Obernai, France – Alsace is not the region that first springs to mind when somebody mentions French wine. The grande crus of Bordeaux or Burgundy get most of the fanfare. While the cooler climate of Alsace doesn’t produce the huge reds of warmer climes, some wonderful wines are to be found here. There are seven varietals traditionally grown in Alsace. These are Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pino Gris, Pino Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat. Maybe Josef will give us more of the nitty-gritty on them.
Our first stop in Alsace was the picturesque town of Obernai. It is toward the northern end of the Alsace Wine Route, a scenic road which winds its way through vineyards and small wine-producing towns.
When Annie Strub’s (nee Buchholz) grandparents built the simple winery in 1930, it was well outside Obernai. Now the city has grown around the small compound, which blends in with the surroundings. But defying the changing times, the winery is still a family affair. When her parents decided to retire, Annie left her teaching career, and returned to the family profession she had grown up with. She spent three years studying vinoculture, and now runs the business.
That the winery is a family business became obvious when Annie’s mother, Florent, joined us in the small tasting room. She grew up speaking Alsacian, a dialect of german, and confided in us that she still feels a bit of an outsider when she speaks French. She and her husband still live in a house behind the winery.
Before we left, Annie invited us down to see the barrels in the cellar. I am used to visiting wineries in Napa and Sonoma, so I was really struck by the small scale of everything. I am used to production being measured in tens of thousands of cases per year. With only 3.5 hectares of vineyard, the Strub-Buchholz family produces a modest 5,000 or so bottles of wine a year.
What about that wine? We started with the Sylvaner, which had a surprisingly fruity bouquet. In the end, we were most taken by the Tokay Pino Gris, which we found light, but well rounded with just a hint of tannin. We bought a few bottles to enjoy on hot Summer afternoons. Like many of the wineries we visited here, they don’t distribute their wine, so you’ll have to visit. Well worth a trip!