The Alsace wines of the Bas-Rhin
By Sue Style
This Guide was last updated on 12 March 2011
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Asparagus: white asparagus is extensively grown in the sandy soils beside the Rhine. The season lasts roughly from April till mid-June and some restaurants focus almost exclusively on the vegetable at this time, serving it in huge steaming piles with cured and cooked ham and 3 sauces (vinaigrette, mayonnaise and hollandaise). Muscat is the classic match.
Choucroute: the classic dish of Alsace, aromatic salted cabbage, very similar to the German sauerkraut, but more refined with the addition of juniper berries and often cooked in goose fat. Traditionally garnished with lots of smoked pork, ham and different sausages, a Sylvaner or entry-level Riesling would be good with this dish. A choucroute royale is made with Crémant d’Alsace, and served with the same wine. When a main dish is described as à l'alsacienne it will be accompanied by choucroute.
Choucroute aux Poissons: a refinement where the meat is replaced by an assortment of fish (salmon, monkfish, pike-perch) - just the dish for a fine Riesling.
Tarte à l’Oignon: a creamy quiche of onions, eggs and sometimes bacon, ideal with a Pinot Blanc or Sylvaner.
Truite au bleu: poached trout that has been freshly caught from one of the local rivers. Riesling works well with this.
Foie Gras: made from both duck and goose livers this calls for a top Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer.
Baeckeoffe: a dish made of pork, lamb, beef and vegetables marinated for several days in Riesling, and baked for hours in the classic, decorated Alsace ceramic casserole. Serve the same wine as for the marinade.
Coq au Riesling: chicken - or better still a cockerel - simmered in Riesling (which must be the wine to drink with this dish) with added mushrooms and cream. Traditionally served with finely cut home-made noodles.
Matelote: a freshwater fish stew cooked in and best served with Riesling.
Flammekueche/Tarte Flambée: Alsace’s answer to pizza: wafer-thin bread dough anointed with a mixture of onion, cream and bacon, baked till bubbling hot, served on a wooden board and eaten with the fingers. Good with a Pinot Blanc.
Munster: soft, brine-washed cows' milk cheese with its own Appellation Contrôlée, described by local author Jean Egen as "powerfully dialectic, marrying pleasure with repulsion, delight with pestilence: German smell, French flavour, a typically alsacien cheese". Serve with a Gewurztraminer.
Kugelhopf: a turban-shaped yeast loaf studded with raisins and almonds. It’s typically served at a vin d’honneur when it’s accompanied by Crémant d’Alsace. For a real treat, try it with a Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles.
Tarte aux Fruits à l'Alsacienne: Sweet tarts made with the local fruits: quetsch or mirabelle (small black and yellow plums respectively), apples or cherries - a fine match for Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive.
Berawecka: A rich, dense fruit cake made with dried fruits and lots of spices, ideal to eat with a Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles.
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