Benjamin Barrone is an accounting and finance professional in Chicago, IL. He most recently served as Director of Finance for Vital Proteins. In that capacity, he helped build the accounting and finance department and secure Series A financing. Benjamin (Ben) Barrone is passionate about helping startup ventures grow and scale their business. Another passion is food. Mr. Barrone enjoys a wide variety of foods from around the world and is especially interested in the cross-cultural Alsace region located in France and sharing a border with Germany. Alsace is also widely-recognized for their spectacular wines – mostly whites. Riesling, in particular, thrives here. Known for a dry style with racy acidity, some of the best examples worldwide hail from the Alsace region of France.
Riesling is one of the superstars of the world of white wine and one of the four finest varieties grown in the northeastern French region of Alsace. But what makes it so special?
In terms of flavour, Alsatian rieslings are mostly elegant and dry, with floral hints and plenty of fruitiness, and mildly spicy. They are always mouthwatering and remarkably food-friendly wines, and the finest are capable of developing great complexity.
In Alsace, it is the long, dry summers that bring out the citrus, stone-fruit and floral characters of the riesling grape, while the various soil types in and around the villages with the finest terroirs lend a distinct spicy and mineral freshness.
Age also influences the wine’s flavour and aroma. Over time, a sophisticated, complex and honeyed bouquet develops, unequalled by any other grape variety, drawing riesling aficionados like bees to pollen.
So what do you need to know about Alsace riesling? Here’s a primer.
AOC Alsace Riesling
The most accessible and affordable expressions of the grape are sold as AOC Alsace Riesling. These everyday wines go well with simple dishes such as charcuterie, goat cheeses, onion tart, smoked fish and poultry.
They are produced right across the region by family estates large and small as well as in co-operative wineries which rank among the finest in France. Try Le Côte de Rouffach de Muré, an organic wine from the hillsides of the Rouffach region made by the Muré family, who have been wine producers for 12 generations.
AOC Alsace Grand Cru Riesling
The Vosges mountains to the east of the region provide shelter from moist west winds and it is here, on the higher protected slopes, that the classic examples of Alsatian rieslings are grown. These Grand Cru vineyards are subject to laws that stipulate higher levels of ripeness and lower yields (fewer grapes per vine) in order to ensure higher quality wines.
In the granite soils around the villages of Turckheim and Kientzheim, and in the clay soils around Riquewihr, you can find some really glorious Grand Cru rieslings.
These richer, more intense wines deserve to be matched with extra-special cuisine. In the summer months you could serve them with a smörgåsbord of dishes, from cold meats such as roast lamb and chicken to salad niçoise or tabbouleh. In winter, Alsace Grand Cru Riesling is a fine choice for roast chicken, turkey or goose. And it’s a terrific choice for the Christmas table and with seafood dishes.
Perversely, some of the very finest Alsace rieslings are sold not as Grand Cru but under the name of the specific vineyard or “clos” in which they grow. In such cases, the price usually reflects the wine’s exquisite quality. Again, from the Muré family of Rouufach, the Clos Saint Landelin de Muré is a biodynamic wine a delicate nose, fresh palate and strong fruit flavours of lime and apricot.