Wine weeks have proven to be an excellent way for wine lovers to explore bottles from a country or region. There are a few taking place regularly in Ireland: Spanish Wine Week, California Wine Week and Rhone Wine Week. Last year, the French region of Alsace joined the party, as Dublin celebrated its first Alsace Wine Week.
Organised by wine Frankie Cook, wine writer and blogger at Frankly Wines, and hosted at Ely Bar & Grill, the Alsace Wine Week is coming back in 2019, and we can expect over 120 wines to try from over 25 producers at the Big Alsace Tasting, the highlight of the week, which will take place on the 22nd of May.
Frank shared with me some details about the event, as well as a few recommendations for oenophiles eager to discover the wines of Alsace. His own love for the region traces back to 1999, back when he was working on secondment in Paris in 1999 and trying to taste as much French wine as possible.
“After tasting lots more at Sweeney’s wine club after I had moved to Dublin, I eventually decided I couldn’t hold off visiting Alsace any more, and spent a week there – some sightseeing and lots of tasting. After another trip the following year the love affair was sealed!”
He explains that this year there will be two separate sessions at the Big Alsace Tasting, one for the wine trade and one for the general public. Both will be held at Ely Bar & Grill, St George’s Dock, IFSC on Wednesday 22nd May:
- Trade: 11.00 – 17.30 (email firstname.lastname@example.org to register).
- Public: 18.00 – 20.00 (tickets €20 from, tickets at elywinebar.ie/wine-tasting).
He added that some wine bars, restaurants and retailers also participated during the whole week in 2018 – and those currently interested can contact him to see how they can get involved.
What has changed or what is new compared to 2018?
“This year there will be twice as much space at the Big Alsace Tasting which will allow everybody to get to the wines they want to taste.
So that more sommeliers are able to attend, the tasting will be held on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday and will start an hour earlier at 11.00am.”
What Alsace travel tips can you share with wine lovers thinking of going?
“If you can, take your car on the ferry and stay for a week in a gîte (holiday cottage) in our of the dozens of picturesque Alsace villages. I’ve stayed in Barr, Mittelwihr and Colmar, all beautiful places.
Having a car makes it easy to get to different producers and means you can take plenty of wine back home with you. Tastings are generally free, though you might want to buy something in return.
Most places have someone who speaks English (if you don’t speak French) but appointments are advisable so that the winery can make sure someone is there to receive you. The local food shows plenty of Germanic influence, so try as much as you can in a Winstub (wine bar / bistro), especially Flammkuchen and Choucroute Garni.”
Do you think the popularity/perception of Alsace wine in Ireland has changed much in recent years?
“Alsace wines are highly regarded by serious wine enthusiasts and people in the wine trade, especially sommeliers (as they are so food-friendly), but casual wine drinkers are still not that familiar with them.
This is partially due to the bottle shape and label design, and just a lack of familiarity – but they are usually won over if they try the wines.
This is one of the main reasons I started Alsace Wine Week – to give the wines more exposure and improve their appreciation in Ireland.”
In your opinion, what style of wine is Alsace’s “dark horse”?
“There are so many styles that aren’t regularly seen on shelves or wine-lists over here that Alsace has a whole stable of dark horses. To keep it fairly brief, I would say the following:
- Sylvaner – usually thought of as a workhorse grape, but capable of producing great freshness and intensity if treated well.
Try: Sipp Mack Sylvaner Viellles Vignes.
- Grand Cru Riesling – available in Ireland for a small premium on regular Riesling, but have much more complexity and ability to age.
Try: Château d’Orschwihr Riesling Grand Cru Kitterlé.
- Grand Cru Pinot Gris – whereas regular Alsace Pinot Gris is a real crowd-pleaser and probably the most versatile for food pairings, the Grand Cru versions are generally much richer and spicier, a style unique to Alsace.
Try: Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru Speigel.
- Pinot Noir – the only black grape permitted in Alsace, it used to be treated as a very light red – almost a rosé – and often chilled. Now we see medium bodied, savoury but fruity Pinot Noirs which deserve to be in the conversation with other good Pinot regions.
Try: Domaine Zinck Terroirs Pinot Noir.
What Alsace must-try styles would you suggest for a beginner?
- Riesling – a contender for greatest grape in the world, in Alsace it tends to be dry and mineral, making a great aperitif or the perfect pairing for Ireland’s wonderful seafood.
Try: Gustave Lorenz Riesling “Reserve.”
- Gentil or Edelzwicker – a blend of several grapes which can change in composition from year to year, but always fruity, aromatic and fresh.
Try: Famille Hugel Gentil
- Crémant – traditional method sparkling which is usually fresh and fruity – the second most popular fizz in France after Champagne.
Try: Meyer-Fonné Crémant d’Alsace “Brut Extra.”
- Vendages Tardives – sweet late harvest wines which are a real treat with fruit desserts or cheeses.
Try: Maison Trimbach Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives.
Frank’s top 6 reasons to love Alsace wines
- The wines are so pure, mineral and aromatic that they are a delight to drink.
- There’s so much variety across the whole region that there are always new, interesting wines to discover.
- They range from the simple to the very complex and reflect where and by who they are made.
- The soil mosaic of Alsace is among the most complex of any wine region.
- The wines can age well, sometimes for decades.
- As they are under-the-radar they represent great value for money.
The Big Alsace Tasting – Event coordinates:
When: Wednesday 22nd of May.
Where: Ely Bar & Grill, St George’s Dock, IFSC.
Times and tickets:
- Trade: 11.00 – 17.30 (email email@example.com to register)
- Public: 18.00 – 20.00 (tickets €20 from, tickets at elywinebar.ie/wine-tasting)