Don’t judge a wine by the shape of its bottle

Alsace vineyards

Alsace vineyards - Credit: Archant

Aromatic, fruity, stylish, luscious are all descriptions that can be applied to the wines of Alsace, providing the thought that they are quality wines worth drinking.

However, they are often described as wine-trade wines as those working with wines are most likely to drink them based on knowledge of their delicious taste and despite being firm advocates of these vinous delights find it difficult to encourage wine consumers to buy them often even after enjoying a taste.

One of the answers to this conundrum is the shape of the bottle resulting from the region’s history of repeated changes of nationality, as it has passed from France to Germany and vice-versa several times.

Traditionally German wines have been bottled in tall bottles and this tradition has been incorporated into the Appellation Controlée laws of Alsace where they are commonly called flutes d’Alsace. Since the days in the early 1980s of cheap sweet, rather bland German wines such as Liebfraumilch, Niersteiner, etc, the Brtitish wine buying public has preferred wines in Bordeaux or Burgundy shaped bottles.

Alsace was one of the first French wine growing region to use the name of the grape on the label, it has been approved in the Alsace wine laws unlike in other areas of France until recently. Ironically, as the region uses mainly German grape varieties it is another contributing factor to the indifference of consumers to them. As the UK palate tends to prefer drier styles of wine, the memories of sweeter styles of German Riesling is a reason for purchasing Sauvignon based wines for example.

Most of the wines produced in Alsace are white using aromatic grape varieties that produce distinctive characterful still and sparkling wines. The Gewurztraminer grape variety is often synonymous with Alsace where it has a high profile and is widely grown.

Many people have a love/hate relationship with its wines due their intense perfumed aromas of lychees and spice with rose petal (Turkish Delight ) overtones and lemony freshness on the palate such as the Turckheim Co-op’s Reserve wine made near Colmar in the Vosges Mountains.

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Unlike German Rieslings those from Alsace have a pure fruit driven nose, perfumed with limes citrus fruit and a perfumed honeyed palate that is intensely fruity with white peach flavours and mineral complexity and is a dry style.

Two other grapes are widely grown in Alsace – the Pinot Blanc from which is made the most delicate of the region’s wines with a light peachy, citrus perfume and a silky dry fruity palate and the Pinot Gris.

The latter is rich ripe and rounded though still dry with a lovely textured flavour and a long slightly smoky finish. The Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris grapes also make high quality dessert wines called Vendange Tardive or late harvest and Selection de Grains Nobles where the grapes are affected by noble rot.

It is worth looking out for classic examples of these wines such as those from the renowned co-op at Turckheim that offer a great alternative to Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio, et al, to be enjoyed as an aperitif or with food. You might be surprised at what’s inside the bottle!