Alsace Tasting – Green and Blue

Posted By Stephen


Last night, Kerri and I went to to an Alsace wine tasting at Green and Blue in East Dulwich.  We have been there before for a rather intruiging wine and chocolate tasting and were excited about going back, so much so that on the evening of an impending Tube strike, we ventured out there without knowing how we were going to get home.

Green and Blue are running a three-month promotion on Alsace wines at the moment, which was the reason for the complimentary tasting, and they are also offering some specially chosen dishes that complement the wines well.  I have been quite partial to Alsace wine for several years now, but don’t drink it very often.  There is something very seductive about the aromatic bouquet of the wines from that region.  They can verge on the slightly too sweet side at times and it is hard to tell just from looking at the bottle which ones do, but none of those that we had over the course of the evening fell into that category.

For those that don’t know, Alsace is situated in north eastern France, on the border with Germany.  It is in the rain shadow of the Vosges mountains, which means that it is dry and sunny, while its northerly latitude ensures that it is not too hot.  These make for ideal vine-growing conditions.  Being so close to Germany, and having been part of Germany on and off over its history, there are a number of German influences in the region and one of these is that their wine is sold in tall, German style “flute” bottles.  This does tend to put people off them though, which is unfortunate.  On the other hand though, it is one of very few French wine regions that actually puts the name of the grape variety on the label, which is helpful to the modern international wine drinker who doesn’t have time to study the intricacies of the Appellation Controllee system.


Okay, enough background and onto the business of the tasting itself.  The first of the dishes was marinated artichokes.  Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with any wine as something in their chemistry or flavour profile just clashes with most wines and leaves a nasty, metallic taste in the mouth.  So we were pleasantly surprised to find that they went rather well with the Muscat.  There was a brief hint of nasty metallic taste forming, but it soon gave way to a pleasing merge of flavours that for some reason also made the mouth water rather a lot.  Maybe this is what washed the nasty taste away?  Either way, the result was good.

Reading the back label of the bottle (this was the only one of the four bottles that sported such a modern invention), it made mention of the pink sandstone on which the vineyard was situated.  Having just had a look over the Alsace section in my wine diploma text book on the way to the tasting to get some background, one thing that I do remember is that it said that the pink sandstone of the area was generally not very high in minerals and therefore not very useful for growing wine.  So it surprised me to read that on the label; not only did they grow it there, but they were proud enough of it to put it on the label.  It was a light and delicate wine though, so maybe the lack of minerality was a good thing in this case – no smokiness or earthiness to get in the way of the delicately grapey and floral muscat fruit (yes, this was a wine that actually tasted like grapes!)


Next up was crab with dill mayonnaise and toast, which was served with a Riesling.  This was a lovely Riesling, with the nose full of honey, grapefruit and minerality and the same flavours on the palate with a high dose of acidity which gave it a lovely length.  This was probably my favourite wine of the evening.  It did match the crab well, but I felt that it would have gone better had there been a little lemon in the crab and/or mayonnaise.  We discussed this with Kate who was running the tasting and she said you’d need to be careful not to put in too much lemon which would make it too acidic and make the wine taste flabby in comparison.  As it was a wine high in acidity I think it could have taken a little, or maybe just some lemon zest and not too much juice.


Then we were served a slice of Popina aubergine tart along with a glass of Gerwurtztramminer.  Gerwurtztramminer is a very aromatic grape and makes wines that are fruity, floral, low in acidity and rarely completely dry and are usually paired with spiced foods, so I found this match interesting.  Interesting and very good; it was my favourite pairing of the evening.  The tart contained the aubergine and also sweet fruitiness from tomatoes and pepper, along with some caramelised onion and a touch of black pepper spice.  All of this combined to make the perfect match for the wine.


Last up was a smoked chicken breast with dried red pepper and this was served with a Pinot Gris.  It can be strange to think that the rich, aromatic, sometimes biscuity Pinot Gris from Alsace is the same grape that makes rather bland Pinot Grigio from Italy and elsewhere.  By this time my tasting notes were getting a little sparse, but I do remember that this was also a very good match, second only to the tart/gewurtz match that preceded it.  Eating a slice of the chicken with a little of the pepper at the same time created a flavour combination that paired very well with the wine.

So all in all a lovely evening with some rather good food and wine and some interesting and very successful pairings of the two.  And to have it with Alsace wine too was really enjoyable for me in particular, given how fond I am of it.  I feel a little like it’s under appreciated and I should go around telling people to drink more of it.  Hopefully people will try it some of it because of this three-month promotion and come back for more.

Food and wine matching is something that we sometimes try to do, but usually we’ll end up drinking wine before a meal, then just eating the meal and then drinking more wine afterwards.  And all too often we’ll pick a particular wine to match the meal, then end up finishing it before we start eating and need to open another, less well matched bottle to drink with the meal.  Bad planning.  Or too much drinking.  Or both.

As for the transport situation, luckily someone else had looked up a bus to get him home and it took us most of the way home too, after which we soon found another bus to get us the rest of the way, which was nice.

Jun 9th, 2009

One Comment to 'Alsace Tasting – Green and Blue'

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  1. Helen said,

    This was such a lovely evening, I learned absolutely loads. Not surprising considering my wine knowledge is pretty sparse in the first place. Kate is so knowledgeable though and so nice it makes it easy to learn things I think. I am torn between the Gewurztraminer/tart match and the smoked chicken/Pinot Gris. Will get around to writing it up at some point this week!
    [rq=1885,0,blog][/rq]Jerk Beer Can Chicken

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