top of page

ALSACE

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

OVERVIEW


Alsace is a region located in northeastern France, along the border with Germany. It is known for producing some of the finest white wines in the world, especially those made from Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Muscat grapes.


One of the unique features of Alsace wines is that they are labeled according to the grape variety used to make them, rather than the region or appellation. This is because the region has a long history of winemaking and winemakers in Alsace have traditionally focused on producing single-varietal wines. Some of the most famous wines from Alsace include Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.




HISTORY


The history of winemaking in Alsace dates back to the Roman Empire, when the region was a major producer of wine for the Roman army. However, it wasn't until the Middle Ages that winemaking in Alsace really began to flourish, thanks to the region's location along the Rhine River, which made it an important trading hub.


Over the centuries, Alsace wines became highly sought after, particularly in the courts of Europe. The region's strategic location along the Rhine River made it a crucial trade center, and its wines were highly prized by merchants and aristocrats throughout Europe. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Alsace wines were exported to England and the Netherlands, where they were highly prized for their purity and freshness.


However, the region's wine industry was devastated by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, which wiped out most of the vineyards in Alsace. It wasn't until the early 20th century that the region's winemakers were able to rebuild, using phylloxera-resistant rootstocks.


Throughout the centuries, the winemaking traditions in Alsace were passed down from generation to generation, and the region's wines became known for their exceptional quality and unique character. However, the region also faced many challenges, including wars, political upheavals, and economic crises, which threatened its wine industry.


One of the most significant events in Alsace's winemaking history occurred in the late 19th century, when the region was annexed by Germany. During this time, German winemaking techniques were introduced to Alsace, which had a lasting impact on the region's wine styles.


Following World War I, Alsace was returned to France, and the region's winemakers began to focus on producing dry white wines, which were in high demand at the time. In the years that followed, the region's winemaking industry continued to evolve and grow, with many winemakers experimenting with new grape varieties and winemaking techniques.


Today, Alsace is known around the world for its exceptional white wines, which are made from a variety of grape varieties and reflect the region's unique terroir. The region's winemakers continue to push the boundaries of winemaking, while also preserving the traditions and history of the Alsace Wine Region.



REGIONS

Alsace is a region in northeastern France that is well-known for producing high-quality white wines, particularly those made from the Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat grape varieties. The region has a total of 51 Grand Cru vineyards, which are considered to be the best and most prestigious vineyards in the region.

Each of the Grand Cru vineyards has its own unique characteristics, including soil type, microclimate, and aspect (or orientation to the sun). The following is a list of the 51 Grand Cru vineyards of Alsace:

  1. Altenberg de Bergbieten

  2. Altenberg de Bergheim

  3. Altenberg de Wolxheim

  4. Brand

  5. Bruderthal

  6. Eichberg

  7. Engelberg

  8. Florimont

  9. Frankstein

  10. Furstentum

  11. Geisberg

  12. Gloeckelberg

  13. Goldert

  14. Hatschbourg

  15. Hengst

  16. Kaefferkopf

  17. Kanzlerberg

  18. Kirchberg de Barr

  19. Kirchberg de Ribeauville

  20. Kitterle

  21. Klevener de Heiligenstein

  22. Mambourg

  23. Mandelberg

  24. Marckrain

  25. Muenchberg

  26. Ollwiller

  27. Osterberg

  28. Pfersigberg

  29. Praelatenberg

  30. Rangen

  31. Ritterpfad

  32. Rosacker

  33. Saering

  34. Schlossberg

  35. Schoenenbourg

  36. Sommerberg

  37. Spiegel

  38. Sporen

  39. Steinert

  40. Steingrubler

  41. Strangenberg

  42. Vorbourg

  43. Wiebelsberg

  44. Wineck-Schlossberg

  45. Winzenberg

  46. Zinnkoepflé

  47. Ziselé

  48. Zotzenberg

  49. Altenberg de Kientzheim

  50. Altenberg de Hunawihr

  51. Kaefferkopf



STYLES

  • Alsace Grand Cru: This is a designation given to certain vineyards in Alsace that are considered to produce the highest quality wines. The Alsace Grand Cru designation is only given to wines made from four grape varieties: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat.

  • AOC Alsace: This is the basic designation for wines from Alsace. AOC Alsace wines can be made from any grape variety grown in the region, and they are known for their dry and crisp style.

  • AOC Crémant d'Alsace: This is a designation for sparkling wines made in the traditional method from grapes grown in Alsace. Crémant d'Alsace wines are known for their delicate bubbles and refreshing acidity.

  • AOC Alsace Pinot Noir: This is a designation for red wines made from the Pinot Noir grape variety. Alsace Pinot Noir wines are known for their light and fruity style.



TERROIR

Climate:

Alsace has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. The region is sheltered from Atlantic weather systems by the Vosges Mountains, which creates a dry, sunny climate that is ideal for grape growing. The long, warm growing season and ample sunshine allow the grapes to ripen fully and develop complex flavors and aromas.

Soil:

The soils in Alsace are varied and complex, with a mix of sedimentary, volcanic, and alluvial deposits. The region's geology is influenced by the Vosges Mountains, which are composed of granite, gneiss, and other metamorphic rocks. The soils in the foothills of the mountains are rich in minerals and well-draining, which is ideal for growing high-quality grapes. The plains and hillsides are composed of a mix of limestone, sandstone, and clay, which can produce wines with different flavor profiles.

Topography:

Alsace is a narrow, elongated region that stretches for about 170 kilometers (105 miles) from north to south. The vineyards are situated on the eastern slopes of the Vosges Mountains, which provide protection from the prevailing westerly winds. The region is divided into two main areas: the foothills of the mountains, where the vineyards are located, and the Rhine plain, which is home to a few vineyards as well. The vineyards in the foothills are planted on steep, south-facing slopes that provide optimal exposure to the sun and allow for good drainage. The steep slopes also make it challenging to harvest the grapes, which must be picked by hand.


VARIETALS

There are seven varietals that are most commonly used to produce Alsace wines, each with its own unique flavor profile:

  1. Riesling: This varietal is perhaps the most famous of all Alsace wines, and is known for its crisp acidity and fruity flavors. It can range from dry to sweet, and is often aged to develop complex flavors.

  2. Gewurztraminer: This varietal is known for its distinctive floral aromas, as well as its spicy and exotic fruit flavors. Gewurztraminer can range from dry to sweet, and is often paired with spicy or flavorful dishes.

  3. Pinot Gris: This varietal is known for its rich, full-bodied flavors, often with notes of honey and spice. It can range from dry to sweet, and is often aged to develop complexity.

  4. Pinot Blanc: This varietal is often compared to Chardonnay, and is known for its crisp, refreshing acidity and delicate fruit flavors. It is typically produced in a dry style.

  5. Sylvaner: This varietal is known for its light, crisp flavors and refreshing acidity. It is often used to produce a light, easy-drinking wine that is perfect for pairing with seafood.

  6. Muscat: This varietal is known for its floral aromas and fruity flavors, often with notes of apricot and peach. It is typically produced in a dry style, and is often paired with spicy or aromatic dishes.

  7. Pinot Noir: While less common than the white varietals, Pinot Noir is still an important grape in Alsace. It is known for its light, fruity flavors and delicate tannins, and is often aged to develop complexity.

I hope this overview of the varietals of Alsace was helpful! Let me know if you have any further questions.


11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Commentaires


bottom of page