Mader - Beautiful French wines from Alsace

Thankfully, these wines came from a very dear friend that's from Alsace, Eric Ziebel, who is the head sommelier at Summer Lodge, near Yeovil. And conversation with Eric, he said, "Tim, I've found these wines. We've been looking for an importer in the UK." I said, "I'd love to have a look at them".

It's the only selection of Alsace wines that I have in the portfolio, and there were a number of things that caught my attention what Eric was sharing with me. One was it's a very small estate of 7.9 hectares. The son had returned to the family and taken over the business. And the other thing was all the wines were made in a style organic/biodynamic, so everything hand harvested, no pesticides used whatsoever. But also the important thing when I'm looking at a wine, and this is pretty much every wine I'd look at, I'm looking at the aromas, the mouthfeel and the aftertaste. If one of those things isn't quite right, it's not a wine for Sommelier's Choice, so I want all of those things to sing in a super way.

And do you know, in tastings and placing the wines in restaurants, the joy of this selection is there isn't a dud wine. Occasionally, you can find a producer making some things absolutely outrageous and, then, not quite getting something right. But I just hang my hat on these wines because every time they deliver and that's such a joy as, one, as a sommelier, two, as a wine merchant and selling the wines, if you know you're recommending a wine to a client and you can put your hat on it, it's such a joy, it gives you such confidence.

Now, the range is fabulous. We have selected just five of the wines. There is actually another four or five more that I could have selected as well. We have a Pinot blanc, a really fresh, clean style. As I said, all the wines are hand harvested, so you're looking at fragrance, you're looking at immediacy, and also you're looking at the simplicity of the drinking with the wine. And this is certainly delicious.

One of my favourites from the estate, to be quite honest with you, is their Riesling. And it has quite a bit of limestone in the vineyard that gives this minerality and the citrus notes that just dance on the palette. There's an element of some kerosene coming through which is typical of Riesling, but, right now, it's more the citrus notes. Great if you're having some spicy food. Really, a joy. Certainly, most sommeliers, their go-to grape variety, in many senses, is Riesling 'cause it's so rewarding.

So then we have a Riesling Lieu-Dit 2017, close to the grand cru vineyards of Rosacker and around there. And this wine has the minerality but also has a bit of richness to the wine as well. Fruity notes, really fabulous, I've been drinking this recently, really enjoying it. Certainly, once again, with spice, we've been cooking a fabulous piece of monkfish with some curry powder, and this was paired with it and it was just dancing on the palette, it worked so well. The recipe was actually from Gordon Ramsay and I highly recommend the curried monkfish by Gordon paired with this wine, really fabulous.

I like Gewurztraminer, not everybody does, but this Gewurz is absolutely full on, all singing, all dancing, and what should you expect from Gewurz? Lychees, and lychee note just powers through, quite delicious. Great to have as an aperitive if you like this style but, also, pairing with food. Once again, I know I'm saying this quite a lot, spicy food, but Alsatian wine does work with this spice so well. So lychee notes, very classic, rich. There's a dryness, it's not just about sweetness with the wine. Lots of people think that Gewurztraminer's sweet, it's actually a fruity style.

When I first started as a sommelier back in 1987, yes I am that old, I was working for a gentleman called Anton Mosimann and the whole feature of his cuisine was nouvelle cuisine. And I remember we had a Pinot noir from Alsace and it was a little bit light and not quite as I like Pinot noir. Well, whoa, many years later it's totally changed and now you have fabulous Pinot noirs and this, in particular, is really good. There's grapefruit notes, there's a nice dryness to the wine. I highly recommend bringing the temperature down a little, pairing it with seafood during the summer. And it's just nice to bring the temperature of these wines down.

Now, when you're drinking red wine, in general, I would say we drink them in the UK too warm. Lots of people would say we should be drinking them at room temperature. Well, if I'm not mistaken, I believe that was set when we didn't have central heating in our houses. So the house was probably running at 14 to 15 degrees. And that's what happens when you go to a winery, you're not drinking the wine at 18, 19, 20 degrees, it's cooler than that. And once you bring the temperature down, it then enables red wine, certainly, to be paired with seafood. And it's a joy because you lose some of the tannins and the fruit note comes through. It really makes a big difference. So Pinot noir from Alsace, super with a piece of fish.