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Drinks: Alsace's late-harvest beauties

The French province of Alsace borders Germany. And a lot of the food and wine there would be at home on the other side.

Alsace is pretty much a region of white wines, devoted to the flavor of the fruit. They're primarily dry, but you'll also find some late-harvest beauties. The big grapes are riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot blanc, pinot gris. There's muscat, too. The red-wine drinker may have to search for a glass of pinot noir.

These are excellent wines to pair with food, but they're also first-class sippers. Among the top producers in the region are Zind-Humbrecht, Léon Beyer, Hugel & Fils, Marc Kreydenweiss, Trimbach, Domaine Weinbach and Domaine Albert Mann.

Well-priced and delightful: the 2008 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling, a ripe, minerally balanced mouthful and a fine introduction to this Domaine's exceptional range of wines. Zind-Humbrecht makes knockout riesling, pinot gris and gewurztraminer. Figure $17 to $23 for this one.

The very smooth 2007 Marc Kreydenweiss Riesling offers a taste of apricot, plus a trace of pepperiness. This wine is $25 to $30. They're both a foil for spicy Asian dishes and equally at ease with turkey, ham, chicken potpie, trout or scallops.

Simply prepared seafood is the match for the 2008 Albert Mann Pinot Gris Rosenberg, which stands out with stone fruit, especially peach. There's some earthiness here, too.

The pinot gris sells for $22 to $25.

And to add bubbles to the festivities, consider the nonvintage Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémant d'Alsace, the region's contributor to Europe's sparkling wine competition. Dry and subtle, the Domaine Mittnacht blend is fun. A bottle is about $22.

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