Produced in the Alsace region of France (North-East of France, capital Strasbourg). The vineyards, extending on low hills at the foot of the Vosges mountains, are not situated higher than 200 to 400 metres, and benefit from a good exposure to the sun. The climate, semi-continental, rather dry and sunny, helps ripening rich and sweet grapes. The soils are varied, granite, schist, gneiss, sandstone, limestone, and give to each wine its character, complex and unique.
Essentially white and dry, aromatic, spicy, the Alsace wines close to Austria and Germany wines, but higher in alcohol and lower in sugar. There are five categories:
AOC Alsace (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Alsace) : white, rosé or red ; the label indicates the grape variety, and sometimes the name of the village or vineyard;
AOC Alsace Grand Cru : white wines from about 50 classified vineyards ; the harvest, and the production, are strictly controlled ; the permitted grapes are Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat and Pinot, and for one wine Sylvaner ; on the bottle are mentioned the name of the vineyard, the vintage, the grape type;
AOC Crémant d’Alsace for sparkling wines : a sparkling wine mainly made from Pinot Blanc, and also from Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and from Chardonnay, using the traditional method of bottle-fermentation (like in Champagne);
Vendanges tardives (VT, Late harvests, Spätlese) : made from over-ripe grapes (only Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat and Pinot), affected by noble rot ; the grapes hang on the vine until they dehydrate ; the "noble rot" (Botrytis Cinerea) affecting the grapes also increase the sugar level, giving the wines a honeysuckle aroma.
Sélection de grains nobles (SGN, Selection of noble berries) : the highest official category in Alsace wines ; the noble-rot, over-ripe berries are chosen on the grapes, to give the highest concentration of sugar and fruit ; these wines are powerful, complex.
Alsace may be kept five years for the AOC, more for the Vendanges tardives. They fit white meat, poultry, seafood, and of course desserts.