Saturday, May 7, 2022

Cool Climate Grapes, but a Warm French Soul: ALSACE

                           Alsace is one of the most under-appreciated wine treasures on the globe

This is the first of a three part series on Alsace during the month of May.  France’s smallest wine district, Alsace is located in the country’s northeast area.  This tiny wine region, which shares a border with Germany, has in fact passed ownership between France & Germany three times since the 17th century.   Think of it as an area of cool climate grapes, but with a warm French soul.

                        Grand Cru vineyards & hilltop castles surround winemaking villages 

Some of Alsace’s grape varietals are very well known...others not so much.  Most of its grapes are of French origin, but there’s one from Italy, and yet another from Germany.  Alsatian wine remains relatively undiscovered.  This may also be due to the fact that many erroneously think all Alsatian wines are sweet.  In fact, many of Alsace’s wines are dry.  Another possible reason for its obscurity, Alsace’s wines are inexpensive (in comparison to Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone).  Pricing has nothing to do with quality; like most things, Alsatian wine prices are based on supply and demand.  

          Enchanting Hansel & Gretel storybook towns mix with France's passion for wine-making

Alsace’s Main Grape Varietals

Gewurztraminer (or as it is frequently called, Gewurz), is actually a mutation of an ancient grape from northern Italy at the base of the Alps.  Traminer, the mother grape, is named after the Italian village from where it is thought to originate.  A light red varietal, Gewurz is used to make white wine in Alsace.   The varietal is known for its exotic aromas of roses and lychees.   Gewurztraminer will be discussed in more detail later this month.


The Riesling grape is thought to be of German origin.  This green-skinned grape was once the darling of 19th century European royalty, commanding a higher price than both Bordeaux and Champagne.    Riesling, when grown in cool climates,  produces a floral wine with lemon-lime flavors.  Warmer weather brings out stone-fruit (especially apricot) and exotic flavors such as pineapple. 

                                   Domaine Weinbach is one of the area's many stellar producers


Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir

All of these three Alsatian varietals belong to the same grape family.  Even though Pinot Blanc and Gris are white varietals, they are actually mutations of the black Pinot Noir grape which is native to nearby Burgundy.  

Alsatian Pinot Blanc typically has an apple-almond profile, with a hint of spice.  Pinot Gris (known as Pinot Grigio in Italy), is more full-bodied, richer, spicier and more unctuous than it’s Italian counterpart.    Pinot Noir in Alsace used to be considered a light-bodied wine but this has changed due to global warming and better winemaking. 

                                Alsace's Christmas markets are an unrivaled experience

Wine-Knows will be hosting a trip to Alsace during its famous Christmas markets, December 6-16, 2022.  Come learn about the wines of this special French region during its most soulful time of year.

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