Culturally, Alsace is as much German as it is French, due to its proximity to the German border. In fact, twice during the last 130 years, it has been under German control. It’s undoubtedly one of France’s most spectacularly beautiful regions to visit, a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts as much as for wine lovers.
Alsace is a narrow stretch of vineyards running north-south at the base of and nested into the eastern foothills of the Vosges Mountains. The mountains, along with the Rhine just to the east of the Vignoble, provide the region with an impressively dry climate for such a northern latitude. Sunshine hours are high during the growing season, while rainfall is low.
The vineyard area stretches from just west of Strasbourg in the north to Mulhouse in the south, with the heart of the region centered around the town of Colmar. This is where the greatest concentration of top villages and vineyard sites, particularly Grand Crus, is found. In some respects, the region resembles the Cote d’Or in Burgundy, as the finest sites are on the slopes of the Vosges, with well drained, meager soils.
The vast majority of wine is labeled by its grape variety, and the star is Riesling. There is just one permitted red variety, Pinot Noir, made in a lighter style than in Burgundy, except in outstanding vintages.
Some of the region’s greatest wines are the sweet “late-harvest” wines. The best are very well balanced with remarkable depth.
The final style in the region is Cremant d’Alsace. These sparkling wines are made by the traditional method and are produced primarily from Pinot Blanc and Riesling, although other varieties also are permitted. The best examples have outstanding depth and structure.