September 16, 2015
Region of the Week: Alsace
Today, the spotlight is on France. But instead of exploring the real stars Burgundy and Bordeaux, we decided to find out more about Alsace, that fascinating region tucked into France’s northeastern corner.
Alsace and its grapes
Alsace is a unique region – and so are its wines. It is located right across the Rhine River from Germany, and bordered to the west by the Vosges Mountains. Its proximity with Germany is not only geographic – but also cultural and historical. The region switched back and forth between French and German sovereignty in recent centuries, and this shows through its wines. The dominance of unblended white wines, and more specifically Riesling and Gewürztraminer [link to blog post: http://www.coravin.com/blog/wineoftheweek_gewurztraminer/], reflect Alsace’s Franco-Germanic influences. However, unlike in Germany, the region’s wines are dry and full-bodied (as opposed to Germany’s lighter and sweeter wines) – which is mainly due to Alsace’s traditional winemaking philosophy as well as the very specific growing conditions. Alsace’s landscape is mostly defined by the Vosges Mountains, which play a vital role in the region’s terroir. The mountains not only protect Alsace from westerly wind and rain, they also provide slopes and a great variety of soil types.
Alsace is also very unique in the sense that it is the only French region to grow such significant quantities of Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Out of the two grape varieties, Riesling is undoubtedly the most respected and appreciated one: Alsace’s Riesling is dry, almost steely, and ages surprisingly well. Other major varietals planted in Alsace include Pinot Gris, typically used as a blending component in other parts of France; Muscat, a very distinctive Alsatian wine; Pinot Blanc; Sylvaner; Edelzwicker, a local blend of old varieties; and Crémant d'Alsace, the region’s dry sparkling white wine, made in the style of Champagne. As you can easily notice, whites are completely dominant in Alsace’s wine production. The only region representative of reds is Pinot Noir, which was once extremely light but that has taken on more weight in recent years, with the increasingly warm climate.
Where to taste?
Domaine Paul Blanck et fils – 400 years of experience and a passion for Alsatian wines. Make an appointment and go enjoy the winery’s fabulous vineyard landscapes, try some wine with the winemaker himself, and discuss the fascinating world of Alsace wines with him.
Maison Emile Beyer – The history of this family dates back to 1580. The winery, located at the edge of Eguisheim, is modern, but offers tastings in ancient cellars. Be prepared to taste as many as 30 different wines, from their aromatic Gewurtz, an exceptional Riesling, to a distinctive but surprising Muscat.
Where to stay?
Clos Froehn – For stunning views over the vineyards, local homemade breakfast, and recommendations on winemakers or your wine tour in general, this is where to go. The 17th century farmhouse was recently renovated to welcome wine and Alsace lovers.