Friday, 25 August 2017

Wine tasting in Alsace

The wines of Alsace are world famous. Top of the range of the fine Alsatian wines are those from the Weinbach Estate. Established by Capuchin monks back in 1612, the grounds of the domaine are superbly set beneath the protective Vosges mountains of eastern France. The limestone and granite soil of this area has long been recognised for wines. The Romans back in 890 AD had planted vines here when the Empress Richarde gave the land to the Abbey of Etival. 
The monastery became government property following the French Revolution in 1798 and was acquired by the current Faller family  in 1898. I met Colette Faller over thirty years ago when as a wine buyer for Denmark I visited the estate on a regular basis.   Sadly Colette has now passed on but her daughter Catherine and her son Eddy are busy managing the estate. 

Domaine Weinbach

The 74 acres of the estate lie at the heart of the Kayserberg valley. Facing south and protected by tree lined hills, it's various terroirs amplify the regions hot microclimate and possess ideal wine growing conditions. 

Domaine Weinbach with Schlossberg Hill to the right.

Catherine Faller with Poul Jensen

Grapes on the lower estate awaiting harvest

A third of the Domaine vines are located on the prestigious Schlossberg Hill and enjoy exceptional environmental conditions: granite rock with shallow, sandy soil, southern and a steep slope ensuring optimal exposure to the sun. The first terroir in Alsace to receive the status of Grand Cru Schlossberg is particularly favourable for Domaine Weinbach's great Rieslings which it endows with elegance and finesse. We were exceedingly fortunate to be invited to taste a number of these wines by Catherine's son Eddy. 

Eddy Faller and Poul Jensen

Grand Cru Schlossberg 2016

The Grands Cru Marckrain, limestone clay gives birth to a fruity and well structured Pinot Gris.

Pinot Gris 2016

In contrast, the unique limestone and limestone clay soils of Grand Cru Furstentum and Mambourg are ideal for the Gewürztraminer grape, from which the Domaine produces opulent wines with great aromatic complexity.

All these fine wines had an extraordinary quality and an amazing depth of aroma which exploded on the palate, constantly challenging the vocabulary to resonate an appropriate response! 

We were in wine heaven! We could easily have stayed all day!  However having tasted so many fine wines so early in the morning ( we started at 10am) it was time to go out and explore some of the beautiful towns along the Alsace Wine Route. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Sauce Béarnaise

Sauce Béarnaise is such a very versatile sauce. Whilst a classic sauce with a cote du boeuf as in the photo below, it works equally well with white fish (cod or monkfish) and stands deliciously alone with green vegetables or most vegetables in fact. The secret is to always use fresh tarragon and here stick to French rather that Russian tarragon as the French grown herb has much more superior taste.

serves 4


half a gram of crushed white peppers
2 tbsp of white wine vinegar 
stalks of tarragon
6 tbsp water
4 egg yolk 
400 g unsalted butter
salt & pepper
fresh tarragon 


Melt the butter
Put the crushed pepper in a pot add vinegar, tarragons stalks and water and boil, reduce to half, whisk in the egg yolks  one by one, and then slowly whisk in the purified melted butter, - if the sauce gets too thick , just add some water till it has the desired consistency -  and finally the freshly chopped tarragon.

In the photo below we served the béarnaise sauce with a cote du boeuf, pan fried mushrooms, BBQ slices of aubergine (eggplant) and chips!