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Alsace Wines: Surviving In A War Zone

When talking about the wines of Alsace, is important to notice that these are wines that have been grown in a historical war zone; that have changed nationality several times and have survived!

Alsace is in the north-east of France, right against the border of Germany and Switzerland. The area has been owned by Germany and has returned to France with semi-regularity over its history.The 30-year war, a religious war, the First World War, and the Second World War have given Alsatian wines a unique and distinctive character.

If the Chateau marks the sign of quality to the wines of Bordeaux, the "climat" (the soil) to the wines of Burgundy, in Alsace it is the GRAPES that are used to make the wines that marks their quality.

In Alsace you have the French hand in the making of wines and the German soul in its concept. The most distinctive wines of this area are the white wines of typically German and Austrian grapes.

These wines are often dry, and elegant, with a very aromatic nose of flowers, fruits, and smoky notes. Alsatian wines tend to be exceptionally durable, able to stand the test of time. Here 18% of France’s total white wines are produced and only 30% of the region's total production is exported.

Unlike their German neighbors, who are often markedly sweet wines with varying levels of residual sugar in the wine, the Alsatians have achieved, as in other regions of France, the highest ratings of Cru’s and Grand Cru, the best wines in the region.

The Grapes

Grapes

A slightly more unique factor of these wines is the way that they are produced. True to the German heritage of the region, the wines are most often produced as varietal wines from a single grape variety. In France where the norm is to produce blends (eg. Bordeaux, Champagne, and Chateauneuf du Pape) Alsace proves itself somewhat unique with its standalone and labeled varietal wines. 

Authorized White Grapes

Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Klevener de Heiligenstein or Savagnin rose and the stellar Riesling and the Gewürztraminer (meaning "aromatic Traminer" of the Italian Traminer) which has an ink skin color.

Authorized red grapes: the well-known Pinot Noir, which is used to make ALL the rosé wines of Alsace.

Among the distinguishing aspects of these wines are their typical long bottles, called Alsatian bottle or vin du Rhin (wine from the Rhine), their labels that include the name of the winery and the grape variety and the use of grapes with "Noble rot" as a distinctive of the region.

This "noble rot" is an attack of a fungus (Botrytis Cinerea) that concentrates the sugar of the grape and produces tasty and sweet wines extraordinarily rich with strong cheeses, from this area, a typical dish is served with Munster cheese.

Finally, if you have an adventurous spirit, wanting to try different white wines, very aromatic, dry or sweet, barrel aged or not, good acidity and even ideal for spicy foods such as Mexican, Chinese or Thai, there is no better wine than an Alsatian, put aside for a moment your chardonnay and dare to try them; even its sparkling classified "Crémant d'Alsace" will contest that Champagne is not the only good sparkling wine from France.

The best recommended wineries in Alsace:

  • Dopff
  • Schlumberger
  • Weinbach
  • Trimbach
  • Lorentz-Klipfel
  • Hugel et fils
  • Zind-Humbrecht
  • León Beyer
  • Marcel Deiss
  • Josmeyer
  • Boehler

These are just a sample of the Alsatian wineries and, have you noticed anything with the name of these French wineries or Domaines? Most have a German name or surname, demonstrating the history of this region of France has the taste and the French hand, but the German spirit.

 

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