No, it’s not snow. It’s white wine from France, at least for the purposes of this column.


I admit I usually prefer red wines (and Port!) during the cold months but recently I suddenly had a hankering for some crisp whites, cold weather be damned. These wines from Alsace and Loire really hit the spot. So, I thought I’d share them with you. And, keeping in mind your post-holiday bank accounts may be somewhat depleted, all are under $20 a bottle.


Something like 92 percent of all Alsatian wine is white. Unlike other French regions, the best wines (those whose appellation of origin is controlled by law, known as A.O.C.) are labeled with the name of the grape variety (and the wine inside is 100 percent). Of particular interest to me, the region is the premier home of my two favorite white grape varieties – riesling (although Germany ranks here, too) and gewürztraminer.

At their best, these wines have excellent fruit intensity, intriguing savory notes, and fine balancing acidity. And Pierre Sparr is one of the best producers. The firm’s entry-level wines (all screw capped) are excellent introductions to the region. The 2011 Riesling ($15) is lightly floral with juicy lime and peach fruit, a stony element and firm acidity. The 2011 Gewurztraminer ($17) delights with intense aromas of tangerine, peach and pear and off dry, textbook lychee flavors, with a touch of anise in a rich, oily texture wine. The 2010 Alsace One ($13) is a blend of muscat, riesling and pinot gris. It is fragrant and floral with lively tropical, apple and mineral notes, good acidity and a crisp finish.


At the far west end of the Loire Valley within reach of the Atlantic Ocean’s salty breezes lies the Muscadet appellation. There is much unique about the wines here. Melon de Bourgogne is the only grape variety grown and it is virtually unique to this region, even though it originated in Burgundy. These wines are one of the great accompaniments to fish and seafood, and especially oysters.


My favorites come from the Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine area, located between the two rivers in the name. The terrior – igneous and metamorphic rock and the influence of the ocean – produces very dry wines but they are light and crisp, with fresh citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit) aromas that evoke the ocean breeze, brisk acidity offset with minerality, and a tangy, occasionally slightly bitter finish. They are vinified sur lie in which the lees (yeast cells remaining after fermentation) are kept in the wine until bottling to enhance the lively character. The 2009 Andre Michel Bregeon ($16) really evokes the saline spray of the nearby ocean and those oysters you’ll be eating with it. The 2010 Domaine de la Quilla ($13) shows more of the stony minerality. Finally, the 2008 les Clissages D’Or ($16) emphasizes the citrus and herbal qualities.



About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.