Try A Different Wine for a Change

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I just took a week-long trip to the east coast. Not a wine-focused trip. But, nonetheless, I did pick up a couple bottles to enjoy in the evenings. Being a Californian, it's really easy to immediately look on the shelves for a nice California wine.  But, this time I decided to try a different wine for a change.

Being on the east coast, and a bit closer to Europe (well, nearly halfway there!), I decided to pick one bottle of wine from France and one from Italy. While it can seem really tough to pick out French and Italian wines, I came at it from a simple approach. I simply looked for wines any wines that were in my typical price range. 

I started with the French wines.  I spotted several upper-shelf wines that fit the price range. But, then I spotted a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Knowing that great red blends come from this region, I picked up the bottle.

Then, I turned my attention to the Italian wines.  Again, scanning the upper shelves, I spotted several bottles of Chianti.  And, seeing a 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva (and spotting the Black Rooster), I picked it up. (And, yes, the 'Riserva' truly distinguishes it from the more common Chianti.)

In both cases, I was very pleased with each bottle of wine.  The Châteauneuf-du-Pape (a blend of up to 13 varietals) was rich and flavorful while the Chianti had wonderful bright cherry flavor.

I could have gone with a couple of bottles of go-to wine from California, but I'm really glad I tried something a bit different. And, you should too. It's a fun way to get exposed to some different flavors. And, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised with your choices.


Alsace - Another Great Region for Riesling

Germany is the home of Riesling, and still produces nearly half the world's Riesling. But there's another region that is well-known for its Riesling and that's Alsace [Ahl-zahs] in France.

Alsace is located east of Paris, along the border with Germany. It should be no surprise that Alsace produces great Riesling since it was part of Germany from 1871 to 1919.

But while most German Rieslings tend to be sweet, the Rieslings from Alsace are not. The Alsace winemakers ferment all the natural grape sugar to produce a totally dry wine. Because all the grape's natural sugar is converted to alcohol during fermentation, Alsace wines are higher in alcohol. Typically, they are in the 11 to 12% ABV range versus Germany's wines that are less than 10%

The Alsace AOC also requires that a varietal wine contain 100% of the grape variety identified on the label whereas the U.S. only requires 75%. So, when the label says Riesling, you are getting 100% Riesling.

In another difference that unlike the rest of France, Alsace wines are labeled according to their grape varieties, rather than by the region where the grapes were grown. This give you a strong hint that the winemakers of Alsace are keenly focused on the grape and letting the grape tell the story. The winemakers are not looking to produce a wine with a certain taste. Instead, they are looking to the grape, and the land (terrior) to define the wine.  For this reason, you'll seldom see a blended wine from Alsace. Again, quite different from most wine regions in France.

The wines of Alsace are typically not produced in wood barrels, instead opting for stainless steel tanks, concrete vessels or foudres casks that impart little to no oak flavor.

A Riesling from Alsace is typically dry, with aromas that range from flowers and bright citrus (grapefruit and lemon) to peach, pear and spices.  The high acidity makes them very fresh and refreshing but remaining well balanced.

Riesling goes well with goat cheeses, seafood, poultry and pork dishes, and most spicy Asian dishes. Cheers!