Michelin-star chef, Roger Jones, certainly goes the extra mile to find quality wines for his restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. Here he concludes his recent trip to Alsace with a call to the trade for more buyers and sommeliers to explore and source such a rich region for award winning wines.
Roger Jones completes his report from Alsace with a tasting book of recommendations for wines he believes we should be championing more in the UK.
It was a pleasure on my trip to catch up with Jean Trimbach and his niece Anne. Jean was instrumental in encouraging my love affair with Alsace wines some 16 years ago. However, names like Trimbach and Hugel are well recognised in the UK and I want to highlight less regal names.
I was very pleased to find some really good quality Pinot Noir, there were many which offered great value and a style more like top Beaujolais. However, there are some stand out names which were very much in the higher levels of Burgundy style including Albert Mann which is run by Maurice and Jacky Barthelme (Jacky is an ex professional baseball player).
I had a wonderful lunch with Maurice and Jackie who are based in the village of Wettolsheim. I had, for the first time, Sauerkraut, which on first reflection looked and tasted like Pad Thai noodles, but was, of course, fermented cabbage, beautifully refreshing citrusy and juicy and a lovely balance to the ham hock and various sausages that we were treated to. All served with Grand Cru Riesling Schlossberg 2006 and 2007. A lovely match.
Alsace Pinot Noir currently cannot be recognised as Grand Cru, even though some may come from a Grand Cru area, Albert Mann encourage the promotion of their best Pinot with the term ‘Grand P’ and ‘Grand H” on their label to reflect the Grand Cru Hengst location (Wintzsenheim) and Grand Cru Pfersigberg (Eguisheim). Both were beautiful styles with the Grand P being richer and more fruit driven whilst the Grand G was a more earthy truffled style, both will age wonderfully.
Domaine Jean-Paul Schmitt is based in Rittersberg, and Jean–Paul runs it together with his partner Bernd Koppenhofer. Here, again, I was introduced to a lovely Pinot Noir, which had Grand Reserve on the label. They really do seem to ‘flaunt’ the law with these labels! The 2013 vintage was enhanced by being served in a Riedel Pinot Glass, delicate truffles, long lingering pure silky berries, forest floor, bright precise finish with excellent acidity.
Food matching with Eric Zwiebel MS
Eric Zwiebel MS, head sommelier at Summer Lodge in Dorset, was not only one of the group leaders on this trade and press trip, but also hosted a food and wine matching experience highlighting the diversity of Riesling away from the old fashioned spice food trail. These wines have a purity, a saline tang, power, brightness and elegance highlighted by his clever matching.
Zweibel, being from Alsace himself, has a clear understanding of how well these Rieslings go with “Modern British Food” and he demonstrated this very well to an audience of multi-national sommeliers and press who had flown in from around the world. It was interesting to see such a good team come from Australia, many of whom are very well respected both in Australia and in the UK.
Sadly my time in Alsace has come to and end. There is so much more to Alsace than can be reflected in a few shorts blogs. From wonderful precise Pinot Gris to their oak aged relative that oozes charm, seduction and a rich Burgundian style class. Gewürztraminer that have excited and changed not only my view but many of my fellow travellers of what had become a forgotten noble grape variety. And, of course, not forgetting the elegant fruity aged Grand Cru Muscat.
There are 51 named Grand Cru place names in Alsace, with a large variance of soil types, to be of Grand Cru status there needs to be a minimum of 10 years root age and ideally a decade in bottle. I am certainly a convert to these delicious wines.
There were many other highlights that I have no more space for, including the wonderful morning walk and lecture in the vineyards looking across to Germany, the fabulous lunch at the town hall in Turckheim, the sublime dinner at La Nouvelle Auberge with winemakers Rolly-Gassmann, Ostertag and Julien Schaal (Julien also makes great Chardonnay in South Africa). And above all meeting such a great crowd of sommeliers and journalists who will all hopefully enthuse about Alsace in the coming weeks.
- The visit to Millesime Alsace for the UK sommeliers and journalists was arranged by Emma Wellings PR, and by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace in Colmar under the great stewardship of Foulques Aulagnon.