These are, it goes without saying, boom times for noodle lovers, helped in part by the explosion of ramen-mania that has gripped America for the last decade-plus. But even if the quality of preparations and ingredients has improved immensely since the days when “ramen” meant packets of instant noodles destined for the microwave, the basic structure of the dish has not. There is intense broth, an array of plentiful toppings, the tare, and the springy, alkaline noodles. Within that framework, there are nearly limitless possibilities, but no matter what you choose, you’re going to want something to drink. And if you want that drink to be wine, you should grab Pinot Gris from Alsace.
Here’s Why It Works: All ramen is dominated by rich, savory flavors. With this kind of unbridled umami, you want a wine with both residual sweetness and a truckload of acidity to balance everything out. Pinot Gris is usually off-dry, which is wine-speak for “a little sweet.” The light sugar element will balance the broth’s saltiness by softening the intensity. You also need wine with enough body and texture to avoid falling flat against the broth — Alsatian Pinot Gris is glorious for its ability to sing a high, bright note while being grounded by its own richness and weight. (If you think the name sounds familiar to “Pinot Grigio,” that’s because it’s the same varietal; Pinot Gris is the grape’s French name, and Alsace, which is very cold but also gets a lot of sunshine, has the perfect growing conditions.)
The wine will also stand up to many of the usual toppings you see in high-end ramen: Pork belly, soft-boiled eggs, bean sprouts, green onion, garlic, seaweed, and bamboo shoots all have fatty and savory aspects to contend with. Alsatian P.G. manages the almost magical feat of fitting the bill every time with its easy texture, high acidity, and soft sweetness. Here are three to try.
Trimbach ‘Reserve’ ($19)
The Trimbach family has made wine in Alsace for over three centuries, and the tens today are as great as ever, if not better.
Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014 ($30)
A leader in biodynamic farming and a hard-core, serious wine. It’s expensive, but it’s also worth the splurge if you can stand to give it a little time to age — which will make it an even more seamless ramen partner.
Domaine Marcel Deiss Mambourg Grand Cru 2009 ($90)
“Grand Cru,” as you may know, is shorthand for the very best grapes a region can grow. Marcel Deiss is a well-known figure who produces serious age-worthy bottlings. This will be rich, and undeniably elegant.