Receding Snow Banks & Alsatian Pinot Blancs

April 22, 2013

Hope may spring eternal, but the short span of springtime in northern climes, is a brief and wondrous space of renewal which sprouts between the stark blanket of winter which melts into the muck of mud season, and the lush, humid, hot stank of summer.  As soon as the weather starts warming up, the neighborhood birds start returning, and filling their nests with broods.  Their eggs are symbols of vernal return, hence the recently celebrated season of the Easter Egg.  I get a lot of press releases and Public Relations mail from the wino-sphere, many of which are uninteresting, poorly written, and register a big goose-egg on my ratings scale.  However, I recently received a mailing that did give me hope, for both the better weather, and the quality of wine communications.

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A simple and straightforward email arrived from folks at Wines of Alsace touting the virtues and pleasures of Pinot Blanc, as well as how well the wines pair with egg based dishes, including a few meal preparation ideas.  The quiche with grilled ramps was what caught my attention, because every year I look forward to the wild ramp emergence along stream banks and in forest glades here in central Vermont.  We are also eager egg eaters because of our easy access to fresh free range product from neighbors and local producers alike.  Good eggs are a very affordable, delectable source of high quality protein along with Omega-3 fatty acids, and they can be prepared in a myriad of delicious ways.  I was happy to be reminded of warmer days around the corner, and sent a thank you note in reply, in which a conversation ensued, and some samples of Pinot Blanc arrived right around the equinox.

Spring may be in the air, but on the north sides of building, the last snow piles still are making their final retreat.  It’s still a little early for the wild ramps, but nonetheless, we assembled a tasting panel to evaluate a flight of Alsatian wines. We do not like to taste in a sterile environment, especially with wines that show well with food, so we prepared some tasty fare to accompany the evaluation.  Baguettes, local cheeses, olives, a fine cassoulet from Quebec, and I made a large frittata with potatoes, mushrooms, leeks, and some French garlic sausage from D’Artagnan that I had been eyeing for some time.

A couple of us on the panel have familiarity with Alsatian wines, due to local and internet purchases from the likes of Hugel, Pierre Sparr, Gerard Metz, having met Eva from Frederic Mallo, as well as finding Sipp-Mack via a neighbor who has a childhood connection with the estate.  I pulled a couple of bottles from the cellar to taste alongside samples of Hugel, Paul Blanck, and Domaines Schlumberger.  Those in our group who had not yet been exposed to Alsace, were universally impressed both by the quality of the wines, and by the affordability of the pricing.  The wines are listed below with their order in our relative ranking, but I will say, the data showed a very close grouping, and higher than average scores for all.  Safe to say, those who tasted on this evening, will likely be adding Alsace to their spring shopping lists.

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