Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chilling Wine and Hugel Gentil: A Scallop Story

When Amber told me she was making scallops, I had the idea to pair them with a dry Riesling. Being the absent minded individual I can be sometimes, when dinner time came, I didn’t have one chilled.

This situation left me with two options:

Option 1: Rapid Chill

There are several ways to rapidly chill a bottle of wine. The most common one is to use a bucket with ice and salt water, submerging as much of the wine as possible. I like this method for how quickly it works, but my fridge doesn't have an ice maker and I would have had to use my entire supply of ice to pull this off.

My other favorite way to rapidly chill a bottle of wine is a little simpler but it uses some of the same principles.

Step 1: Take a few paper towels and fold them over into a double or triple layer. Make sure the length of these paper towels is long enough to wrap around the entire bottle of wine.

Step 2: Moisten the paper towels and wring them out to remove any excess moisture

Step 3: Wrap the paper towels around the wine bottle forming a wet paper towel cocoon. You want to cover as much of the surface area of the wine bottle as possible.

Step 4: Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes, and voila! Unwrap, uncork, and serve your rapidly chilled bottle of wine!

Option 2: Pick another bottle that I do have chilled

If someone asks me what the best pairing for a particular meal is, I could wax poetic about some particular combination. But when it all comes down to it the best bottle of wine is:

A) The one you have


B) The one you like!

Luckily I happened to have a bottle that not only met these 2 criteria, but it even is considered a classic companion to seafood!
Via Hugel.
Hugel, the Alsatian producer responsible for this bottle, is seriously old school! They have been making wine in Alsace for generations. They started making wine from this iconic region in 1639. The winery is still owned by the same family and they take their craft seriously.

Via Recana Masana. 
The bottle I had in the fridge was Gentil, their classic white blend. Many people hear the words “white blend” and think of the slightly to moderately sweet aromatic wines that one sees from  American producers, but this wine is miles away from that. It uses a kitchen sink approach to Alsace wine, blending most of the major grape varieties commonly grown in the region. If someone asks me what Alsace wine is about, this is usually one of the first things I show them. It is not the most spectacular bottle from the area, but it shows some common characteristics shared by wines from almost every major Alsatian producer.

For those of you who don’t know, Alsace hangs out right on the border of Germany and France. Due to territorial disputes in the region throughout history, the culture of the region leans more toward German than French. Their wines are so interesting in part, because like the culture of this region, their style and the grapes they use tend to be more typical of Germany. That’s not to say there’s no french influence in the wine-making process, but these don’t taste like whites from any other part of France. They are truly unique.

This wine has a lot going on to be a simple and inexpensive bottle. Notes of elderflower, lime, citrus, pear, and just a hint of that distinctive aroma of muscat grapes entice you into taking the first sip. While bright and refreshing on the palate, it has more weight than one might expect from the nose. It is nice and dry, with just the right balance of acidity. It finishes with no fuss, quick and to the point, but the first time I tried it I was intrigued. It has become something I regularly have in the fridge for the accidental “forgot to chill the bottle I meant to” scenario.

Don’t hold this wine’s low price tag against it. It really delivers. The list of grapes in it - Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, and Muscat - are rarely all blended together anywhere else in the world, and some of them are viewed by the wine drinking public as only being good for sweeter wines. Leave it to Hugel and Alsace as a whole to shake the haters off and make an amazing and inexpensive dry white with fantastic structure and balance.


  1. Bravo.... when I sold Trimbach I fell in love with wine from this region. Great wine to pair with food.

  2. I love Trimbach too! Alsatian wine is just a little too hard to find in Memphis. Especially when you get into single grape varieites you come across some whites that can really stand up to and pair well with dishes you might not immediately think of drinking a white wine with