Alsace wines are among some of the most complex and interesting wines in the world, due to the regions geography, history and culture.
The eastern French region which borders Germany and Switzerland, has architecture is as diverse as its residents, with a mixture of timber-framed houses, gothic cathedrals and fairy-tale château, and uses varying languages.
Also renowned as a gastronomic hub, Alsace has a rich offer of cuisines, and when it comes to wines, the same can be said, resulting with styles you’ve never tried the likes of before.
What sort of wine comes from Alsace?
Alsace is one of the great, less known treasures of the wine world, primarily producing white wine (although some excellent red wine is also made there).
It is situated on the eastern slopes of the Vosges Mountains that protect this narrow strip of vineyards from wind and rain. As a result, Alsace has perfect conditions for grape growing, particularly for extra ripening and concentration.
The region, which is often cited as a favourite among wine professionals, produces authentic, elegant and well-balanced wines to be shared and enjoyed.
And the good news is that is easy to know what you’re getting because, unlike many other French regions, Alsace displays the name of the grape variety on the wine label.
What are the main grape varieties in Alsace?
Several varieties of grapes are grown in Alsace but there are four which make up the majority of the region’s production. These are:
- AOC Alsace Riesling – the king grape of the region, Riesling from Alsace is made in a dry style (unless late harvest), and is a vibrant expression of its terroir
- AOC Alsace Gewurztraminer – again, often made in a drier style, but with an explosion of exotic fruit aromas
- AOC Alsace Pinot Gris – more aromatically subtle, but makes rich wines with complex aromas
- AOC Alsace Pinot Blanc – fresh and subtly fruity with hints of peach, apple and floral
The region also produces some exceptional sparkling wines Crémant d’Alsace, which usually have aromas of white fruits (apples, pears), peaches, apricots and even citrus fruits.
AOC Alsace Grands Crus wines and the quality
Like all great French wine regions, Alsace has a number of Grands Crus – 51 to be exact – each with their own unique style and character.
These distinct appellations, classified according to a strict geographical and climatic criterion, were not recognised until 2011 and up until then had been categorised collectively in the AOC Alsace Grand Cru.
Wines made from these exceptional terroirs represent nearly 5% of the total production of the wine-growing area.
Other classifications you may find on Alsace wines are:
- Vendanges Tardives – this means the wine is a sweet wine made using late-harvested grapes which are over-ripe by the time they are picked
- Sélection de Grains Nobles – this indicates very sweet wines made from grapes with Noble Rot, the wines can only be sold after ageing for 18 months
Three wines from Alsace to try
Pierre Brecht, Alsace Riesling 2021
Brilliant, crisp, dry Riesling from the beautiful, sun-blessed region of Alsace. Often forgotten, the appellation makes some of France’s finest whites, and Riesling is its most noble variety – just taste this pristine, lime and mineral-fresh white.
Pinot Gris is a top grape of Alsace. It’s the same as Pinot Grigio, but here produces lush, spiced apricot and pear fruit. You’ll taste that in this Gold-medal 2020. Using grapes from next door to a Grand Cru vineyard, this is rich, ripe and intense.
Made in the same way as Champagne, Cattin Ice is a semi-sweet sparkling wine from Alsace. Brimming with ripe orchard fruits, rich honeyed sweetness with a refreshing acidity, it’s creamy, fruity, and beautifully presented in an eye-catching bottle.