The axiom 'It's not what you know it's who you know' sometimes proves to be true and we are indebted to our friend Silvano Giraldin at Le Gavroche for introducing us to his old friend Marc Beyer of Maison Léon Beyer in Alsace. The Beyer family have been cultivating grapes and making wine in and around the village of Eguisheim, 3 kilometres south-west of Colmar, since the 16th Century and are widely recognised as being among a small elite of top producers. Their 'house' style is generally geared to producing dry wines of clear varietal character that pair extremely well with classic Gallic cuisine – hence the 'Gavroche' connection.
Marc's Crémant d'Alsace is a bottle-fermented blend of Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc that has a lively mousse, ripe apple scents and flavours and a fresh finish, so is a versatile 'crowd-pleaser' for all manner of celebrations. New to these pages is the excellent 'La Cuvée Léon Beyer', which is a 'house' blend usually of Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Muscat made for versatile everyday drinking. With subtle citrus scents and zesty green apple notes preceding a dry finish, it drinks well from release. His Pinot Blanc is floral and fruity and requires no food accompaniment but its sibling Pinot Gris is weightier and more complex with subtle stone fruit flavours so pairs well with fish and poultry. A Muscat is redolent of ripe table grapes and Marc recommends serving it with new season's asparagus. Their Gewürztraminer has spicy scents and a rich Turkish Delight and lychee palate which lends it well to chilli-infused Asian dishes. Rounding off the regular range of white wines is a racy Riesling with delicate lime leaf aromas and lovely nervy, mineral-edged palate. The only red grape in these parts is Pinot Noir and the Beyer's 'Réserve Personelle' bottling is a fine example. With a deep brick pink robe, a summer berry bouquet and a core of soft red fruit, it is best served lightly chilled with soft cheese or charcuterie.
In favourable vintages, Marc produces his flagship 'Comtes d'Eguisheim' bottlings. The Riesling – which has a stunning turquoise and orange label – has diverse dried fruit scents and a complex palate of orchard fruit and minerals that will support 10-20 years bottle age. The Pinot Noir has a wealth of bright berry and cherry aromas and diverse darker fruit flavours supported by fine tannins that will sweeten and soften with time.
When the correct conditions prevail, sweet 'late harvest' wines are made including a sublime Gewürztraminer that is evocative of dried fruit, honey and spices. It is a wine to be savoured, so we favour shipping in half bottles to eke out our allocation for as long as possible.