Alsace wine: everything you need to know
All about Alsace wine
Very well known for its late harvests, the Alsace vineyard is one of the largest producers of white wines in France.
It is located between the Bas-Rhin and the Vosges at about 400 meters above sea level, the vines grow in the Marlenheim in Thann. Alsace wine existed before the arrival of the Romans to whom we owe their vinification.
Vineyard unknown to amateurs despite the typicality of the terroir and the diversity of seasonal products. They are frightened by grand cru names and Germanic consumer appellations.
This vineyard is very popular in the context of wine tourism, thanks to its Alsace wine route and the know-how of the winegrowers. Since twenty years, the vineyard is conducted in organic farming and biodynamics .
The soils of the Alsatian vineyard
The Alsatian vineyard is strewn with the territory of Strasbourg and Mulhouse. Around 1,500 hectares of vines are cultivated on the hillsides of Alsace . The vineyard benefits from a dry microclimate. This climatic aptitude allows the grapes to ripen in the best conditions.
The favorable climate, the richness of the soils and the particularity of the grape varieties make it possible to have generous and elegant wines.
Planted on a geographical fault and contributing to a vast variety of soils, the noble grape varieties Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer give the best of themselves in this climatic context. Alsace has a favorable climate for slow ripening of the grapes. This slowness allows the aromas to blossom. The harvests are late thanks to the dryness of the soil.
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The soils are made up of granite, gneiss, limestone, schist and sandstone. All are favorable to the cultivation of different grape varieties such as Riesling, Sylvaner, Muscat, Pinot Gris and all are responsible for the development of white wines from Alsace. The red wines are exclusively made from pinot noir .
The appellations of the Alsace vineyard
The Alsace vineyard has 4 types of appellations , in particular, the AOP Alsace, the AOP Alsace grand cru (with 51 identified terroirs), the crémant d'alsace (sweet and sweet wines) and the selection of noble grains.
Specifically, the wines of the Bas-Rhin are more discreet than those of the Haut-Rhin . Very often, they reach the heights of finesse or power.
Respectively, they are called terroir of Andlau or terroir of Barr. This is the case of those that thrive in cold microclimates unlike gewurztraminer.
The most distinctive and balanced wines are produced in the northern part of the vineyard. While the Rieslings are very fine and racy, the Pinot and Gewurztraminer are elegant.
The microclimate of Colmar is favorable to noble rot and the specificity of textures, which is favorable to the deployment of pinot noir and gewurztraminer.
This appellation is followed or not by one of the authorized grape varieties. Here, the wine is made or vinified with grapes of this variety. Blended wines are classified under this appellation.
Alsace grand cru
Alsace grand cru has 51 appellations and only four grape varieties can benefit from this appellation. In particular, these are Muscat, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer. The sylvaner can benefit from this grand cru appellation on the sole condition that it must be vinified on the Zotzenberg terroir.
Alsace late harvest and Alsace selection of noble grains
Late harvests are made from grapes rich in natural sugar . The so-called late harvest wines have a low amount of residual sugar.
The wine goes through strict quality control and is subject to mandatory consumption. Noble seeds are grapes rich in noble rot rivaling the greatest sweet wines in the world.
Alsatian grape varieties
The northernmost vineyard in France, the Alsace vineyard is the only one to highlight its grape varieties and its appellations.
Here are the main grape varieties grown in Alsace.
It is considered the main grape variety of Alsace. It covers 21.8% of the surface of the vineyard . Revealing themselves in many facets, the wines made from this grape variety can be nervous or supple.
Cultivated in exceptional climatic conditions, they reveal the typicality of the terroir.
- pinot blanc
In terms of aroma, its flavor is close to that of chardonay . With a mouth and less nervous than the sylvaner, the pinot blanc covers 21.8% of the Alsatian vineyard.
Its wines are easy to drink. They are served with shellfish, starters and fish. From time to time, it is blended with Auxerrois which gives richer and smoother wines.
Some Alsatian winegrowers vinify it separately and it gives fuller wines with a texture, a quantity of sugar and aromatic flavor closer to a Pinot Gris.
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Offering the most aromatic wines of Alsace, the gewurztraminer represents 20.4% of the vineyard area . The wines made from this grape variety can be both common and refined.
Embellished with noble rot, the grape variety produces a nectar that is sometimes compared to the great Sauternes.
- pinot gris
It is a grape variety of Burgundy origin . Its seeds are pink and its scent can increase following over-maturity or gray rot.
The Alsatian vineyard covers 15.4% of this grape variety. Produced at a low maturity, Pinot Gris gives light wines that are not in high demand. Once it is produced in late harvest or selection of noble seeds, it offers quality wines with great aging capacity.
- pinot noir
Alsatian red wines are produced exclusively from grape varieties which represent more than 10.1% of the area covered by the vineyard.
It is the typical grape variety for red wines from Alsace . The Alsatian winegrowers have been able to keep this grape variety which is still unknown to great amateurs.
- the sylvaner
Very often vinified in wood or in late harvests, the sylvaner occupies 7.5% of the vineyards of Alsace. It is made from a grape variety characterized by the frankness of the fruits and the power of the aromas . The wines are also endowed with a very fine minerality and offer a marked freshness.
However, not all sylvaners offer a tasty mouthfeel. Before choosing a bottle, it is important to ensure the reliability of the Alsatian winemaker who vinified it.
Occupying 2.3% of the vineyard, Muscat comes in two varieties of grapes: the small-cluster variety and the medium-cluster variety.
These grape varieties have the particularity of making sweet wines . In dry, in selection of noble seeds and in late harvests, the wines are delicious and aromatic.
Where to find Alsace wine?
There are Alsace wines made from grapes from conventional farming and Alsace wines from organic farming. The latter are highly appreciated by oenophiles since they are free of pesticides. To consume an organic wine from Alsace is to opt for a responsible diet.
Oé is the committed organic wine brand . You can find better bottles and the best vintages from the Alsatian terroir.
If the chosen wine is young, remember to aerate it before drinking it. On the other hand, if it is an old wine from Alsace, the ideal is to decant it, which will make it possible to separate the solid part from the liquid part.