Although wine may not have been invented in Alsace, there is no doubt that it has been enjoyed since the earliest of days in that region of France, on the boarder with Germany, were History was made in so many occasions.
History of the Alsace Wine Region:
Click on the image below to read a full complete post dedicated to the History of the Alsace wine region :
Alsace, an very special garden
Despite being situated quite North in France, lining on the eastern flank of the foothills of the Vosges, the vineyards of Alsace actually enjoy quite a lot of sunshine being the second sunniest region in the country just after Southermost parts like Roussillon.
Furthermore, facing mainly south or south-east, the area benefits from the autumnal “Indian summer” which ensures that grapes ripen slowly to full maturity.
Protected from oceanic influences by the natural barrier of the Vosges mountains, the Alsace vineyards have practically the lowest rainfall in France (450 to 500 mm of precipitation per year).
Hot summers, followed by sunny autumns and rather severe winters are typical of a semi-continental climate.
This climate benefits slow, extended ripening of grapes, and gives local wines elegant aromas of acidic finesse.
Mosaic of Soils
The diversity of vineyard soils in Alsace has no equivalent anywhere, at least in France.
Soils take on such a diversity in such a relatively small space: clay, limestone, marl, granite, gneiss, schist, and even soild of volcanic origin are found in the various areas of the region, often very close by from each other.
This is for one easy-to-understand reason: about 50 million years ago both the Vosges and the Black forest (in
Germany) were a single range of mountains. When it collapsed the Rhine river valley plain was formed.
As the Alsace vineyards are situated along the fault line between the remaining massif of the Vosges and the plain, it is logical that their soil is a mosaic of the collapsed ancient upper layer of a diversity of soils.
For the same reason, all 51 geographic locations that have been granted the status of Alsace Grand Cru appellation vary in size. Some are very small because each possesses its own geological characteristics.
The 7 Alsace Grape Varieties
Vivacious, refined and crystal clear, its bouquet is delicately fruity, with floral or sometimes mineral hints. It combines finesse, elegance and character.
At first lively on the palate, it later reveals its fine balance and long
aftertaste. It is a gastronomic wine par excellence.
Rich, round and well-structured, sometimes slightly sweet, it is a charming wine that can often age well.
More information with our Infographic & Guide to Pinot Noir Grape Variety.
Three Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées
All Alsace wines enjoy one of 3 Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées (AOC) :
The status of AOC Alsace was awarded following long discussions on a national level. French AOCs were set up by means of a preliminary decree in 1935. However, negotiations with the INAO, the certifying
body, were interrupted due to the annexation of Alsace by Germany during the Second World War.
At the end of the war in 1945, a regulation drafted by the Alsace Winegrowers Association defined the Alsace AOCs. This ruling served as a basis for the INAO definition of AOC in our region, but it was only in 1962, 17 years later, that the official decree was finally published and Alsace wines could enter the great family of French
If the name of a grape variety appears on the label of an AOC Alsace wine, it is made from 100 % of that grape variety. If no grape variety is named, then the wine is made from a blend of several white wine
varieties, and so it is either called “Edelzwicker” or by a brand name. In 2010, the maximum authorised annual yield per hectare for whiteAppellation Alsace Contrôlée wines was 80 hectolitres per hectare without PLC (= Plafond Limite de Classement, a reserve calculated annually by the INAO), and 75 hectolitres per hectare without PLC for Pinot Noir wines (60 hectolitres per hectare for “red” Pinot Noir wines).
The annual production limit is supplemented by an individual limit for each white wine grape variety, which replaces the former limit applying to the combined total of all grape varieties that was generally used in Alsace.
9,5° Sylvaner, Muscat, Edelzwicker, Chasselas
10° Pinot blanc, Riesling, Pinot noir
11° Pinot noir “red”, Klevener de Heiligenstein
11.5° Pinot gris, Gewurztraminer
Before going on sale, all AOC Alsace wines must be submitted to a approval tasting panel under the control of INAO.
Alsace wines (except Crémant d’Alsace) are always sold in their typical “flute” bottle and, by law since 1972, must be bottled in the region of production. AOC Alsace wines represent 75% of the total production, of which
92% are white wines.
delimited within this Appellation).
While Alsace wines are traditionally known by their familiar grape names : Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d’Alsace, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, the Appellation Alsace Grand Cru gives an added dimension, “terroir”, the unique influence of the vineyard itself on the wine.
Fifty-one sites have been delimited according to strict criteria of geology and micro-climate, to make up the mosaic of Alsace Grand cru vineyards.
These exceptional vineyards vary in size from 3 to 80 hectares, each having its own specific character and personality, according to its geology, aspect and slope. With an annual average of more than 45 000 hl, Alsace Grand Cru wines represent only 4 % of total Alsace wine production.
