The Scintillating Wines from Alsace, France

The Scintillating Wines from Alsace, France

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Over the centuries, it has been it has not been easy to be a winegrower in the Alsace region. With continual wars between France and Germany since the era of Charlemagne, the region had the distinction of being a battleground, rather than as a famous wine route.

With the region ping-ponging back and forth between Germany and France, wines from Alsace were heavily influenced by German wines. (Germany may not be well-known for its wine but there are vineyards along the Rhine river in the Western part of Germany that date back to Roman times.)

These days Alsatian wines benefit from their status as being in France, not Germany. Since the 1950s, with French “savoir-faire”, wines from Alsace have diverged in taste from German wines, becoming sweeter and drier, and at the same time gaining wide-spread recognition.

Most of the wines produced in this area are white wines, but there is the odd red wine and crémant (sparkling wine) as well. Wine tasting in Alsace has bloomed as an industry and appellations like Reisling have become renowned the world over.

With high-speed train access from Paris, London, and other large European cities, the cities of Strasbourg and Colmar have become tourist hubs as visitors flock to the region to indulge in a bit of sauerkraut, flammkuchen, and wine.

Known as the Route des Vins d’Alsace, roadtrippers can drive through the region, stopping at vineyards offering tastings, and take home a few souvenirs.

Classification of Wines

As with other wines a good bottle of Alsatian wine has the following noted:

  • AOC –  Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée
  • AOP –  Appellation d’Origine Protégée
  • Vin de Table – Table wine

Note, there is no “Vin de France” category for Alsatian wines. The AOC/AOP wines are further classed based on prestige such as Grand cru, Premier Cru to Cinquième Cru (1st to 5th Cru), and Village.

You can find out more about French wine labels here. Alsace which names bottles based on grape variety, compared to Bordeaux wines are usually labeled based on the estate/château, and Burgundy wines which are named on “terroir” (land).

Top names in Alsace Wines

1. Reisling

Type: White

The most famous of the Alsatian white wines, Reisling dates back to the 15-century. From the reisling grape, it has a fruity aroma and high acidity and has quite a cleansing aftertaste. It is often served with heavy meals, such as a cheese fondue in winter.

2. Pinot Blanc

Type: White

The Alsace Pinot Blanc, named after the pinot blanc grape, is a light floral white wine with peach and citrus tones. It is said to go well with dishes with egg in them like the quiche lorraine.

3. Pinot Gris

Type: White

A more complex white wine, the Pinot Gris has notes of dried fruit and apricot in it. It goes well with heavier dishes like gratin dauphinoise or blanquette de veau.

4. Muscat

Type: White

Muscat d’Alsace has a stronger taste of raisin than some of the other white wines and can range from sweet to rather dry. It is often paired with fish or vegetables.

5. Gewurztraminer

Type: White

A German-influenced white wine, Gewurztraminer wine has quite an exuberant taste (as well as a rather exuberant name). “Gewürz” means spices in German. It goes rather well with local dishes like choucroute (“saukerkraut”) and sausages.

6. Pinot Noir

Type: Red

One of the rare red wines produced in Alsace, this Pinot Noir has the distinction of allowing itself to be served chilled (at 15C° or 60F°). The Alsatian Pinot Noir is not as famous as the Pinot Noir from Burgundy, but it is growing in popularity. (Pinot Noir is the name of the grape and the wine).

The Alsatian Pinot Noir is great for an apéro, paired with appetizers.

7. Crémant d’Alsace

Type: Sparkling White or Sparkling Rosé

A classic sparkling wine from Alsace, you can find Crémant d’Alsace in white or rosé. Crémant is made using the same traditional process as champagne, except it is not allowed to be called champagne since it is not from the Champagne region of France.

Crémant d’Alsace is lovely as an apéritif along with oysters or other seafood starters.

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So are you ready to try an a chilled Alsatian Pinot Gris on a hot summer’s day? As always, as the French Government advises, “the abuse of alcohol is dangerous for your health. Consume with moderation.”

A bientôt!

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