One of France’s Most Important Wine Regions
Alsace has a huge wine-making tradition dating back centuries. If you can picture the region, its bordered on the East by the river Rhine and on the West by the Vosges mountains. The vineyards run along the eastern slopes at the foot of the Vosges, and this the key to the beautiful, distinctive Alsace wines.
The Vosges form a climatic boundary that gives Alsace dry summers and warm autumns – really dry summers. Among French towns I could only find Perpignan that gets less rain than Colmar (the capital of Alsace wine-making).
Oh no! All The Wine’s White
Lest us not concern ourselves with the rest, we’ll have a look at the ‘nobles’.
When Is A Grape Noble?
The four noble grape varieties are Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat, varieties that you might normally associte with Germany. But while Alsace is separated from the rest of France by a mountain range, it’s separated from Germany only by a river, and this German / French mélange can be seen in everything from its architecture to its food and wine.
The dry summers and the warm autumns not only make wine-making more reliable, but they allow the grapes to ripen fully, creating a greater variety of aromas and tastes than you would imagine.
Alsace wines make up 25% of all the AOC white wines consumed in France, so this isn’t a regional hobby. Along an 80 Km stretch of vineyards between Mulhouse in the south and Strasbourg in the north there are seemingly endless picturesque villages, all devoted to wine production.
A Very Pretty Unintended Consequence
Most holdings in Alsace are small, less than 10 hectares, so like Burgundy, growers tend to sell their grapes to négociantes based in these beautiful villages who produce wine under their own label. So wine-tasting in Alsace generally means visiting a traditional tasting cellar based at the negociantes in villages like Turkheim or Riquewihr. And we’ll visit a few of them throughout our week to make sure we taste the best of each wine variety.