The diversity of flavours you will find in Alsace wines make them a great companion to food. Wine professionals the world over have long valued their elegance, quality and value for money – which is why you’ll also find them on some of the best restaurant wine lists in London.
Wine production in the French region is split fairly evenly between Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer, followed by Pinot Gris and the region’s main red grape, Pinot Noir. Although white wine makes up 90% of production, the region’s four main white grape varieties offer this impressive diversity of flavours that makes for some of the most food-friendly wines in the world, whether you’re eating Indian or Italian, Chinese or cheese.
Read on to find where you can try them, as well as why sommeliers like Alsace wines so much – and their favourite Alsace wine and food matches. La Dame de Pic and Imperial Treasure are offering 33% and 25% off any bottle of Alsace wine during the month of September. Simply mention the "SquareMeal Alsace Promotion" when booking or ordering the bottle of wine to receive that amount off your first bottle.
The full-throttle flavours of Bellanger’s all day café, bar and brasserie are a perfect canvas for the pure and concentrated flavours of the wines from the Alsace region. Key dishes here include coq au Riesling, moules marinières and steak frites and salad. Or why not wait for cheese, which goes beautifully with Alsace wine.
Popular Alsace wines include the clean and citrussy Riesling d’Alsace 2018, Cave de Hunawihr, Alsace – great with the moules – or a hedonisitic Gewurztraminer ‘Kessler’ 2016, Alsace Grand Cru, Schlumberger, Alsace, with hints of lychee, mango and passion fruit.
Wine is taken extremely seriously at the Bleeding Heart where viticulturalist owners Robert and Robyn Wilson have put together a 650-bin list that is both varied and good value. Having grown up in Metz in Moselle, group head sommelier Yann Prigent is more than familiar with the wines of neighbouring Alsace. “Bleeding Heart’s monthly Magnum Club wine dinner has hosted famous Alsace winemakers such as Jean Trimbach and Jean-Frédéric Hugel” says Prigent.
“We’re also very proud of our cheese trolley and it’s a pleasure to watch someone try a Hugel Alsace Riesling 2017 ‘Classic’ paired with a piece of Valençay cheese for the first time.”
“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.
The decorous Cinnamon Club has always shone brightly when it comes to its stunningly presented and exhilarating contemporary Indian cuisine. And the same innovation can be said for its wine list, created by wine buyer Laurent Chaniac.
“Alsace, has a unique terroir, an incredible diversity of soils and despite its northern latitude is one of the driest regions of France, allowing a viticulture that is bio driven”, says Chaniac. “Wines are of incredible complexity, purity and class”.
And does he have a favourite match? “Our Old Delhi style butter chicken on the bone with black lentils and pilau rice, paired with Pinot Gris Altenbourg, Domaine Weinbach, Alsace, 2013. The textures of the dish and wine have richness and silkiness in common. There is harmony between the concentrated stone fruit in the wine and the creamy base of the sauce. And the cardamom, citrus and tomato notes of the sauce complement the delicate acidity of the wine.”
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”.
Home of the liquid lunch back in the day, the Cork & Bottle has one of the great and best value wine lists thanks to oenophile owner Don Hewitson. “Alsace wines are an enigma,” Hewitson says with characteristic authority. “The region is almost exclusively devoted to white wines, which are invariably described as ‘the most food-friendly wines in the world’. This is because the cooking of Alsace is a by-product of all the historical tug of wars, combining the delicacy of French cuisine and the robustness of German.”
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.
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.”
Hutong, London Bridge
Hutong has so many delights to offer that it is easy to forget the work that has gone into compiling its list, which has both adventure and variety intricately stitched within its fabric. “Our food is based on sweet, sour, hot and spicy flavours,” explains head sommelier Francisco Nevot. “Rich, oily Alsace wines with a little bit of sweetness help to temper the chilli and are the best match for this food.”
Nevot recommends Domaine Loew Alsace Gewurztraminer ‘Westhoffen’ with Hutong’s signature dish of Red Lantern: crispy soft-shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli.
Make no mistake the wine list is a very important feature at internationally-recognised Imperial Treasure and the offering is both deep and varied.
“Alsatian wines offer one of the most classic examples of terroir: ancient soils, noble grapes and one of the warmest areas in France,” says head sommelier Fernando Lopez says. “The different styles, from sparkling crémant to aged Riesling, are always a perfect match with Asian cuisine. The notes in the wine have the ability to explore such exotic territories.”
Try the restaurant’s Scottish lobster mapo tofu with a glass of 2018 Riesling 'Le Dragon', Domaine Josmeyer.
Mention “SquareMeal Alsace Promotion” to receive 25% off your first bottle of Alsace Wine during September.
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.”
Mention “SquareMeal Alsace Promotion” to receive 33% off your first bottle of Alsace Wine during September.
“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 and co-founder Trevor Gulliver) 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 Gulliver. “The wines are characterful, versatile and individual...in the warmer months a lightly chilled Alsace Pinot is to be recommended at lunch.”
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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