Something fine from ... France


Alsace's wines too good to boycott

April 02, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN WINE CRITIC

War is hell. Wine is heavenly. It's best not to mix the two.

The purpose of this article, which has been in the works for months, was to tell consumers about the wonderful white wines of Alsace, a breathtakingly beautiful corner of Europe.

April seemed to be the right month to write about Alsace because these are some of the most springlike wines in the world - with a freshness and liveliness that is so right for the season.

World events have intruded. You see, Alsace is part of France. And some folks think it's the duty of all good Americans to vilify all things French because its government disagrees with our government over war in Iraq.

C'est absurde.

To boycott the wines of Alsace - or Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone or any other place except Iraq - is to boycott common sense. France may turn out to be wrong, but it has a right to make its own judgment. Americans fought to liberate France, not make it subservient.

In its zeal to bash France, the boycott brigade threatens to inflict collateral damage on some fine American businesses that import wines. Many of the folks at these businesses have worked for years to build business ties with top producers in order to please our palates.

Let's take the local example of Vignobles LVDH U.S.A. in Woodstock, Howard County.

I've never met the folks at LVDH, but I've tasted some of the wines the company imports. Among them are the unconventional and ultra-concentrated wines of Domaine Barmes-Buecher in Alsace.

The people at LVDH should be commended for taking the time to find a little-known, high-quality producer and to introduce the wines to its customers. Their business shouldn't suffer because some wacko on the Fox network singles out France from among the dozens of countries that disagree with American policy.

In these bizarre times, my thoughts go back to Alsace.

It is, in a way, a magical region. France and Germany fought over it for years, and few places in the world have suffered more of the ravages of mindless nationalism. Since 1945, however, its people have been free to create a vibrant blend of two cultures.

Their wines are an excellent antidote to jingoism. Here are some I recommend:

2000 Barmes-Buecher Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer. ($22) This wine was a bit of a surprise. The conventional Alsace gewurztraminer is quite dry unless it's labeled as a late-harvest wine. This one is a dessert wine -and a very fine one. It's dark-gold, with spicy caramel and orange flavors reminiscent of a Hungarian Tokay. It's odd, but it works.

2000 Barmes-Buecher Pinot d'Alsace ($15) isn't quite as sweet, but it's certainly concentrated. It offers lush, gripping flavors of cherry, lemon, apples and other fruit. It's a natural to serve with pate.

2000 Barmes-Buecher Tokay-Pinot Gris, Rosenberg de Wettolsheim "Bas de Coteau" ($25). A mouthful in more ways than one, this wine skates on the edge of sweetness before coming down dry. Among its flavors: honey, apricot, clove, allspice and nutmeg. Save it for Thanksgiving; this is not a wine to serve with flounder.

1997 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personelle ($30). This wine is spicy, structured and complex, with flavors of apples, vanilla, pear, cinnamon, nutmeg and melons - to name a few. At six years of age, it's remarkably young and fresh.

1998 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve ($15). This gripping "regular" pinot gris is nipping at the heels of its more expensive big brother.

2000 Trimbach Riesling ($15). Both basic and classic, its stony, bone-dry flavors capture the very essence of springtime.

1998 Trimbach Riesling, Cuvee Frederic Emile ($35). One of the great paradoxes of the wine world is how many sweet flavors Trimbach can cram into one bone-dry and enormously complex riesling. Honey, lime, cherry, sweet peas - they're all there as subtle shadings in this most graceful of wines.

1998 Trimbach Gewurztraminer, Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre ($30). This is heaven in a bottle. It's a full-bodied, off-dry, spicy and exceptionally complex wine that would also be exceptional with roast turkey. It will age gracefully for 10 years.

1999 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot d'Alsace ($26). While expensive for a pinot blanc, this is a bargain for a great white wine. Flavors of orange, spices, nuts and honey harmonize in a thoroughly dry wine.

2000 Pierre Sparr Pinot Blanc Reserve ($10). Aromatic, floral, spicy and a great value.

2001 Willm Pinot Gris ($12). An underperformer for decades, Willm seems to be on the rebound with this full-bodied, spicy wine with hints of pear, melons and citrus fruits.

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