Alsace in a glass 

The region’s white wines are worth a sip.

Drinking wine is always more fun than talking about it.

Still, saying wine names out loud does have its pleasures.

I defy you to order a glass of Grüner Veltliner (pronounced something like GROO-ner VEHLT-ly-ner) and resist goosing it with a little Germanic growl.

Same goes with juice from Alsace. Or “Ahl-ZASS,” as you might say, rakishly raising an eyebrow for added effect.

Of course, besides giving you a nifty excuse to talk and act funny, these wines also happen to be fantastic to drink. What’s more, most are a real bargain.

Alsace, a region in northern France straight out of a fairy tale, produces some of the world’s most exquisite white wines. Made from a handful of different grapes with mostly German-sounding names, their flavors are all French. October marks the end of the grape harvest there and a timely reason to celebrate with wines from Alsace.

There’s Pinot Gris, the same grape variety used to make Italy’s Pinot Grigio, but with gobs more personality.

Among those I’ve tried recently and liked is the 2010 Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Gris ($20). Delicious stuff. I also liked the 2010 Furst Pinot Gris ($16). Don’t let the label scare you. (This may be the ugliest wine label ever. Picture Gene Wilder with mange and that’s better than the image of the woman adorning this bottle.) A smack of sweetness, with crisp acidity. This would be a great wine for a fall party.

Then there’s Pinot Blanc, which makes for refreshing and bright wines in Alsace.

From one of the area’s biggest producers, the 2009 Domaine Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbes ($15) is a lovely wine — dry and minerally, with some hints of almonds and honeysuckle. I also like the 2009 Trimbach Pinot Blanc ($18), which is drier still and very nice.

If your only experience with Riesling is Blue Nun, that’s sad because this grape makes great wines. Riesling isn’t just grown in Germany. Alsatian Rieslings are often steely and complex. I’m especially keen on the 2010 Hugel Riesling ($16). Bone dry, this wine bursts with fruit. For a good lip-smackingly dry wine, try the 2010 Jean Albrecht Riesling ($17). If you feel like splurging, go with a bottle of the 2009 Josmeyer Le Dragon Riesling ($43). Rich, with some lemony zing.

The granddaddy of Alsace grapes — and maybe the most fun to say — is Gewurztraminer (guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-nur), a tongue twister that makes for some amazing tongue-tingling wines. Great wines are also made from these same grapes — Alsatian varietals — in America and elsewhere.

Ones I like include the 2010 Trimbach Gewurztraminer ($26), vibrant and juicy. The 2010 Jean Ginglinger Gewurztraminer ($28) is nicely floral and gingery. Gewurztraminer and Riesling pretty well beg for spicy Asian food.

Like many areas in France, Alsace has its own bubbly, here called Cremant d’Alsace. Cremant d’Alsace Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé ($18), made from Pinot Noir grapes, is a good example, bursting with raspberries.

After a few of any of these, you’ll be speaking like a native. Or at least you’ll feel like you are.


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