Alsace wine region boasts beautiful hilly vineyards stretching along the Rhine river in the north-east of France. 51 vineyards, each with their own designated Grand Cru appellation, are dispersed in two sub-regions, The Bas-Rhin and the Haut-Rhin. These areas are quite diverse and they are home to noble, aromatic grape varieties producing floral and peachy white wines.
HISTORY BOX: The first vineyards here appeared thanks to Romans! The Alsace wine region has exceptional conditions for viticulture. The Climate is dry, and the vines benefit from very good sun exposure. This terroir attracted the Romans and they decided to plant the first vines in the area.
Where is The Alsace Wine Region Located?
Alsace wine region is located in the northeast part of France on the border with Germanyand Switzerland. To the west, Alsace region has Champagne and Burgundy wine regions and to the south, Jura and Savoie. Located on the borders of Switzerland and Germany, the Alsace wine region benefits from an ideal location in the heart of Europe. This also had an influence on the heritage, gastronomy and even on the wines of Alsace. It is a great mix of German and French culture.
Briefly about History
At the beginning of the 13th century, there were more than a hundred wine-making villages in Alsace. During this period, wines were exported all over Europe. However, the Thirty Years War in Central Europe ruined the villages and vineyards. Nevertheless, even if the trade was difficult at this time, some villages have been rebuilt and they have grown wine production.
Since 1962, the Alsace is officially an A.O.C and it is known as one of the most beautiful wine regions in France with its cultural diversity, charming villages and breathtaking vineyard landscapes.
Let’s Dive in Alsatian Wines and Culture!
Two Distinct Sub-Regions
Alsace wine region occupies 15600 hectares of land which is further divided into two sub-regions:
The Haut-Rhin stretches along the Vosges, between Sélestat in the north and Thann in the South.
The Bas-Rhin extends from Strasbourg to Sélestat.
They share the production of the 51 grand crus, 33 in the Haut-Rhin and 18 in the Bas-Rhin. Alsace wines enjoy exceptional diversity because of the diverse terroirs of these two sub-regions.
What’s The Alsacatian Wine Like?
In Alsace, the majority of the wines (90%) are white.
– Alsace wines are known for its elegance, finesse and aromatic characteristics; – They are floral and spicy; – They are pure and expressing varietal character.
Alsatian wines are produced under 3 appellations(AOC): Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru and Crémant d’Alsace
Each appellation has rules that each winemaker should follow. For the AOC Alsace Grand Cru, only 4 grape varieties are allowed (Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer), while there is no restriction for the AOC Alsace. It is common that a producer produces a broad range of white wines with different level of sugar, from dry to sweet wines. In Crémant d’Alsace, they produce some nice bubbly wines with the traditional method.
/ɡrɒ̃ ˈkruː,French ɡʀɑ̃ kʀy/ “A wine of the most superior grade, or the vineyard which produces it.”
The number of Grand Crus make Alsace wine region unique among other regions of France. A whopping 51 Grand Crus come under only 3 appellations and wine from one grand cru will taste different than a wine produced in another Grand Cru!
About the Aromatics of Alsace Grapes
Alsace is home to the main noble aromatic grapes such as Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Gewürztraminer. However, they also left a plot of land for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris which is actually a “grey” mutated grape variety, used to produce white wine.
Each of the grape variety has its own peculiarity and its own aromas. Nevertheless, some of them are more aromatic and remarkable for their flavours and aromas.
Lil’ Story: Not all the grapes are the same! Some are better in producing aromas and floral notes. what makes aromatic grape variety aromatic, is a little chemical compound called “terpenes” which is more in these grapes. To say it with the simpler language, “terpenes” are responsible for smells and aromas in plants and the reason why roses smell like roses.
Riesling gives floral bouquet and mineral hints when Gewürztraminer is more full-bodied and has intense aromas of flowers, spices and fruit.
Where to taste Alscatian wines
Wineries with open cellar door
Many wineries in the Alsace wine region welcome visitors, both for cellar door sales and wine tastings & tour activities.
Here, you will discover a big diversity of experiences, starting with wine tasting and harvest experience finished with a bike tour along the breathtaking vineyards.
Domaine Bott Frères
Domaine Bott Frères produces fine wines from 18 ha of vineyards that has plots in different Grand Crus.
Book your wine experience, learn about the whole process of winemaking and taste premium quality wines!
Etienne Simonis is a family-run winery located in the heart of the Alsace wine region. The Simonis Family has been cultivating vines in Ammerschwihr since the 17th century.
Visit the winery and discover their biodynamic philosophy of winemaking through their wines and exchanges with the winemakers. Here you will discover organic vineyards and people who take care of biodiversity.
