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Alsatian Gems from the Abarbanel Wine Estate

One small region for a kosher wine-maker to tackle, one giant leap for kosher wine loving society to enjoy!  Abarbanel Estate brings the kosher wine community a portfolio of Alsatian wines that embodies the traditional Alsatian winemaking style while offering it at very affordable prices (an accomplishment of which many non-kosher Alsatian wines can’t boast).  At around or just under $20 a bottle, these wines represent some of the best values in kosher wine today, from one of the most celebrated region for white wines. 

Nestled amidst the French, German, and Swiss border, Alsace is a beautiful swath of mountainous terrain, better known for its historical significance in 20th century disputes between Germany and France than for its brilliance in the production of high quality white wines.  Too bad more historians don’t know good wine!  

Straddling multiple climates and cultures, Alsatian wine-making reflects this diversity of tradition. Influenced heavily by Germanic winemaking traditions, the region’s grapes are almost exclusively German in origin, its varietals rarely blended, and its aging process almost completely devoid of oak.  Yet the verve, structure, and body of Alsatian wines express a decidedly French sensibility, which is ultimately more pronounced in the final product.  Unlike German Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, which are notorious for having high degrees of residual sugar and for retaining a delicate and fruity character, Alsatians are celebrated for their steely backbone, their acidic grip, and their dryness.  These flavor profiles are ideal in complementing the hearty meat and cheese dishes typical of the region.  Not many whites can stand up to this challenge, but local wine-makers, in a climate too cold to produce robust red wines, have ensured that Alsatian whites can.  The result is some of the most memorable white wine in the world. What’s more, it pairs beautifully with almost any dish you could serve at your table.

Abarbanel launched its Alsatian venture with a collection of three still white wines, one still red, and one bottle of sparkling Cremant (French word for sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method).  Below, I have listed my ratings for all the wines in this noteworthy assemblage.  As I have explained, the whites are the real champions of this bunch, and you should attempt to track them down at all costs (especially the Gewurz), but if you happen to chance upon a bottle of Abarbanel Pinot Noir in your local wine store, consider giving it a whirl.  Hey, for $15 why the heck not?  

 

90 Abarbanel Gewurztraminer 2006 - This is a fantastic example of an Alsatian style Gewurztraminer with an intense nose of ginger and spice, and lingering cloves and incense on the finish. Well-balanced with a round, rich mouthfeel, this wine is a true delight.

 

87 Cremant d’Alsace NV - Medium bright, lemony color with mid-sized bubbles. Very creamy green apple and pear on the nose, moderated by enough yeast to bake bread for all of China. Soft and creamy sparkler with good structure and balance. Drink now.

 

86 Abarbanel Pinot Blanc 2006 - Medium-bodied and gentle on the nose and palate. Crisp acidity makes it a refreshing summer beverage and a wonderful match to seafood dishes.

 

85 Abarbanel Riesling 2004 - Typical of a Riesling, this wine smells of flowers and glycerine. Very acidic wine with lots of green apple and pear on the palate. Refreshing, but with a short finish and slightly bitter mid-palate.

 

84 Pinot Noir 2005 - Strawberry red in color, and thin-bodied even for a Pinot Noir. The nose shows a vibrant earthiness mingled with plum fruit and hints of vegetal matter. Rich, medium-bodied palate, but with a slightly metallic taste and a short finish.