Let’s visit two underrated French regions and a few seemingly forgotten, but readily available wine selections. Even the least “wine savvy” enthusiast recognizes the basic wine options that are available when visiting his or her favorite restaurant or social venue. Cabernets, Chardonnays, and Sauvignon Blancs pack the eating establishment wine lists and daily chalk boards in an attempt to offer the patron a trendy choice by the glass or bottle. But what about some of those often-overlooked, less promoted and seemingly forgotten wines? You may have come across the names of some of these varietals in the past, even contemplated a purchase, but in the end lost your courage to experiment. Now that you’ve gained some wine tasting experience having tasted the basic selections and are now more confident with your own palate, you may want to step it up and take a more adventurous approach by trying a new varietal. One of the greatest joys of wine tasting is finding that a varietal you’ve always shied away from is in fact very worthy of your attention.
Alsatian Wines (France)
The Alsace region is nestled between France and Germany. Part of its cultural uniqueness is the fact that it has changed hands between France and Germany multiple times over the past 100 years. Although the varietals from Alsace may sound familiar, the terroir (soil & climate subtleties) and winemaking style produce very distinctive wines with aromatic and balanced qualities. These wines are considered remarkably food friendly and offer some interesting matches when paired with Asian and Mexican dishes (not always an easy accomplishment). Top varietals include Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Gris.
Gewurztraminer (ga-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner): Crisp white with floral notes, mineral quality and varying degrees of sweetness. These wines are also considered by some to be one of the few that work well with Avocado. Reliable vintners to seek out include: Zind-Humbrecht and Hugel.
Pairs Well With: Spicy dishes and avocado.
Riesling (REES-ling): Unlike their German counterparts, Rieslings from Alsace tend to be bone dry with higher alcohol content, often more than 12% as compared to the German 7.5%. Flavors tend to be very pure, with a flinty minerality, fresh citrus and vibrant acidity.
Pairs Well With: Sushi, crab, fresh water fish, goose and grilled pork.
Pinot Gris (PEE-no Gree): Largely recognized by most as a familiar Italian white, Pinot Grigio. More recently this white varietal has caught the attention of Oregon winemakers in the US, largely because of its climate similarities with Alsace. However all resemblance ends there, as Alsatian Pinot Gris is typically fuller, spicier and lacking the citrus aroma common to its Italian and American counterparts. Reasonably priced producers include Lucien Albrecht and Trimbach.
Pairs Well With: Spicy chicken, veal chops and scallops.
Loire Valley (France)
Loire Valley is located in the northwestern corner of France. Most white wines produced here are from the Chenin Blanc varietal, but rather than focusing on this readily available wine, let’s touch on a less traveled selection, the Muscadet.
Muscadet (Muss-ka-day): A dry white wine made in a lighter style with lower alcohol levels than other regional wines like Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre. It is unique in the sense that it is technically grown in the Brittany region where the soil is dominated by granite and not limestone as Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre are. Muscadet is most known for being the perfect accompaniment to Oysters and fish. But chefs around the world are now pairing it with great success alongside spicy foods, fried chicken, and barbeque. Muscadet is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape producing a light bodied, mineral-edged wine. One reason for its successful pairing with spicy dishes is its low alcohol level (high levels of alcohol tend to intensify spiciness) and the citrusy acidity which helps to cut through the “heat”.
Pairs Well With: Oysters, fish, spicy dishes, fried chicken and barbeque.
All U-Line Modular 3000 Series Wine Captain® Models are equipped with the U-Select® Control, allowing you to maintain precise temperature within 1°F of set point for optimal preservation. The digitally controlled convection cooling system manages the refrigeration environment to keep wine preserved at the right temperature, without temperature fluctuation. The U-Select® Control preserves wine by offering three unique modes: sparkling, white, and red. Each mode has an optimal set point within a designated temperature range that can also be adjusted for personal preference. The U-Select® Control makes it quick and easy to establish cellar-like conditions. The fully integrated and concealed U-Select® Control system, ergonomically located on the top of the door, is available in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and German. Learn more about the U-Select® Control here.
U-Line’s Modular 3000 Series Wine Captain® Models provide ample space for your various wine bottle shapes and sizes. The fourth and fifth racks accommodate larger diameter bottles, such as Champagne and many of the newer bottles shapes. Our unique wine rack design cradles various shapes and sizes of bottles safely in place. Learn more about our Wine Captain® Models here.