I am in Northern Burgundy this week, leading a bike trip through the region, but out on the road, instead of contemplating Irancy and Chablis, my thoughts drift eastward, to Alsace.
Had been leading trips off and on for close to two decades and, being “the old hand” I was relegated to doing the trips I had done for years: Burgundy, Loire, Switzerland, Ice de France. At first I bristled, I wanted to do some of the new “sexy” trips that were being added at least every other year: Provence, Bordeaux, the Dordogne, the Cevènnes. Looking back on it, there was not much economic sense to train the new guides on the old trips and train the “old” guid (me) on the new ones, so I was “stuck” to my old routes. I know, rough life—I actually started to love those old routes as I grew to know many of the locals, but I never told the owner that.
There was one instance, though, when I put my size 15 foot down firmly: Alsace. I studied in the region for a year, and I consider it my French “home.”
Recently, I was offered some bottles of Crémant d’Alsace to sample, which I readily accepted since the region as a whole produces the best traditional method wines outside of Champagne.
N.V. Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace Brut: Retail $25. 33% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Blanc, 33% Pinot Noir. Light straw with a medium sized sparkle, with predominantly tree fruit on the nose (pear, yellow apple). The palate is light and joyful, with plenty of that tree fruit, a smattering of yeast, and a very nice tart sparkle. As I mentioned, I tend to lean toward Crémants from Alsace and this is why: imminently quaffable but still with depth and complexity, all while not requiring a second mortgage. Wonderful. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
N.V. Willm Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs: Retail $14. 100% Pinot Noir. I have affirmed countless times in this space my love for sparkling wine. The bubbles are at the foundation of my wine appreciation and education, and there is rarely an instance that I would not prefer a sparkling wine to just about any other wine. After all, my motto is ”If it doesn’t sparkle, it doesn’t matter.”™ Near the highest step of my bubbly Parthenon is the Blanc de Noirs as I prefer my sparkling wine (particularly when made from the “Champagne varieties”) to be mostly Pinot Noir (that is, of course, a generalization—I also adore aged 100% Chardonnay sparklers, but stay focused). At the top of that heap is the Blanc de Noirs style, which is only made from “black” grapes. A further delineation occurs when all of those grapes are Pinot Noir, which is the case here. A lovely straw color in the glass with a vibrant mousse formed by an endless army of exceedingly tiny bubbles. A bit of pear is evident, but the nose is dominated by a fresh-baked bread goodness. The palate is simply delightful with ripe pear, hints of citrus, but all of that yeasty yumminess. Oh my. I have always said that Alsace is my favorite region for Crémant, and this is more proof. $14? Bravo. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
N.V. Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace Emotion Brut: Retail $25. 95% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir. Just looking at the bottle, I break out in goose bumps when I see “Ammerschwihr” on the label. Located just to the south of Kaysersberg (where Anthony Bourdain died, quite sadly), it is a village that I have ridden through at least a dozen times. “Beautiful” is a woefully incomplete description of the region anchored by the amazingly picturesque Kaysersberg, but riding through the Kaefferkopf Grand Cru vineyard is pretty close to magical. Golden in the glass, with caramelized apple, a touch of lemon meringue, and a healthy dose of Philly soft pretzel, this wine evokes all kinds of fond memories. A subtle sparkle, tart apple, and a yeasty finish characterize the palate. I am biased. I loved this wine before I opened it, but there is plenty to love objectively speaking as well. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé: Retail $18. 100% Pinot Noir. If you have seen one Crémant from Alsace it is likely this lovely rosé from one of the leading producers of bubbly in Eastern France, Lucien Albrecht. The winery is located in Colmar, which, and it pains me to say it, is one of the prettiest villages in all of France. Why the disdain for one of the jewels of the region? Well, when I was studying in France, I played for the basketball team at the Université de Strasbourg. While I was not considered much of an “asset” for my American college, I was a bit of a beast in France, which speaks more to the relative abilities of the French (they stink at basketball) than anything else. But, when my team was in the regional championship with a trip to Paris and the national tournament on the line, I laid a complete egg, scoring a mere eight points. We lost by eight. To Colmar. Even decades later, still the most painful moment in my painfully unremarkable athletic career. For years, though, this wine has worked diligently to reverse my opinion of the village fleurie on the Lauch River, just south of Strasbourg. Deep orangish-pink with a lively froth of medium to small bubbles, this wine exudes delicate red fruit and pain grillé. Deliciously tart with luscious fruit and a lasting finish. Not quite as long as the lasting pain I feel about that game, but…. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.