With the help of our friends at Wines of Alsace, we’re highlighting four of the region’s most exciting wines—and ideas for how to pair them this fall.
As the weather cools down and the leaves begin to change, my taste in wine shifts from rosés and spritzes to light reds and bright, refreshing whites. I get out my tableware and start planning autumn dinner parties, food pairings, and wines that will bring us together.
This fall, wines from Alsace, France make up the core of my food-friendly lineup that highlights sustainability and responsible agriculture. Located in the northeastern corner of France, next to Germany and above Switzerland, Alsace has an incredibly rich history and an approach to winemaking that blends both tradition and innovation.
Almost one third of Alsace wineries use organic or biodynamic practices, making it a global hotbed for sustainability and minimal intervention wines. Its climate and incredible geologic diversity create an environment conducive to several grape varieties and styles of wine, from zesty, minerally Riesling to the lively bubbles of Crémant d’Alsace.
For fall dinners and gatherings, I always reach for Alsace wines that bring character, flavor, and refreshing brightness to the meal. Here are four wines that are sure to please this autumn—plus the dishes I like to pair them with.
Alsace Pinot Gris is rich, complex, and earthy, with slight smoky aromas and notes of citrus and honey. The pinkish-gray grape has been grown in the region since the 16th century and today accounts for over 16 percent of all vineyard plantings in Alsace. Whether made using oak barrels for fullness or in stainless steel tanks for a leaner style, Pinot Gris is a perfect fit for savory dishes with a ton of umami.
Grown in the region since the 15th century, Riesling is considered the “king” of Alsace’s grape varieties. Alsace Rieslings are typically dry, with citrus and stone fruit notes, stony minerality, and racing acidity, making them perfect food wines. (High-acid wines are generally very food friendly, as the acidity refreshes the palate and leaves us wanting to take another sip.) Spicy foods pair perfectly with refreshing Riesling, as do richer foods with cream-based sauces. If I find a sweet Riesling, usually labeled Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) or Sélection des Grains Nobles, it’s coming home with me. Sweet wines are not a common choice for pairing with food, but that doesn’t mean folks should turn away from them. They’re beautiful on their own or as an accompaniment to dessert or cheese, and they make dinner that much more special.
Pinot Noir is Alsace’s hidden gem and red grape of choice. (It’s the only red grape permitted to be grown in the region.) The wine comes in a range of styles from deep and earthy to fruity and light, making it an easy and versatile pick for pairing with beef, chicken, duck, or even game meats like venison.
Did you know Alsace has its own sparkler? One of my all-time favorite sparkling wines, Crémant d’Alsace is made using the traditional method, the same way as Champagne, with a second fermentation period that takes place in the bottle itself. The wines are crisp, dry, fruity, elegant, and have a beautiful mousse of bubbles, which easily cuts through salty or fatty foods. Crémant d’Alsace pairs with just about anything, from snacks like popcorn and cheese plates to mains like grilled fish and lemony pastas.
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What’s your favorite fall food and wine pairing?
Using centuries-old techniques and steeped in tradition, Wines of Alsace produces food-friendly, largely biodynamic wines like Pinot Gris, Riesling, and more. To find out more about this rich winemaking region, head to their site.