The 51 Grands Crus of Alsace and their soil types:
Altenberg de Bergbieten: Marl-limestone-gypsum
Altenberg de Bergheim: Marl-limestone
Altenberg de Wolxheim: Marl-limestone
Brand (Turckheim): Granite
Bruderthal (Molsheim): Marl-limestone
Eichberg (Eguisheim): Marl-limestone
Engelberg (Dahlenheim and Scharrachbergheim): Marl-limestone
Florimont (Ingersheim and Katzenthal): Marl-limestone
Frankstein (Dambach-la-ville): Granite
Froehn (Zellenberg): Clay-marl
Furstentum (Kientzheim and Sigolsheim) :Limestone
Geisberg (Ribeauvillé): Marl-limestone-sandstone
Gloeckelberg (Rodern and Saint-Hippolyte): Marl-limestone
Goldert (Gueberschwihr): Marl-limestone
Hatschbourg (Hattstatt and Voegtlinshoffen): Marl-limestone & loess
Hengst (Wintzenheim): Marl-limestone-sandstone
Kaefferkopf (Ammerschwihr): Granite and limestones and stone
Kanzlerberg (Bergheim): Argilo-marneux-gypseux
Kastelberg (Andlau): Shale
Kessler (Guebwiller): Sablo-argileux
Kirchberg de Barr: Marno-calcaire
Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé: Marl-limestone-sandstone
Kitterlé (Guebwiller): Sandstone-volcanic
Mambourg (Sigolsheim): Marl-limestone
Mandelberg (Mittelwihr et Beblenheim): Marl-limestone
Marckrain (Bennwihr et Sigolsheim): Marl-limestone
Moenchberg (Andlau et Eichhoffen): Marl-limestone with scree
Muenchberg (Nothalten): Stony-sandstone-volcanic
Ollwiller (Wuenheim): Sandy-Clay
Osterberg (Ribeauvillé): Marl
Pfersigberg (Eguisheim and Wettolsheim): Limestone-sandstone
Pfingstberg (Orschwihr): Marl-limestone-sandstone
Praelatenberg (Kintzheim): Granito-gneiss
Rangen (Thann and Vieux-Thann): Volcanic
Rosacker (Hunawihr): Dolomitic limestone
Saering (Guebwiller): Marl-limestone-sandstone
Schlossberg (Kientzheim): Granitic
Schoenenbourg (Riquewihr and Zellenberg): Marno-sableux-gypsum
Sommerberg (Niedermorschwihr and Katzenthal): Granitic
Sonnenglanz (Beblenheim): Marl-limestone
Spiegel (Bergholtz and Guebwiller): Marl-sandstone
Sporen (Riquewihr): Stony-clay-marl
Steinert (Pfaffenheim and Westhalten): Limestone
Steingrubler (Wettolsheim): Marl-limestone-sandstone
Steinklotz (Marlenheim): Limestone
Vorbourg (Rouffach and Westhalten): Limestone-sandstone
Wiebelsberg (Andlau): Sandy-sandstone
Wineck-Schlossberg (Katzenthal and Ammerschwihr): Granitic
Winzenberg (Blienschwiller): Granitic
Zinnkoepflé (Soultzmatt and Westhalten): Limestone-sandstone
Zotzenberg (Mittelbergheim): Marl-limestone
At the end of the last century, several companies in Alsace, established both in the vineyard area and in the cities of Strasbourg and Mulhouse, produced sparkling wines using the Champagne method. This tradition,
somewhat in decline during the first half of the 20th century, was maintained until AOC Crémant d’Alsace status was awared by the decree of 24th August 1976. This decree gives Alsace wine producers the
new framework necessary for the production of quality sparkling wines, with requirements that are comparable to those imposed on Champagne producers themselves.
Today, over 500 producers belong to the Syndicat des Producteurs de Crémant d’Alsace (Crémant d’Alsace Producers’ Union).
Grapes for the production of Crémant d’Alsace are generally picked first, at the very start of the harvest, when they offer for vinification their optimum balance harmony.
Crémant d’Alsace wines are made from the following varieties :
– Most Blanc de Blanc Crémants come from the Pinot blanc, which
makes them soft and delicate.
– Riesling gives the Crémants a more lively fruit character, full of
elegance and nobility.
– Pinot gris makes Crémants rich and round, while Chardonnay brings
style and lightness.
– Pinot noir is the only variety to produce Crémant d’Alsace rosé or,
more rarely, a Blanc de Noir full of charm and finesse.
Find out more with all Social Vignerons Wine Reviews of Alsace Wines:
Or check out this video about Alsace land and wines: