The diversity of flavours you will find in Alsace wines make them a great companion to food – which is why you’ll find Alsace wines on some of the best restaurant wine lists in London. Read on to find where you can try them, why sommeliers like Alsace wines so much – and their favourite Alsace wine and food matches.
“No wine list would be complete without Alsace,” says Leonid Shutov, owner of the new Bob Bob Cité. “Riesling, in particular, is one of my favourites. Aromatic, full of fruit and floral notes, with perfectly balanced acidity and subtle minerality, they are some of the most versatile white wines out there.”
Shutov suggests pairing classic seafood matches from Eric Chavot’s menu: crab salad or smoked salmon, followed by grilled sea bream or Dover sole. “But many other familiar classics come alive with new flavours when matched with Alsace wine, be it fresh oysters or blanquette of veal with Riesling, or Gewurztraminer with lobster Thermidor or the cheese plate. And I do love a well-chilled glass of Alsace varietals as a pre-dinner drink.”
This plush Chinese in the basement of The Dorchester has one of the best selections of Alsace wine in London, with 24 bins to choose from. “Alsace has been one of my favourite regions for wine and food for years,” says Igor Sotric, wine buyer and head sommelier at China Tang.
Sotric’s favourite matches include Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen ‘Clos-St-Urbain’ with scallops in black bean sauce – “the combination of flavours is just sublime” – and Trimbach Riesling ‘Cuvée Frédéric Emile’ with steamed sea bass with chopped chilli – “so delicate and elegant.”
He also recommends the good value offered by Alsatian Pinot Blanc: try the 2016 Domaine Léon Boesch ‘La Cabane’ for £45.
If you want to explore a classic French wine region such as Alsace, then drinking it with classic French food is always a good way to go. “Our menu is based on dishes such as oysters, seafood, truffle, foie gras and fillet of beef Rossini,” says Coq d’Argent’s assistant head sommelier Marco Scarpulla. “The acidity of Riesling and the sweetness of Gewurztraminer pair very well with these strong, aromatic flavours.”
Scarpulla’s favourite matches include 2008 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris 2008 paired with oysters – “a very delicate combination” – and Trimbach Riesling ‘Cuvée Frédéric Emile’ 2011 with foie gras– “balanced, refreshing and complex”.
With a creation called ‘Alsace’ on its cocktail menu, you’d expect the drinks team at chef Gregory Marchand’s modern classic to be fans of the wine region, and there are three producers to choose from on Frenchie’s wine list.
“I am a big fan of Alsace wines,” says head sommelier Julie Barbero. “I love pairing Alsace wines with Gregory’s food because of their richness – they are superbly well-balanced, with great aromatic qualities and high acidity. One of my favourite pairings is a firm and intense Domaine Valentin Zusslin Riesling ‘Clos Liebenberg’ 2014 with our amazing scallop carpaccio, citrus selection and Piedmont hazelnuts.”
“I like Alsace wines as the style suits what I like to drink,” says Stephen Nisbet, head sommelier at the Galvin brothers’ City restaurant. “They are fragrant and aromatic, very distinct in character and are often lower in alcohol than other wine styles due to climate and winemaking style.”
It is the fragrant and aromatic quality of Alsace wines that make them such a good match for food, Nisbet says. “They have characters that will pair well with more exotic aspects of restaurant dishes not readily found with other wine regions. They often have more subtle acidity, too, so don’t clash so much, especially where spice is involved.”
Nisbet’s favourite pairing is rather more traditional, however. “I love foie gras with vendange tardive Pinot Gris.”
If you really want to test the ability of Alsace wines to match almost any cuisine, head to Gauthier Soho, London’s first fine-dining restaurant to offer a vegan tasting menu. The restaurant’s head sommelier, David Havlik, recommends looking beyond Riesling, however.
“With the boom of plant-based cuisine and dishes with a lot of flavour or spice, soft and mellow wines are bound to find a new audience. Aromatic grapes like Gewurztraminer might be out of fashion but they never fail to surprise our guests.”
To prove the point, Havlik suggests pairing be an off-dry Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer 2015 with a vegan starter of carrot tartare with coriander, sesame, avocado, umeboshi and olive oil.
The two-Michelin-starred Greenhouse has long been famous for having one of the best wine lists in London – over 3,400 bins at the last count. No surprise, then, that head sommelier Andrea Zarbetto finds space for Alsace on the list. “Alsace is the temple of white grape varieties,” Zarbetto says. “Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Sylvaner reach the full immersion of richness and flavours in Alsace.”
The selection of Alsace AOC includes stunning vertical tastings of Trimbach stretching back to 1983, there’s a good showing of Zind-Humbrecht Alsace Grand Cru and a tempting selection of sweet Alsace wines to match the restaurant’s legendary cheeseboard.
