We leave Luxembourg after three days. It was cold, charming, and filled with the leanest wine I have had. But this way we avoid bias or over-attachment . The fish starts to smell after three days, as grandma said. After 136 days of travel, we fight to keep things fresh.
So no respectable EU Austerity Drinking Tour would head to Germany without a brief stay in Strasbourg: heart of Alsace and its fantastic wine.
Germany and France have traded this border capital many times. Its wines reflect this fusion: labels list grapes varieties like Germany, styles follow French dryness, grapes range from Pinot Noir, Gris, and Blanc, to Riesling Gewurztraminer, Muscat, or Silvaner: all growing happily in this tower of babel.
Strasbourg charms to the point of cloying. Winter dusts its high peaked rooftops. Christmas markets fill every square. Luckily, we have an apartment to ourselves (with a kitchen!) in its historic core.
We hit the streets, which weave ancient paths between homes, pubs, and canals.
We set our sites on climbing Strasbourg Cathedral. The world’s tallest building for 227 years (still the sixth-tallest church) can be seen every on the horizon. However, we must cut through crowds and Christmas markets to reach it.
Yes, those are the Vosges mountains. They block any remnant of Atlantic or Mediterranean weather, thus rendering Alsace sunnier, drier, and more extreme in temperatures than the rest of France. This creates wine more intense yet lean, delicate yet austere, than most places in the world.
Since it’s too freezing for vineyard visits, we go shopping. Just down the street from the Cathedral, sits the slick tasting boutique of Wolfberger.
Appearance: It looks a clear, salmon pink, with rapid, small bubbles. Aromas: smell moderately of clove, wild strawberry, and lemongrass. Palate: feels just off dry, with zingy acidity, mild alcohol (12%), and a light body. Flavors: taste of wild strawberry, tart apple, clove spice, and almonds. The length lasts a fairly long while. Wolfberger’s pink fizz is completely representative, good (3 of 5), mouthwatering, but aptly undemanding and not complex.
A little further we find Christian: Strasbourg’s famed chapel to all things chocolate:
Luckily an extremely small winery has a chalet: Domaine Loew. While my wife gets distracted with the facing flour mill pastry chalet, I sample through Loew’s awfully young, citric wines. But one stands worthy of taking home:
Their single site Riesling: Domain Loew, Riesling, Bruderbach Clos des Frères, Alsace, France 2010. €10.50
Appearance: looks clear, bright, pale gold. Aromas: smell youthful but pronounced with classic peach, apricot, honey, lime, and mineral. Palate: Off dry sweetness tames this cool climate high acidity. A medium alcohol 12% makes for a light-ish body. Flavors: taste of bold lime juice, salt, honey, and young peach and carry a long while.
Germanic, with French roots: Loew’s Bruderbach 2010 Riesling is young, vibrant, and mineral. With all that acidity, it will show its stuff in a few more years (probably now when I write this post). Either way, it is very good (4 of 5).
Alsatian wine, like Strasbourg, is fantastically bipolar. People with German names speak French, bake brilliant pastries but also cook fantastic sausage.
Next Monday, we get a bit more historic and tumble into the caves of the Hospice de Strasbourg and its fantastic wine.