Plus: An orange wine and a crémant that will be coming soon to U.S. shores.
My palate surprised me in Alsace. A lot of the assumptions I’ve had about certain types of wines, like Gewurztraminer and natural wines in general were all flipped upside down as I tasted through the region. My normal go-tos from Alsace were of course be a good, austere, mineral Riesling, but Pinot Gris? Orange wine? Riesling from volcanic soils?! Everything about what my palate preferred was met with a wine that completely flipped any preconceived notions I had about it. Alsace wines, as it turns out, have a much greater diversity than I anticipated they would.
Read on for some of my favorite wines from Alsace, including links to buy them stateside.
1. André Kientzler, Grand Cru Kirchberg Pinot Gris 2017 ($60 from Saratoga Wine)
Kientzler was the Alsatian producer that got me started on an Alsace kick years ago, so a visit here was be top of mind. I’d admittedly only had a few of their Grand Cru Rieslings in the past so I was looking forward to trying more varieties. The Grand Cru Kirchberg Pinot Gris 2017 did not disappoint. This is a wine that’s meant for fish and fleshier seafoods – I could easily imagine it pairing perfectly with grilled shrimp at our next barbecue. It was brighter than many of the other Pinot Gris I tasted in Alsace, but not overly fleshy, either. I fell in love with its white peach, pear, and yellow apple aromas, all of which were backed up with minerality from the calcareous marl on the Kirchberg.
2. Domaine Weinbach’s MFØ Macération Furstentum Ø Intrant 2021 Orange Wine (Not yet available stateside but it is coming soon!)
Interesting things are happening at Domaine Weinbach. Eddy & Theo, Catherine’s sons, are taking a bit of a more experimental approach to certain cuvées. MFØ is one such example. As Eddy told me during the tasting, “We wanted to make a natural, skin-contact wine that we actually wanted to drink.” MFØ is 2/3 Gewurztraminer and 1/3 Pinot Gris, but it is unlike any other combination of these grapes you’ve likely ever had. It was beautifully fragrant – but not wild or perfumed like many traditional Gewurztraminers are. Full of orange peel, white flowers, and vegetal notes, this is an exceptionally gourmand wine that is dying to be paired with food. Think delicate lobster or tom yum Thai soup. When this one hits the U.S. market, I predict it won’t last long.
3. Domaine Weinbach’s Grand Cru Schlossberg 2020 ($80, Schneider’s)
It’s hard to pick a favorite grand cru expression from Weinbach. In my wine-tasting notes, I have a “favorite” label on no less than five of their Grand Crus from Schlossberg, Furstentum, and Altenbourg. Yet, the Grand Cru Schlossberg wines from Weinbach are perhaps the most indicative of Weinbach’s exceptional house-style. These are elegant, balanced wines that are equal parts white pear and mineral driven. Weinbach owns 12 hectares on the Schlossberg, and you can see the hill directly from the property and tasting room. If ever there was one producer from which you should buy Grand Cru Schlossberg, it would have to be Weinbach.
4. Trimbach Frédéric Emile Riesling 2011 ($79 from Wine.com)
I was lucky enough to taste a few vintages of the Frédéric Emile Riesling and while I enjoyed them all – those with about a decade of age on them were among my favorites, like this 2011. The cuvée is named after Frédéric Emile Trimbach, who is credited as being the family member that put Trimbach on the map globally thanks to his marketing savoir-faire. The cuvée is a blend of Rieslings from two different grand cru parcels: Geisberg and Osterberg. Frédéric Emile is rumored to have identified the potential in these two sites before the official appellations came along. While Clos Sainte Hune gets all the celebrity, the Frédéric Emile shouldn’t be too far behind. A complex, beautifully gold Riesling, I got notes of apricot, roasted yellow pear, a bit of candied lemon, and of course Alsace’s trademark minerality.
