Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer White Wines? Think Alsace and Dopff & Irion

"As I've said repeatedly before, Alsatian wines are generally not on the radar of the average consumer but they should be. They can often provide excellent value and taste. They are enjoyable while young but can also age well. They can provide a sense of history, as well as showcase state of the art wine making. At their most basic though, they are delicious."

Wine exports from Alsace to the U.S. have increased by about 24% since 2011. The U.S. is currently the 3rd largest import market by value though there is still plenty of room for growth for Alsatian wines. As summer approaches, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with some of the young, fresh white wines from Alsace, perfect summer sippers. Let me present a couple examples, value white wines that deliver on taste.

The Dopff & Irion winery has its ancestral roots hundreds of years in the past, back to 1574, and the Dopff family were also the first, at the beginning of the 20th century, to create sparkling wines in the Alsace region. In 1945, René Dopff took over the reigns of the winery, breaking away from some of the old winemaking techniques and giving precedence to terroir over grape variety. In this direction, he split the vineyard at Château de Riquewihr into four estates, naming them Les Murailles, Les Sorcières, Les Maquisards, and Les Amandiers. Each estate was dedicated to a specific grape variety. The total estate ranges across about 27 hectares, a large estate compared to the myriad of tiny vineyards in Alsace, often less than one hectare.

I previously enjoyed the Dopff et Irion NV Crémant D'Alsace Brut Rosé, which made my Top Ten Wines Over $15 (and Under $50) of 2014. Made from 100% Pinot Noir,  I likened it to a dish of strawberries and cream. Though dry and crisp, there was a rich creaminess to the wine, with plenty of delicious red fruit flavors, including plenty of strawberry. Complex and with a lingering finish, I found this to be a compelling wine, as well as an excellent value for the price.

I've now tasted two other Dopff et Irion white wines, and they too are compelling and delicious, excellent value wines.

The 2015 Cuvée René Dopff Pinot Blanc ($12.99) is produced from 100% Pinot Blanc, sourced from 300 selected vine-growers. The wine sits on the lees for about 4 months, is then filtered, and sits in stainless steel for several months before bottling. With a light golden color, it has a delightful fruity aroma, and on the palate, there are bright notes of peach, citrus and lemon. It has a rich mouthfeel, with a nice crisp acidity, and a clean finish. It is an easy drinking, but not single-note, wine and a very good value at this price. This would be delicious on its own while sitting outside though it would also pair well with seafood, light chicken dishes, and cheese.

The 2015 Cuvée René Dopff Crustacés ($12.99) is a blend of 80% Sylvaner and 20% Pinot Blanc, sourced from 300 selected vine-growers. The wine sits on the lees for about 4 weeks and sits in stainless steel for about six months before bottling. This wine had a slightly brighter golden color than the Pinot Blanc but had an equally delightful fruity aroma. On the palate, it is crisper and leaner, with delicious apple and citrus notes, a backbone of minerality, and a pleasing finish. Like the Pinot Blanc, this wine is an easy drinking, but not single-note, wine and a very good value at this price. As the label notes, this is an excellent wine for crustaceans and shellfish. I would love to pair this with a plate of oysters, shrimp cocktail and a chilled lobster tail.

When you seek out summer white wines, think Alsace. And the wines of René Dopff are a great Alsatian choice.

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