WHAT IS ALSACE?
Alsace is a cool-continental climate region in northeastern France, on the borders of Switzerland and Germany. Located between the Vosges Mountains and Rhine River, this ten mile-wide, 80-mile long strip of land is protected from westerly rains, making it one of the driest areas in France. The dry climate and abundant sunshine allow the grapes to mature slowly, retaining freshness and creating complex wines.
WHY DOES ALSACE ROCK?
This picturesque region—with its half-timbered houses, pink sandstone churches and symbolic storks—is also home to passionate winemakers, many of whom belong to families that have been tending vines and making wine in the region for centuries. Each has his or her own style, speciality and personality, but all share a single commonality: producing high quality wines that are pure expressions of the fruit and the terroir, showcasing the distinct nature of Alsace with each sip while being respectful of the land.
A region primarily known for its world-class white wines, Alsace grows seven main varieties: dry Riesling, earthy Pinot Gris, refreshing Pinot Blanc, spicy Gewurztraminer, elegant Pinot Noir, aromatic Muscat and delicate Sylvaner. The array of varieties, running the gamut from light-bodied and fresh to full-bodied and bold, means that there’s an Alsace wine for virtually every cuisine and dish.
THE APPELLATIONS & STYLES
Unlike other regions in France, Alsace labels by variety in addition to place. There are 53 appellations in the region: AOC Alsace for easy-drinking and well-priced still wines; Crémant d’Alsace for affordable, festive bubblies made in the traditional method; and 51 distinct Grand Cru sites, which pack more concentration and complexity into their bottlings. Alsace is also well-known for its rich but well-balanced late harvest styles: Vendange Tardives and Sélection de Grains Nobles, or VT and SGN for short.
On top of all of this, Alsace is one of the most geologically diverse regions in the world, offering 13 distinct soil types from 8 mother rocks. This means that producers have the ability to get their hands dirty and match the seven main varieties to the best terroir, creating combinations that are truly unique and specific to an individual vineyard plot.
THE ADAPTABILITY OF THE REGION
At the heart of Alsace is a single word: nuance. This is a region where producers are passionate about showing the true nature of the grapes and the impact of terroir, a wine geek’s dream, if you will; at the same time, the winemakers are also dedicated to creating wines that, at their very basic level, are enjoyable, expressive of their variety and delicious with food.
This is why Alsace can toe the line of being a “one-size-fits-all” and a one-of-a-kind wine region—because it offers sheer diversity of styles, the ability to delve into the nitty-gritty details of soil types, and very importantly, affordable pricing at all levels. These factors make the region a lovely option for wine lovers, both new and seasoned, because there is always something to more to learn if the desire is there.