Nestled in the heart of Europe bordering Germany and Switzerland, the Alsace wine region of France offers a diversity of grape varieties, wine styles and vineyard soils. It is easily the most intriguing wine region on the continent. Connoisseurs are drawn to this alluring wine nirvana and espouse immense affection for it.
Alsace is a rich cultural region on the western periphery of the Upper Rhine Valley. It is home to the charming, beautiful historic cities of Colmar, Mulhouse and Strasbourg. And it boasts a wine history dating back to Roman times. This breathtaking and remarkable landscape is the interface for French and German viticulture. Grape varieties like Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer are infused with life as French winemaking finesse and Alemanic epicurean enjoyment intertwine in glorious union. The region is blessed with a surprisingly mild, wine-friendly climate thanks to the warm Mediterranean air being funnelled into the Rhine Valley through the Belfort Gap in Southern Alsace. The Vosges Mountains provide protection from both rain and chilly winds. Colmar – an enchanting, cobblestoned, medieval jewel right at the epicentre of the wine region – is the second driest town in France with an annual rainfall of only 23 inches!
Alsatian Soil Spells Quality And Variety
Geological fractures and tectonic shifts that occurred during the formation of the Upper Rhine Valley created a mosaic of soil types in the region. Over 38.000 acres of land are quite literally winemaker heaven. The wine produced in each picturesque village has its own unique character and taste profile. The 51 Grand Cru classified vineyards, which top the region’s wine hierarchy, produce individual wines distinctively shaped by their local terroir. As in neighboring Germany, Riesling and Pinot Blanc are the most important grape varieties. Pinot Blanc is frequently used in the Crémants, dry sparkling whites made like Champagne, which are a specialty of the region. Alsace is world renowned for its aromatic Gewürztraminer wines and its full-bodied-yet-dry Pinot Gris wines. Other notable white wine specialties include fresh, light Sylvaner and fragrant Muscat.
The Reds of Alsace Are Delightful, Too.
About 10 per cent of Alsatian vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir vines producing delightful fruity variants. In addition to the classic dry whites and Crémant sparkling wines, there are exceptionally sweeter vintages that are both sought-after and rare. Alsace’s Vendage Tardive (VT) wines are late-harvested and require a minimum ripeness level to be met or exceeded. They have a higher than usual concentration of natural sugars, offering a silky-sweet fruitiness. A delicious accompaniment to the region’s traditional tarte flambée and to spicy cheeses. Sélection de Grains Noble (SNG) wines – extremely rare, classic dessert wines – are made with even riper grapes. Producers make sure their SNGs are sweeter than their VTs!
Experience Alsatian wine and gastronomy
If you want to immerse yourself in the wines and cuisine of this region, there’s no better way than the Alsace Wine Route (Route des Vins d’Alsace). Beginning at Strasbourg in the north and running southwards to Thann, this 106 mile long wine route meanders through countless picturesque villages and small wine towns. En route you will pass many of the famous Grand Cru vineyards and a host of smaller wineries that open their cellar doors, inviting you to taste and enjoy. Charming wine bars and delightful country inns line the route and are reason alone to explore the Route des Vins d’Alsace. From a gastronomic point of view, the French Upper Rhine is especially famed for its gourmet restaurants and for its everyday delicacies: legendary sauerkraut, hearty Munster cheese, and slow-cooked Baeckeoffe stew. Down-to-earth, regional, Alemanic culinary excellence, right in the heart Europe.
A selection of recommended wineries:
Hugel, 68340 Riquewihr, www.hugel.com
Trimbach, 68150 Ribeauville, www.trimbach.fr
Muré, 68250 Rouffach, www.mure.com
Josmeyer, 68920 Wintzenheim, www.josmeyer.com
Léon Beyer, 68420 Eguisheim, www.leonbeyer.fr
Schlumberger, 68500 Guebwiller, www.domaines-schlumberger.com
Weinbach, 68240 Kientzheim, www.domaineweinbach.com
Kreydenweiss, 67140 Andlau, www.kreydenweiss.com
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