“Der deutsche Teig hat etwas von der französischen Hefe nötig”
(“The German dough has need of French leaven”)
The distinctive wines of Alsace owe much to the contradictions of geography and history. The imposing shoulders of the Vosges mountains to the west ensure that Alsace is one of the warmest and driest wine regions in France, despite being further north than Burgundy. The local dialect, Elsässisch, many place names (Riquewihr, Sommerberg) and its best known grape (Riesling) are Germanic, but the conversations, the roads and almost every other widely planted variety are resolutely French.
It is unsurprising, then, that the best wines from Alsace possess at their core a tension between their natural acidity (from the usually late and short season) and breadth of flavour (from the intense, dry heat of the summer months), regardless of grape variety. Muscats are effusive, pretty and sprightly, a match for any cheese, while Gewurztraminer, so often a careless potpourri of rosewater and lychees, acquires a taut spine in the best, well-drained sites. Pinot Gris, typically anodyne, can (and should) be beguilingly perfumed, while its brethren Pinot Noir can thrive with the right handling, offering a higher-toned counterpoint to red Burgundy. Riesling, rightfully the king of Alsace, is like the Vosges in youth, majestic but impenetrable, and ages (slowly) into a wine like the Rhine, pellucid and life-affirming.
Alsace can bewilder with its intense parochialism (not many vignerons venture far from their villages; Strasbourg is just as far as Paris for all intents and purposes) and mix of German head and French heart, but there are more producers than ever committed to sensible viticulture and sensitive winemaking. Chief amongst those is Jean Boxler of Domaine Albert Boxler, whose wines we’ve loved since we had the fortune to try one of his Pinot Blancs, and we are very fortunate to be able to import his wines.
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 It is now sadly uncommon even in the small villages that dot Alsace, e.g. it has been a long time since we’ve heard inhabitants of St-Hippolyte refer to their village by its local name, Sankt Pilt.