Intense flavors of Alsatian pinot gris teases senses
There is nothing like a gloriously sunny and crisp autumn afternoon to conjure images of the beautiful vineyards of Alsace. Tucked away in Northeastern France on a narrow ribbon of land running north to south between the Vosges Mountains on the western flank and the Rhine River to the east, Alsace boasts a stunning necklace of picturesque little winemaking villages of half-timbered, ancient houses.
Each year in late September, the hillside vineyards turn yellow and red just before the grapes are harvested in early October.
Alsace’s winemaking style is unique and distinctive. Most of the wines are white and finished dry. But the wines usually also have intense fruity aromatics and ripe flavors embroidered into rich, concentrated texture balanced with superb, mouthwatering acidity and mineral accents.
The wines match perfectly with hearty Alsatian cuisine, featuring dishes such as Flammekeuche (bacon and fresh cheese tart), Soupe de Pois Casses (split pea soup), and Choucroute Garni a L’Alsacienne (sauerkraut with pork, ham and sausages).
The region’s wine style is illustrated perfectly by its pinot gris. Unlike pinot grigio from northeast Italy and the typical pinot gris from Oregon, the Alsatian variety offers a deep golden color, reflecting the microclimates that permit the grapes to hang longer on the vines until perfectly ripe and lush.
And rather than delicate citrus and pear aromas leading to relatively light-bodied wines, Alsatian pinot gris offers intense, complex aromas and rich, concentrated flavors to tantalize the senses with full-flavored, even decadent, pleasure.
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board specialty stores offer wines from some of Alsace’s top pinot gris producers, including Domaine Marc Krydenweiss, Domaine Zind Humbrecht and Domaine Weinbach. Try the following to experience the full range of subtle differences within winemaking styles:
Flammekeuche (“Flaming Tart”)
This recipe is Alsace’s take on pizza. The key to its distinctiveness is the blend of cheeses with fromage blanc (a soft, fresh cream cheese with the consistency of sour cream) and grated Gruyere cheese. The classic Flammekeuche recipe calls for making the crust from scratch, but a store-bought, plain pizza shell works well, too.
- 1 recipe Fromage Blanc (recipe follows)
- 1/2 pound bacon
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
A day ahead of making the tart, prepare the Fromage Blanc.
In a skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a plate. In the same skillet, saute the onions in the bacon fat, then let cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a bowl, whisk the Fromage Blanc, egg and flour. Spread on the pizza shell and top with the onions, bacon and Gruyere. Bake until golden brown, for about 15 minutes.
- 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
- Pinch of salt
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Chill for 12 hours before using.