Over the centuries, it has been it has not been easy to be a winegrower in the Alsace region. Amongst the famous and most prestigious wines of France, there are not many that are from Alsace. This is not to say that wines from Alsace are not popular. With some excellent white wines like Reisling and Gewurztraminer, Alsace is slowly building a name and a reputation.
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 originally 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.
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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.
Alsace Wine Classifications
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.
The main grapes of Alsace are the Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer and are the main grapes planted in Alsace’s grand cru vineyards.
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Appellations & Famous Wines From Alsace
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. With the region being near the French Alps, there are a lot of winter dishes this wine accompanies, although a chilled Reisling is also quite welcome in summer.
Buy a bottle of Reisling here.
2. Pinot Blanc
The Alsace Pinot Blanc, named after the pinot blanc grape, is a light floral white wine with peach and citrus tones. It is a wine that opens up quickly and so tends to be quite light and discreet in a pale yellow. It is said to go well with dishes with egg in them like the quiche lorraine (or a spinach quiche if you prefer vegetarian).
Buy a bottle of Alsace White here.
3. Pinot Gris
A more complex white wine, the Pinot Gris is usually has a more yellow golden color than the pinot blanc. With notes of dried fruit and apricot in it, it should be aired in the glass in order to fully let it breathe. The Pinot Gris has a finish that is long and well-balanced. It goes well with heavier dishes like gratin dauphinoise or blanquette de veau.
Buy a bottle of Alsace Pinot Gris here.
Muscat d’Alsace has a stronger taste of raisin than some of the other white wines and can be rather dry. A muscat from Alsace is different from other muscat, like the Muscat de Midi which is sweeter. The wine has an intense aroma of fruit complemented by floral tones.
It is often paired with fish or vegetables.
Buy a bottle of Muscat here.
Gewurztraminer wine, as you can tell from its name, is a German-influenced white wine. It has quite an exuberant taste (as well as a rather exuberant name). “Gewürz” means spices in German. The grapes tend to have a pinkish color and this wine is has a rich aromatic palette and complex character.
The taste includes light notes of everything from exotic fruits like lychees, passion fruits, pineapple, etc.) to flowers like roses, citrus fruits, and spices. Despite its complexity, it does still keep a freshness that is a delight to indulge in.
The Gewurztraminer goes rather well with local dishes like choucroute (sauerkraut) and sausages.
Buy a bottle of Gewurztraminer here.
6. Pinot Noir
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).
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.
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.”
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