Alsace, which lies in eastern France, is sheltered by the Vosges Mountains to the west and overlooks the Rhine to the east. It has a dry, sunny climate and the wines, which are predominantly white, are named after the main grape varieties, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. There are also some attractive, delicate, reds made from Pinot Noir. View our selection.
Alsace has been bounced between Germany and France over the year and as a result its wine industry has a degree of German influence, the bottle shape being, for example, fluted as in Germany. Good sparkling wine, Crémant d’Alsace, is made here. Grand Cru’s come from single, named vineyards and must be made from either Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Riesling or Pinot Gris but, for the normal appellation, the name of the producer is usually of more significance than the name of the village or area.
Alsace’s Grape Varieties
Riesling: A noble white grape, forever associated with the wines of Germany. In its element in the Mosel Valley and the Rheingau, where it is the major variety, producing gloriously fresh, often semi dry and sweet wines which are relatively low in alcohol. Capable of ageing exceptionally well, although as it loses its freshness it gains a wonderful patina of age. Alsace Riesling is dry with higher alcohol content. Also found in Austria, Luxembourg and Northern Italy. Gaining ground in Australia, California, South Africa and New Zealand where its spicy fresh style is becoming increasingly popular.
Gewurztraminer: Originally known as Traminer or Savagnin Blanc, a green grape, Gewurztraminer is a pink grape that produces wines with a golden almost copper colour. Gewurztarminer wines have pungent aromas of exotic fruits, typically lychees. Need to grow in cool climate as it ripes quickly. Best example are found in Alsace and Germany where they tend to be fullbodied and rich while interesting examples have been produced in Clare Valley.
Muscat: Aromatic variety used widely in France and elsewhere to make rich, sweet, sometimes lightly fortified, wines. Produces sparkling wines, notably Italy’s Asti Spumante. Can produce intense, fragrant dry wines, Muscat d’Alsace being one of the best of these.
Pinot Gris: A major variety in Alsace, France, where it was once called Tokay d’Alsace but, to avoid any confusion with the Hungarian wine also called Tokay, the name was changed to Pinot Gris. Makes a rich, generous white wine with a spicy character. Grown in Chile in the Casablanca Valley, and in New Zealand where plantings over the past few years have been prolific.
Sylvaner: Grown in Alsace although this is not one of the ‘noble’ varieties. Makes refreshing easy, ‘Café’ wines, rather than something profound.
Pinot Blanc: A French white variety producing aromatic, dry, easy drinking wines in Alsace. Grown as Weissburgunder in Germany (mostly in the Rheinhesse and the Pfalz), and Klevner in Austria.
Chasselas: A white variety that prefers cool conditions. This is the main variety in Switzerland, where it is thought it may have originated. In France it is used in Alsace, and in the Loire Valley to make Pouilly sur Loire, the lesser wine from the Pouilly Fumé region. Grown in Germany also, mostly in Baden. Although it exists in New Zealand, it is felt that it is not suitable for wine making. In Australia, it is used mostly as a table grape. Makes wines that are light and fruity with low acidity.
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