Feb 19 2009

Alsace By Moonlight

By Brett Ashley McKenzie

Would you believe that some biodynamic winemakers look to the skies–more specifically, the moon–for guidance in vineyard practices? At a luncheon hosted by Josmeyer Vin D'Alsace at La Sardine on Wednesday, Vine Grower and Managing Director Christophe Ehrhart showed me his pocket guide to the Earth's distance from the moon at any given time, which helps govern planting, pruning, and harvesting at Josmeyer. Additionally, in lieu of pesticides and chemicals, the Josmeyer vineyards follow typical biodynamic practices of using other plants–such as willow, horestail, and nettles–to control mildew and disease.

The vast majority of wines from Alsace, including those available at Just Grapes, are white; and Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, and Pinot Gris are the most widely grown in the region. Because of Alsace's geographic location, nestled between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the Rhine River and Germany to the east, the soil content ranges from pink sandstone to granite to chalk to volcanic sediment, each of which give the wines a distinctive, mineral flavor.

The mission of many biodynamic vineyards is to create wine that enhances the food it is paired with. During a lunch of spinach salad with fresh blue cheese, a charcuterie platter, French onion soup, and several desserts, Christophe talked us through which wines he felt would best compliment our meals. I was truly delighted with how the light, clean 2005 Josmeyer Pinot Blanc "Mise du Printemps" paired with my spinach salad. This Pinot Blanc had distinct notes of green apple, peach, and a citrusy finish. For the French onion soup–which, by the way, Christophe informed me was not in fact "French" at all (true French onion soup is served without the cheese and bread on top)–we had a bit of a challenge. Because it is served hot, soup is more difficult to pair a chilled white wine with. After trying a floral 2004 Gewürztraminer, a dry 2006 Riesling, and a Pinot Auxerios known inexplicably as "The H", I found the 2001 Pinot Gris Hengst, with its creamy mouthfeel and near 15 percent alchol content, to be a perfect compliment for the soup.

This being my first experience with biodynamic Alsatian wine, I was delighted at how refreshing, clean, and naturally flavorful each wine tasted.

Have you given biodynamic wines a try? What are your favorites?

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