If you like wines that express a sense of place, purity of fruit, minerality, elegance, character, and are food-friendly and reasonably priced – Alsace wines should be in your glass. Alsace wines are always on my radar for all these reasons. Recently I discovered the wines of Domaine Mélanie Pfister under the helm of the 8th generation Mélanie Pfister.
Domaine Mélanie Pfister
Domaine Mélanie Pfister is located in Dahlenheim, just west of Strasbourg, in the northern part of Alsace in the Bas Rhin department (meaning lower Rhine River – the Rhine River flows north to the Baltic). Wine Map of Alsace
While the Vosges Mountains, to the west, act as a rain shadow and barrier to cooler weather in the southern part of Alsace, the climate is cooler in Dahlenheim at Domaine Pfister. The Vosges Mountains lay further away from the Pfister vineyards, providing less protection from cold and rain. The soils in this northern area are mainly marl and limestone, including Muschelkalk; the terroir is ideal for Riesling. Mélanie and her father, who still plays an active role, farm 25 acres of vineyards; 25% are Riesling.
Mélanie officially took over leadership at the Domaine in 2006 after internships at notable estates like Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace), Méo-Camuzet (Burgundy), Château Cheval Blanc (Saint Emilion), Château d’Yquem (Sauternes), and Craggy Range (New Zealand).
Timeline Under Mélanie Pfister Leadership
- 2005 – Mélanie crafts the first “Cuvée 8” (now called Mel), a blended wine to commemorate that she is the eighth generation to make wine at Domaine Pfister)
- After the 2010 harvest – Breaks ground on a new cellar
- 2018 – Decides to farm 100% organically
- 2019 – Introduces a new label design that gives each wine an acronym deriving from its vineyard name and adds her name to the domain name
- 2021 First certified organic vintage
Domaine Mélanie Pfister’s Wine Styles
Typically, 15 different wines are made each year. The wines are fermented dry and bottled with a minimum addition of sulfur. Indigenous yeast is preferred; however, Mélanie does reserve the right to use non-aromatic cultured yeasts in problematic years. The wines are made and aged in tanks except for the higher-end Pinot Noir “Rahn” and Pinot Gris “Silb,” which spend time in wood. The base wines spend almost a year aging on their lees, and the upper-range wines age 18-24 months before bottling. Average production is about 5000 cases annually.
In 2012, Mélanie wrote the following about her family’s style of wine –
“The house style appeared itself as the style of wine my parents and grandparents like to drink: aromatic, well-balanced, rather dry style of wines. As a matter of fact, my grandfather used to say, “Finally, I am probably the one who drinks the most of my wines, so I craft the wines I like!” – no concession he like dry wines.”
Tasting and Food Pairing Notes
Domaine Pfister’s wines are imported with Vintage ’59 Imports. Check the website for distribution and request the wines at your local wine shop.
2019 Mélanie Pfister Breit Blanc de Blanc, Extra Brut, Alsace France
12.5% abv | $28.00 SRP | 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Blanc
“Breit” comes from Hangenbriete, the name of the vineyard. Mélanie’s father first made crémant in the early 1980s. The wine ages on its lees for at least 24 months (most French crémant spends only nine months on its lees). Depending on what vintage you have, there are three to four disgorgements of a given year’s crémant, actual lees aging could be up to 36 months. This wine spent 29 months on its lees. It is a single vintage wine without any older reserve wine additions. The annual average production is 800 cases. The dosage is 3-4 grams per liter.
My Tasting Notes: The Breit Crémant is a delightful and elegant wine. The lively, fine bubbles and balanced fresh acidity, in combination with notes of orchard apples, citrus, chalk, and minerals, deliver a well-structured wine with a flavorful lingering finish.
Food Pairings: Ideal as an aperitif and with appetizers. The wine can easily carry through to entrees of light seafood, and poultry, fried chicken, and sushi.
My Pairing: A Charcuterie Board of triple crème brie, Ossau-Iraty, prosciutto, salami, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, Marcona almonds, and fig jam. Inspiration from That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life.
2020 Mélanie Pfister Paar, Alsace France
12.5% abv | $24.00 SRP | 50% Pinot Blanc and 50% Auxerrois
“Paar” is German for pair, the two varietals in the wine. The vineyard is about six acres on mainly clay soils. The vines were planted by Mélanie’s grandfather and father in 1973 and ’74, with a small portion dating back to the 1960s. The Pinot Blanc gives freshness, floral notes, and moderate acidity. The Auxerrois contributes fat and spice to the blend. The annual average production is 500 cases. The current vintage is 2021.
My Tasting Notes: This is an easy everyday wine. The first encounter is the beautiful citrus, floral, and mineral aromas. On the palate, freshness with welcoming acidity and flavors of lime and minerals. The texture is supple with a long lingering finish.
Food Pairings: The perfect aperitif wine and one to accompany simple dinners of salads, pasta, poultry, and fish.
My Pairing: A twist on a classic French bistro salad, Smoked Salmon Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe below).
2018 Mélanie Pfister Berg Riesling, Alsace France
13% abv | $35.00 SRP | 100% Riesling
“Berg” is another German word meaning mountain; the grapes come from hillside vineyards—the Pfister estate farms six plots of Riesling totaling just over three acres of vines. The soils are a clay-limestone mix, locally known as “Muschelkalk, a geological term referring to the middle Triassic period. The clay gives Riesling its body, and the calcareous limestone provides finesse, focus, and length to the wine. The annual average production is 900 cases. The current vintage is 2021.
My Tasting Notes: Citrus, minerals, and orchard fruit aromas are followed by bright acidity on the palate with flavor notes of citrus, peach, apple, salinity, and minerals. The texture is chalky with a nice lingering finish.
Food Pairings: This wine pairs lovely with chicken or pork, sautéd apples or peaches, sole with herbs and a light lemon sauce, or a classic Alsatian braised sauerkraut with mixed meats.
My Pairing: Chicken Curry Bowl with snow peas, mango, and a squeeze of lime (recipe below).
Previous Food & Wine Adventures in Alsace on Always Ravenous – Women Behind the Wine: Domaine Weinbach, Catherine Faller, Tips & Recipes for Alsace Pairings, Crémant d’ Alsace Paired with Summer Fish Menus
Smoked Salmon Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
- 3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
- 3 (divided) teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons shallots, thinly slices
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil (medium) I like "California Olive Ranch," Global Blend
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium red onion, about 4 oz. thinly sliced
- 6 oz. cold smoked salmon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- In a large saucepan, add the potatoes and cover them by 2-inches of cold water. Add 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes.
- Optional - Soak the red onion slices in cold water for about 10 minutes to remove some of the sharp bitterness. Drain well and dry, before adding them to the salad.
- While the potatoes cook, whisk the vinegar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, mustard, shallots, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil in a large serving bowl.
- When the potatoes are just cool enough to handle, slice them in 1/2-inch thick rounds and gently fold them into the vinaigrette. Fold in the red onions and smoked salmon, and parsley. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Curry Coconut Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas, Mango, and Lime
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-½ lb. chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons curry powder, mild
- 1 15-oz can tomatoes, diced
- 1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk, full fat
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1-1/2 cups sugar snap peas
- 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- limes, cooked brown rice, cilantro, slices of fresh mango
- Preheat a large sauté pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper, sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds longer.
- Add the chicken and curry powder, sauté and stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until golden.
- Add the can of tomatoes, coconut milk, tomato paste, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer until chicken is completely cooked and liquid is thickened. Add the sugar snap peas and stir for another 2 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt.
- Serve in individual shallow bowls. Spoon chicken over the brown rice and garnish with chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and mango slices.