A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - An Alsatian (France) Sylvaner

For many years I have enjoyed and reviewed many wines from Alsace, France with their distinctively shaped bottles and sometimes, but not always, their distinctive taste. This is the first time in recent memory that I have found one for under $10. I want to clarify this price limit. I live in Ontario, Canada where wine prices are often somewhat higher than in many parts of the United States. Our dollar fluctuates and I don't want to cut off a wine because the Canadian dollar inched up a bit. So I specify about $10 when it's floating near the limit.

Alsace is a relatively small wine-producing region. Its wine growing area is a mere 60 miles (100 kilometers) long and at most 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide sitting on the German border to the east. Almost all its wine is white. While Sylvaner is fairly widely planted, it is not considered a fine grape in Alsace or elsewhere. For $10 did you expect to get a fine grape from an expensive region in an expensive wine producing country? However, this wine just might end up being a bargain.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Dopff and Irion Crystal d'Alsace Sylvaner 2007 11.9 % alcohol about $10

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Pale straw color; light floral aromas with hints of pear and melon; fresh and lively with green apple, lime and herbal notes on the palate; crisp, clean finish. Serving Suggestion: Seafood or fish; quiche, etc... And now for my review.

I started by sipping this wine alone. It was lightly sweet, quite long, and mildly acidic. The first meal was smoked turkey thighs cooked with chickpeas. The wine was appley and refreshing but uni-dimensional and light.

The second meal was a commercial shepherd's pie. Now the Sylvaner tastes both lemony and appely. Its acidity is pretty good but the length was inconsistent. When I added some Turkish hot pepper it became stronger and wasn't overwhelmed. This is not the hot pepper sauce that I love (even if the two share the name Harissa). I can only wonder how this wine would handle the pungency of the real thing.

The final meal consisted of chicken meat balls slow cooked with soft wheat. The wine became rounder and was sharply acidic, tasting of citrus fruits. It was palate cleansing.

I completed this tasting with two cheeses. The first cheese was an Italian-style Ricotta cottage cheese. It was hard to define the wine's fruit, perhaps gooseberry. The wine became somewhat sweeter. This wine and cheese pairing was better than average. Then I went to a Provolone. The Sylvaner was citrusy, modestly long with pleasant acidity.

Final verdict. I would buy this wine again. It does qualify as a bargain. You can easily pay much more for Alsace wine and not get better. But it's not a wine to rave about.


Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but frankly prefers drinking fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods and the right people. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Check out his wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.

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