The region's extroverted varieties are excellent French picks for warm-weather fare.

Karen MacNeil
August 14, 2008

Come summer, I crave wines that are pure, fresh, young, andvivid-wines as invigorating as ocean water or mountain air. Severalwines fill this bill, but none outshine those of Alsace. Borderedby Germany and Switzerland, France's Alsace region looks as if itinspired a Grimm's fairy tale, with sun-dappled vineyards, quaintvillages, and timbered houses adorned with window boxes.

The five top Alsatian wines are all white: riesling,gewürztraminer, pinot gris, muscat, and pinot blanc. Boldlyaromatic, totally dry, often full-bodied, and crisp, they are aboutas extroverted and edgy as wines get. These qualities make themstellar food partners. In fact, they are terrific choices when, asis so often the case in summer, you have a table full of differentfoods and need one wine to serve with everything.

Luckily for us, the Alsatian producers who export their wineshere are terrific, so it's nearly impossible to go wrong, whateverbrand you buy. Some names you'll see: Trimbach, Hugel, Kuentz-Bas,Zind Humbrecht, Ostertag, Josmeyer, and Weinbach. Because Alsatianwines are named for their grape variety, not for the place fromwhich they come, it is easy to read the region's wine labels andunderstand what's in the bottle. See below for tips on matchingthese tasty wines to summer foods.

• Considered the queen of Alsatian wines, the area's riesling is among the world's most powerful and intense.Serve it with smoked fish, scallops, grilled chicken, or pork.

• Exotic and enticingly aromatic, Alsatian gewürztraminer is spicy, rich, dry, and bold, making ita favorite choice with spicy or southeast Asian dishes like Tandoori-Spiced Grilled Shrimp with Mint-Cilantro Chutney .

• Hauntingly dry, hedonistic, and fruity, muscat is redolent of peaches, orange peel, tangerine, andmusk. A favorite aperitif, it is often served with steamedasparagus.

• Native to Alsace, pinot gris (later brought to Italy, where it became known aspinot grigio) has tasty almond, herb, smoke, and grassy flavors.Try it with grilled pork tenderloin.

• Simple and satisfying, pinot blanc is the roundest of all Alsace wines with alikable light, creamy quality that works well with all kinds offood.

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