango, and guava. The finish is round with a touch of crisp acidity in the post palate.
Hugel 2013 Grossi Laüe Pinot Gris Alsace
This delectable wine is made from 100 percent Pinot Gris grapes grown on the Hugel estate. The harvest started on October 1 and was a classic with healthy, well-balanced grapes. Golden straw colored in the glass this Pinot Gris has aromas of flint, ripe stone fruits, and guava with flavors of tropical fruits, caramelized pineapple, and tarte Tatin. It has bright acidity and full mouth roundness and a persistent finish. It’s drinking beautifully right now so enjoy right away or over the next few years.
Pierre Sparr 2016 Grand Cru Mambourg Pinot Gris Alsace
With 33 grams of residual sugar per liter, this delightful Pinot Gris is considered sweet, but thanks to its bright acidity it tastes very balanced and is not cloying on the palate. Aged in stainless steel tanks for eight to 10 months it has aromas of white flowers, ripe apricot, toasted hazelnut, and canned peaches in the complex bouquet. It is very well structured with good mouthfeel and flavors of nectarine, caramelized orange peel, and beeswax.
Domaines Schlumberger 2015 Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris Alsace
Pinot Gris grapes for this delicious wine are grown in the town of Schimberg in the Guebwiller Valley. After fermentation and pneumatic pressing the wine is allowed to rest on its lees for just about 7 months. It is golden yellow in color with aromas of almond blossom, Tangerine zest, toasted hazelnut, and a touch of freshly picked anise. In the mouth there are flavors of Fuji apple and candied orange peel with a lingering note of licorice root in the long, long finish.
Domaine Weinbach 2019 Clos de Capucins Cuvée Colette Riesling Alsace
The estate currently known as Domaine Weinbach has had vines planted since the ninth century and was first established as a winery by Capuchin monks in 1612. Today it is run by Catherine Faller and her two sons Eddy and Théo using biodynamic and organic methods. This exquisite wine is light gold in color with aromas of honeysuckle and jasmine blossoms, anise fronds, and yellow peach. There are flavors of apricot, quince, and nectarine on the midpalate with well-structured minerality and balanced acidity. Drink now or lay down for a decade or so.