French Wine 101: The Alsace Region

by tarynlachter

Ah, France. The Mother Land of winemaking, the queen of vino. We stan French wines. 

The Old World has so much to offer in the way of wine, and it’s not always because of the flavor or the tastes.

There is tradition and history steeped into everything they do which provides a unique richness to the wines that are produced, especially in France.

Ah, France. The Mother Land of winemaking, the queen of vino. We stan French wines. 

The Old World has so much to offer in the way of wine, and it’s not always because of the flavor or the tastes. There is tradition and history steeped into everything they do which provides a unique richness to the wines that are produced, especially in France.

This article will focus specifically on the region of Alsace, but over the next few weeks, we’ll cover more regions from this gorgeous area.

Alsace runs from North to South along the border of Germany and just north of the border of Switzerland, surrounded by the Vosges mountains to the west, and the Rhine river to the east. There are two parts to the region: The Bas-Rhin, which is to the north, near Strasbourg, and the Haut-Rhin, which is to the south, near the Vosges mountains.

This region actually happens to be one of the driest in France, in terms of climate and gets plenty of sunlight so the wines are fruity in flavor and tend to be richer. White wines are very common here, encompassing 90% of the region’s total production.

Of the few varietals grown here, there are the “Four Noble Grapes of Alsace: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. These wines are greatly influenced by Germany but are quite unique to their own region. For instance, a Riesling in Germany will take on the profile of a sweet, dessert wine, while in Alsace, it is dry and bright.

A unique aspect to the Alsace region is the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) delineations. In the Alsace AOC, the requirement is that no less than 100% of the varietal listed is used in the bottle, which means you will rarely see any kinds of blends. There are two specific blends that you might find but they must be explicitly labeled as Gentil or Edelzwicker, the latter of which is usually considered a low-quality table wine. 

While the Alsace AOC makes up a whopping 74% of total production in the region, Cremant d’Alsace must not go unnoticed. This is the AOC that produces the second more popular sparkling wine in all of France and it’s responsible for 22% of production. The bubbly here is produced using the same method as they do in Champagne and the rosé of this region is 100% Pinot Noir, which is fairly unusual. 

Alsace is a unique region because of the influences from Germany and the climatic benefits that are unlike many other parts of the country. They’re easily found in the US but you might have to look through some smaller, more independent shops. 

Pro-tip: a white wine from Alsace is a perfect summer wine!

 



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