If you want to pair wine with Chinese food, head on down to Hakkasan and ask the sommelier to recommend something from Alsace. “Rieslings go very well with dim sum and some spicier dishes such as salt and pepper squid,” says Tobias Brauweiller, master sommelier and Hakkasan’s assistant general manager. “Gewurztraminers and Muscats work well with sweeter dishes such as sweet-and-sour pork. Pinot Gris, which can be a little richer, heavier and creamier, tends to work well with flavourful dishes such as truffle duck.”
But Brauweiller doesn’t just appreciate Alsace wines for their food-matching qualities. “The Alsace region fascinates me as it produces wines full of flavour, concentration and energy, he says. “I personally prefer aromatic white wines with acidity-enhancing freshness. Alsace wines give me that sensation and the complexity I look for when I enjoy a meal.”
Michelin-starred Kai has long been a pioneer of matching wine to Chinese food and with 10 bins on the wine list, Alsace is well represented. “A memorable meal should have a great start, middle and finish,” says restaurant and wine manager Wynn Tabernacle, “so it is no coincidence that the world’s fussiest Alsace varietals feature strongly by the glass at Kai Mayfair.”
Tabernacle recommends sparking Crémant d’Alsace for a celebration, and Muré Gewurztraminer with Kai’s best-selling dessert, ‘Chocolate Does Grow on Trees’. “It’s a homage to the 20 different soil varieties of Alsace,” Tabernacle says.
Chef Anne-Sophie Pic is the third generation of her family to achieve three Michelin stars for Maison Pic in Valence. With such an impressive pedigree, it’s no surprise that the wine list of this London outpost in the City’s Four Seasons hotel comes garlanded with awards – and Alsace is a key player.
Jan Konetzki, the director of wine for the Four Seasons Hotel London at 10 Trinity Square, recommends Josmeyer Fleur de Lotus. “It is a Pinot Gris/Gewurztraminer blend with a stunning texture and pungent floral aromatics. We serve it with scallop marinated in yuzu with Oscietra caviar, beetroot, Vietnamese coriander and smoked eel ice cream. It enhances the natural sweetness of the scallop but also contrasts the earthy notes of the beetroot and smoked eel.”
“Levan’s menu combines the simplicity of French cooking with the creative flair of our chef and owner Nicholas Balfe,” says sommelier and co-founder Mark Gurney. “That calls for a wine that is equally as well made but with bags of character, which is Alsatian wine in a nutshell.”
Levan offers seven Alsace wines on a fascinating list that takes the road less travelled around the wine regions of the world. Gurney’s favourite Alsace wine and food match is Domaine Léon Boesch Pinot Blanc ‘La Cabane’ paired with the XO linguine with clams and monks beard. “The fresh, mineral mouthfeel, with notes of lemon and ginger, really lifts the palate.”
“Alsace wines are underrated and underappreciated,” says Orrery’s sommelier Nicola Perrone. “But because the region has such a wide range of grape varieties, they are able to produce many different styles of wine. The dishes on Orrery’s menu range from light and fruity to rich, and every grape variety and style of Alsace wine can match our food.”
Orrery offers half a dozen Alsace wines, while a Coravin system allows you to try the prestigious Trimbach Riesling ‘Cuvée Frédéric Emile’ 2008 for £25 by the glass instead of the £150 a bottle here costs. Try pairing it, Perrone suggests, with the turbot with asparagus, morels and velouté.
St John (and its legendary chef Fergus Henderson) might be famous for inspiring a revival in unfashionable British ingredients but its wine list is 100% French – including eight bins from Alsace. “Alsace wines have long featured on our lists,” says Trevor Gulliver, co-founder and CEO of St John. “The wines are characterful, versatile and individual.”
While Gulliver says that versatility is reflected in how well Alsace wines can be matched to food, he does single out one match. “The Trimbach Pinot Noir ‘Réserve’ makes frequent appearances on our lunch table. It is a favourite of Fergus and myself and goes wonderfully with a hearty game and trotter pie.”
Indian cuisine and Alsatian wine has long been known as one of the wine world’s magic matches – which is why Sunaina Sethi, co-founder and group wine buyer at JKS Restaurants, has five Alsace producers on her list at Trishna. “The aromatic flavour characteristics of Alsatian wines compliment the flavours and aromas in Indian cuisine really well,” she says.
Does she have any favourite matches at the restaurant? “A Riesling from Alsace can be a wonderful match for a coconut-based fish curry. The acidity will be softened by the oiliness in the fish, and the coconut and spices will marry beautifully with the floral notes of the wine.”
Want to know more about Alsace wine? Click here to read our essential guide to the region and the grapes.
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