Have you ever visited the Alsace region of France? Half-timbered houses in picturesque villages along the road strike the attention of any visitor taking the ‘route des vins d’Alsace’ (road of Alsace wines). As such, the road is a major tourist route. Visitors galore in Colmar, the largest city of Alsace, during the Christmas season.
Situated in Northeastern France, close the border with Germany, the Alsace region, at first sight, appears too cold to ripen grapes fully. While winters can be extremely chilly over there, summers are hot with low rainfalls, thanks to the shelter provided by the nearby Vosges Mountains. As a result, the region has the ideal climatic conditions to fully ripen a range of grapes while allowing them to retain a vital thread of lively acidity.
A patchwork of soils ranging from granite to sandstone, limestone, and mull helps in the production of a wide variety of wines. The wines come from single vineyards or have the name of the vineyard and the term ‘Grand Cru’ on the label.
Alsace is best known for its aromatic white grapes, which are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. The first four of these are known as noble varieties, and most wines labeled as ‘Grand Cru’ are produced these grapes. A large amount of Alsatian quality wine is made from a single vineyard but many producers make blends that vary widely in composition, while most Alsatian wine you’ll come across is made as dry wines.
The region is also famous for its sweet wines made from late-harvested grapes, called “vendange”. Those lusciously sweet wines have rich, concentrated flavors of dried apricots and honey. Alsace also has its sparkling wine, which is made from a blend of grapes, including Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Climatically speaking, Alsace is at the limit for red wine production, nevertheless Pinot Noir planted in the region’s warmest vineyards makes an elegant and refreshing wine renowned for its purity and red berry fruit aroma.
All Alsace wines, whether white, red dry or sweet, are popular in the world for their aromatic fruits, minerality and lively acidity, making them ideal choices with a range of dishes. Dry aromatic whites pairs well with Asian style courses such as sweet and sour Chinese dishes or mild Indian and Thai curries. Dry wines also provide the perfect match for shellfish and white fish, while Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are so versatile that they can take on white meats, spicy Chinese style beef, and a host of other game dishes. A glass of sweet wine should marry well with a fruit-based dessert or a cheese platter.
The Alsace region proves that exploring french wine is beyond Bordeaux, generally considered as the major wine region of France. Have you been to Alsace? Comment below to share your experience.