Wines of Alsace, France

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Geography & Climate

Alsace is a thin strip of land running along the Vosges Mountain on the West and the Rhein River to the East. Only after Champagne, it is the second most northerly wine region in France and right next to the border with Germany.  But unlike Champagne nor most German wine regions, Alsace enjoys nice sunny weather during the growing season.  Surprisingly, rainfall is the lowest here compared to all of France.

Soils in Alsace are as diverse as they can be allowing a wide range of flavors, characters and quality.  Volcanic rock, sand, granite, limestone, clay and chalk can be found all over this small wine region.

France Wine map

Viticulture

Alsace is growing almost exclusively white varietals, there is a very small amount of Pinot Noir found in the area but nothing of significance.  Some German varietals are Alsace’s most celebrated grapes, they are Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Sunny growing season with lack of rain, grapes in Alsace never had to struggle to ripe.  Sheltered by the Vosges mountain, warm sunshine in long growing season blesses the vineyards of Alsace with optimal ripeness, even more so for south-facing vineyards and those in the Southern part of Alsace -Haut Rhine.

Varietals: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris (formerly Alsance D’Tokay), Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Chasselas, Chardonnay and small amount of Pinot Noir.

Winemaking

Although with much devotion to Riesling and Gewurztraminer -similarly to Germany, the winemaking in Alsace is quite different.  Wines in Alsace are crisp and dry, unless they are intentionally made into dessert wines.   Rich, diverse sol and abundant sunshine nurture their wines to rich, concentrated and full-bodied; it is very much the taste of its terroir with clean notes of fruit, earth and a lot of mineral.

Unlike the rest of France, varietal labeling is in practice for all vineyards.  Quality can be distinguished between village wines and those from Grand Cru vineyards; there are 51 Grand Crus in Alsace that secure their place at the top. 

Aside from having the best Riesling and Gewurztraminer in France or maybe even the world, Alsace also produces sparkling wines known as Cremant D’Alsace which accounts for 10% of the region’s production.  Cremant D’Alsace is an official designation of origin (AOC).  Although hard to come by, Alsace makes two dessert wine from late-harvested grapes Vendage Tardive (VT) and Selection de Grains Nobles (SGN).  SGN is made only in exceptional vintages with botrytis-infected grapes.  

Helfrich Alsace Grand Cru Pinot Gris 2008 France

 

Thomas Le, CS.

 

 

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Thomas Le

-Certified Sommelier (CMS)

Napa Reserva -Falling for wine, one sip at a time. TM

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1 Response

  1. Robert Soto says:

    awesome page, thanks for sharing great info for a novice like me

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