Denizens of Alsace sometimes joke that they specialise in 'war and wine'. Their reputation for both stems from the region's geography. The hilly territory between the Vosges mountains and the river Rhine has provided key strategic vantage points in numerous historic battles, dating back to the Celts and Romans, as well as a warm, sunny, free-draining location for viticulture. A third specialism is food. Taking much of what is best from both German and Gallic cuisine, Alsace uses its somewhat schizophrenic past to its full gastronomic advantage. Rich in butter, cream, cheese, pastry, pork and poultry, it is food for fuelling outdoor folk habituated to tramping over the hillsides.
Over 90% of wine production in Alsace is white, Pinot Noir being the only permitted red grape. The vineyards extend in a long, thin strip running for 150 kilometres along the flank of the Rhine from the most northerly village of Rott to the most southerly of Thann. Our long-serving supplier Charles Schléret is based in the picturesque village of Turckheim in the heart of the Haut Rhine, 5 kilometres due west of Colmar, where he deploys the full gamut of Alsatian grape varieties to produce a characterful range of wines.
His sleek Pinot Blanc has lots of bright orchard fruit aromas and flavours and a soft, dry finish making a versatile aperitif or partner to cleanly-spiced Asiatic dishes. Charles' Riesling has classic kerosene, white pepper and mineral notes and can support quite rich dishes and up to a decade's bottle age, while his fruity Muscat is redolent of ripe table grapes and requires no food accompaniment.
A majestic Gewürztraminer has lashings of exotic fruit, a rich, spicy palate and has garnered more medals than any other wine in our portfolio. A sibling Pinot Gris (formerly known as Tokay d'Alsace) has a rich, white currant core and undertones of nuts and honey – it would do justice to the local speciality of baekeoffe – a slow-cooked amalgamation of mutton, pork, beef, potatoes and onions steeped in white wine and juniper berries. Not to be overlooked is Charles delicate, brick red Pinot Noir that has subtle wood-smoke scents and a palate of summer berries and a background of gentle tannins. It is best served lightly-chilled with crusty bread, salad and charcuterie.