When visiting the wine region of Alsace, it makes sense to enjoy the food paired with the exceptional wines of the region.
Choucroute d’Alsace. Is It Very Sour?
Alsatians are specialists in the preparation of sour cabbage which is known as Choucroute here. They serve it with sausages and other charcuterie.
Originally, this dish is from Germany and Eastern Europe but it also became popular in France in the middle of the 16th century. Today, the recipe is famous in the region, accompanied by a wide range of Alsatian charcuterie products and regional wines, of course!
Baeckeoffe is a traditional dish of Alsatian cuisine, based on vegetables and assortment of lamb, beef and pork. The particularity of this dish is that the ingredients are stewed for over 24 hours in a terrine with spices and white wine from the Alsace vineyard. Its name means the baker’s oven in Alsatian.
In fact, traditionally, the house lady placed the large terrine of Baeckoffe at the bakers by going to mass. The three types of meat of this dish represent the Alsatian religious traditions: beef for the Catholic religion, pork for the Protestant and lamb for the Jewish.
Match Baeckeoffe with full-bodied and round Pinot Gris or complex, aromatic and refreshing Riesling from Vins Schoenheitz.
Flammekueche – Alsatian Pizza
The recipe that has peasant origins is a famous speciality from the Alsace wine region. It is composed of thin bread dough, generally of rectangular shape. Then, it is covered with a mixture of thick cream and cottage cheese, bacon, onions and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Peasants used to bake Flammekueche in the oven when it was still too hot to bake the bread but the temperature was ideal for Flammekueche.
In the Alsace, Christmas is a very important period of the year. Indeed, Alsatians have the tradition to cook Christmas cookies: the Bredele. Even if the legend tells that the Bredele has always existed, the first proof of their existence dates from 1570. The moulds used for their manufacture date back to this date.
They prepare Bredele in different shapes and flavours. It could be stars, Christmas trees, reindeer…and have flavours gingerbread, anise, cinnamon, the possibilities are limitless! They are traditionally eaten with Alsatian mulled wine.
ChooseVins Becker’sPinot Noir to prepare mulled wine for your Christmas Bredele.
Want to Get a Bit Romantic?
Alsatian towns and villages are perfect places for romantic getaway with their canals, bridges and half-timbered houses.
Even if Alsace is a very small region, the region has several cities and village worthwhile to stop by. Below we highlight some places, we think well represent Alsace as a region.
Strasbourg – The European Capital of the Alsace Region
Strasbourg is a lively and dynamic city. Its dynamism is highly appreciated by visitors. Indeed, the town is one of the cities that offers the most cultural activities. Besides, there are a lot of museums, concerts and music festivals. Furthermore, Strasbourg has a world-renowned heritage: the “Grande île”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“La Petit France” quarter is a favourite place for visitors because of its very particular architecture of half-timbered houses, canals, and bridges. Admire its historical monuments, cathedrals, the house Kammerzell and many more. You will love discovering Strasbourg by walk or bike! To go from the city out to the wineries does not take long, so it is not a problem to combine cultural activities with wine tasting and tours during your trip to Strasbourg.
Colmar – Little Venice in Alsace Wine Land
Colmar is a lovely town with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. Definitely, one of the most romantic towns in the Alsace wine region. However, not only its architecture is delightful here, but also its environment. Colmar is considered both as the Little Venice of Alsace and as the kingdom of Alsace wines.
The name Little Venice is due to its canals of Launch River. This district begins behind the Koïffhus and goes through the fish market dock. Come discover the charms of the historic city centre. Colmar is a must step for discovering the sweetness of life in Alsace!
Kaysersberg – The Village That Looks Like Postcard
Kaysersberg is a wonderful village with many assets, especially, remarkable architectural heritage with its narrow streets, colourful timbered houses and 16th-century fortified bridge. The town is located in a valley surrounded by vineyards and forested hills.
If you have the chance to go there during the winter season, you will enjoy an authentic Christmas market. This unique medieval town has a great location surrounded by vineyards, which makes it ideal to discover the wines of the Alsace region.
The Lovely Riquewihr – “The Pearl of Alsatian Vineyard”
Between the Vosges’ crests and the Alsace plains, there is Riquewihr, an outstanding medieval town. Riquewihr is ranked among the most beautiful villages of France. For centuries, this magnificent place marries the quality of its architecture to the quality of its wines. In fact, Riquewhir is one of Alsace’s must-visit places.
If you appreciate authenticity, you will love to explore the village. Whether for its half-timbered houses or for its museums, the city will charm you with its unique aspect.
Alsace wine region offers a diversity of wine tourism experiences. Check outwine tastings & tours in Alsace, choose your favourite and experience this beautiful Franco-Germanic culture and wines!