Visit Wines from Alsace
Visit wines from Alsace
As we wine-lovers approach warm seasons, we tend to crave the lighter wines. Alsatian wines have what it takes to please our palates.
They come from a region that hugs the France-Germany border. They tend to be light to medium bodied. Most wines are white, and they are dry with much flavor.
That’s what I understood when I set out to feature Alsatian wines. I since received information from two experts in the field:
—Catherine Maillé-Fenwick, a native of France, and co-director of the online “Savourez: Organic Tastes of France,” out of the United Kingdom. A few years back she worked with an Alsatian winegrower;
—Sabine Cleizergues, Public Relations Manager of Sopexa Food and Wine in the United Kingdom.
They shed light on these wines from this tiny region, and inspired me to taste more.
The Alsace region – the territory, and the terroir
Alsace is the smallest wine region of France, says Mrs. Maillé-Fenwick. It’s a narrow, longitudinal area, separated from Germany by the Rhine River. Since the 17th century, the region has been annexed, or less politely put, she says conquered by France and Germany alt
The region is nestled between the French Vosges Mountains to the west, and the German Black Forest to the east. Most grapes are grown on the Vosges Mountains east-facing slopes to avoid spring frost.
The vineyard owners optimize grapes’ exposure to the sun, says Ms. Cleizergues. “The Alsace wine region enjoys practically the lowest rainfall in France, only 400-500 mm,” or 15-20 inches “per year.” The result: a sunny, hot and dry climate. These dynamics favor slow ripening of the grapes.
What does this bring to the glass? Elegant and complex aromas, for one.
Now, consider the “terroir,” or soil where the grapes are grown. In Alsace, it ranges among granite, limestone, sandstone and more.
“Such a wide variety of soils, covering about 15,000 hectares …” [or 3,700 acres], says Ms. Cleizergues, “helps bring out the finest characteristics of each grape variety.”
What a beautiful synergy between the soil and the grape. Yet there is more to distinguish wines from Alsace.
Alsatian wine – “the single grape”
Making Alsatian wines oft include processing sweet grapes to make a dry wine, says Mrs. Maillé-Fenwick.. This is also inherited from the German side.
Grapes from Alsace to make the wines include: Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, and Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.
What makes the Alsatian wines most distinctive is the use of a single grape variety, or “cépage.” This technique resonates from the German side, and it differs from style that usually uses two or more grapes or an “assemblage.”
*photos provided by Catherine Maillé-Fenwick, of “savourez.”*
_________________________ Originally published in spring, 2010.