Alsace wines occupy a special place in the French wine-growing landscape. Stretching out at the foot of the Vosges, the vineyards of Alsace enjoy a climate that is dry, sunny, temperate and cool. The proximity of hilly areas has resulted in soils with great variability, both in their nature and in their slopes and exposure to the sun.
These pedoclimatic conditions are extremely favourable to the optimal ripening of the grapes, in particular the white grape varieties, which are very much in the majority in Alsace. The originality of Alsace wines also lies in the use of typically local grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Sylvaner.
The appellations of the wines are also identified with their grape varieties. On these lands so favourable to growing vines, the winegrowers produce a wide range of white wines, both dry, sweet, still and sparkling. Most of the production consists of dry white wines from Alsace which are highly rated for their generous aromatic palate and fruity, floral accents. Certain Alsace wines have also justifiably acquired a reputation for excellence recognised throughout the world.
We could, for example, cite the Ostertag estate where rigorous management of the vines combined with precise vinification gives rise to excellent Alsace wines which are the quintessence of their terroirs.
Alsace includes 4 appellations: AOP Alsace, AOP Alsace Grand Cru, Crémant d’Alsace, and finally, Vendanges Tardives and the Sélections de Grains Nobles.
The Alsace appellation includes both blended wines and wines made exclusively from one authorised grape variety. The latter is then mentioned on the bottle. The Grands Crus d’Alsace are 51 in number and correspond to delimited terroirs with clearly marked climatic and pedological features. Only 4 noble grape varieties can be used for these wines: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris.
There are, however, a few exceptions. Sylvaner is authorised on the Zotzenberg terroir. Likewise, Altenberg de Bergheim and Kaefferkopf can also use the Alsace Grand Cru appellation for their wines made from a blend of noble grape varieties.
Finally, the Vendanges Tardives and Sélection de Grains Nobles appellations, recognised in 1984, are reserved for sweet or syrupy wines of exceptional quality. A Vendange Tardive Alsace wine is made from grapes harvested very late to promote a high concentration of natural sugars. For a Sélections de Grains Nobles Alsace wine, postponing the harvest allows the development of a noble rot on the grapes for exceptional wines. Finally, the Crémant d’Alsace appellation includes sparkling wines produced using a method identical to that used in Champagne.
Alsace has the particular feature of being the only vineyard in France where the grape varieties are closely linked to the appellations. 7 main grape varieties are used for Alsace wines.
The main Alsatian grape variety is Riesling, present on 22% of wine-growing areas. It produces white wines of great freshness and very nuanced with delicate floral and fruity aromas.
Pinot Blanc, present on 21% of the vineyard area, also occupies a prime place in the Alsatian wine landscape. This grape gives fresh, supple wines with a nice balance between roundness and acidity that’s very popular with seafood or fish.
Gewurztraminer, present in 20% of the vineyards, is undoubtedly one of the star grape varieties of Alsace wine. Alsace Gewurztraminer produces intense yellow wines with aromatic power enhanced by flavours of fruit and spices. When harvested in Vendanges Tardives or a Sélection de Grains Nobles, the result is sweet to dessert-like wines of exceptional quality.
As for Pinot Gris (15% of the surface area), it produces AOC Alsace wine which stands out for its beautiful aromatic complexity enhanced by smoky notes.
7% of the vineyard area also contains the Sylvaner grape variety, which produces white Alsace wines with great liveliness and real freshness.
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