It was a cold and rainy day in Las Vegas so it was very fitting that I chose to begin my wine tasting journey on the northern regions of France, Alsace and the Loire Valley, where the grapes thrive in the damp and cool climate.
Focusing on the white varietals this time around, I set out to purchase just a few wines to get a taste of each region – no cart. I walked away with nine bottles – full cart. Here’s what happened:
Each December, I love watching Christmas in Alsace with Chef Hubert Keller so, naturally, I went in to this with genuine excitement to taste my way around the region. My shopping list included a Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and a Pinot Blanc.
I found my way to the French White section of Total Wine and located the small but vibrant selection of wines from Alsace. Because the selection was limited, I spend about 20 minutes deciding which varietal I would pick from which shipper. It turned into a full on sudoku puzzle and I can only imagine what the guy stocking the shelves next to me was thinking. I successfully walked away with the three bottles on my list.
Fun Fact: Alsace is the only region in France that routinely labels it’s wines by varietal and the name featured on the bottle is actually the shipper rather than the grape grower. Because the grape growers own so few vines, they sell their grapes to a shipper who produces and sells the wine.
Being so closely situated next to Paris and the preferred vacation hot-spot of the French elite, the Loire Valley holds an air of prestige in my mind so I was ready to shop these shelves like I would the shelves of Chanel on the Champs-Élysées. My shopping list included a Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Sancerre.
As soon as I began analyzing every label on the shelf, I realized that I had made a mistake. Unlike Alsace, Loire Valley wines followed the traditional French labeling methodology listing the producer rather than the varietal. Oops.
I picked up the Sancerre first since that was the only feasible selection on my shopping list. Then I went nuts. “Would’t it be fun to taste a Pouilly-Fumé next to the Sancerre since they’re both made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes and geographically so close together? I think Vouvray checks the Chenin Blanc box, let’s try that! What about that one that actually does say Sauvignon Blanc right on it? How about that cool looking bottle? Can’t leave out Muscadet.”
So many options. Decision paralysis turned into an all out shopping spree.
Fun Fact: Pouilly-Fumé gets its name not from being smokey in flavor (which it is not) but from the cool, smoke-like mist that covers the terroir in the mornings.
So there you have it. My first shopping trip in the books as I research all the wines of the world. We’ll call it a success because I’d much rather have too many bottles than too few. Am I right?
Cheers from my wine tasting buddies and me!