5. Albert Boxler Brand Grand Cru Pinot Gris ($84 from Mr. D’s Wine)
This list simply wouldn’t be complete without a favorite from Albert Boxler: the Grand Cru Brand. Rieslings and Gewurztraminers get so much of Boxler’s glory from reviewers, but there is something to be said about the Pinot Gris as well. A beautiful light gold color, this is a complex expression. Very fruitforward in the beginning, with notes of white peach and pear. It develops quickly into white flowers and stone and has a finish that stays with you for several seconds. It’s a pretty wine that does not disappoint by any means.
6. Zind Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris 2019 ($96 from Gordon’s Wine)
There are two Clos from Zind Humbrecht that both hold deeply sentimental value to the Humbrecht family and also make some of the best wines from the region: Clos Windsbuhl and Clos Saint Urbain. My favorite expression from the first is this one – Pinot Gris from Clos Windsbuhl, 2019. This was one of the first Pinot Gris I tasted on my trip and it stuck with me for its stunning structure, citrus notes, and white flowers. The first word I wrote about it? Beautiful. It’s not an official wine descriptor of course, but it is just that in a glass. There is something special about it that added dimension – perhaps the ripeness of the Pinot Gris or the specificity of the limestone terroir from Clos Windsbuhl – but in any case this is a wine with depth and a long finish you won’t soon forget.
7. Zind Humbrecht Riesling Clos Saint Urbain, “Rangen de Thann” 2019 ($115 from Mr. D’s Wine)
If I could only drink one wine from Alsace for the rest of my life, it would be this one. And that’s not a comment I make lightly. My only regret about my trip to Alsace was that I didn’t make the drive to the Rangen hill. It would be a bucket list task to do if I’m lucky enough to return! This mountainous region has a rare soil type that isn’t found many other places in France: volcanic. I am obsessed by the interplay between smoke and flint, pear and citrus, dough and brightness. This wine stands above all the rest and its price – the only wine listed here over $100 – isn’t an exaggeration. Truly a remarkable wine that I hope to return to again and again.
8. Josmeyer Grand Cru Hengst Riesling ($81 from VIVANT)
Compared to many of the other Grand Cru Rieslings I tasted, Josmeyer’s Hengst was much more expressive. I attribute this not only to their commitment to biodynamics, but also to their love of art (and the fact that both women who run the domaine infuse art and artistic elements into the entire philosophy of what they do). Bright lemon and a mineral complexity unmatched from the other crus made this wine feel more powerful, too. This one could stand up to heavier dishes – even gamey poultry or pork tenderloin. A delight!
9. Bott-Geyl Kronenbourg Riesling 2019 (Not yet available stateside – this is one producer to watch!)
If there’s one domaine America simply needs more of, it’s Bott-Geyl. Like Josmeyer, this producer is passionately organic and biodynamic with exceptional wines, but isn’t quite available stateside yet. And it’s a shame. The entire portfolio is stunning but my favorite was the Kronenbourg (yes, like the beer – ha!) – not officially a grand cru, but a lieu-dit just next to the Schoenenbourg grand cru. The best word I can use for this wine is: refined, or perhaps restrained. It has a hint of citrus or apricot but is delicately herbal – almost saline – in a sense, too. Should Alsace add premiers crus to its recognition pyramid, this lieu-dit will certainly be among them.
10. Bott-Geyl Crémant “Absolu” (Not yet available stateside – this is one producer to watch!)
Ah, bubbles. Crémants and I have never been the best of friends, but after telling Jean-Christophe Bott this during our winery tour, he pulled out this stunning Absolu, which seduced me. Having studied in Champagne for quite some time, Jean-Christophe brings that expertise to the creation of this stunning cuvée. This is a complex sparkler with a long finish. At first it expresses notes of lemon, almond, and brioche, but as it continues there’s also soft florals and tight minerality. The bubbles are delicate and very soft. I sincerely hope this wine comes stateside soon – I’d easily buy a case!
Looking to plan a trip to Alsace? Check out my complete Travel Guide to the Alsace Wine Region.