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The Secret behind Alsace Wines

by | Dec 7, 2017

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Discovering Alsace Wines

Alsace wine, also known as Alsatian wine is one of the many wine varieties that are grown in the Alsace region of France. These have a Germanic influence on them and is primarily is white.

Alsace is also the only Appellation d’Origine Controlee in France that produces German wine. Noted for its sweet as well as dry wine, the Alsace wine is indeed a delight of its own.

History of Alsace wine

The history of Alsace wine is pretty unique, considering the continuous and violent past of Alsace region.

Peeking through the pages of history will tell you that this region has switched hands a number of times before between France and Germany.

Of the many wars that took place between the two countries right from medieval times, Alsace region was one of the first to get affected because of the proximity to Germanic lands.

The Alsace wine is said to be introduced somewhere around 14th to Hungary where it was named Szukerberat.

Centuries later when General Lazarus von Schwendi came here after his campaign against the advancing Turks in the 16th century, he brought the variety back and called it Tokay after Hungary’s most famous wine, Tokaji.

Since then, the wine was called Tokajid’Alsace when in 1993 it was renamed to a simplistic Alsace wine when the European Union reached an agreement with Hungary to remove Tokay from its first name. ‘Tokay’ was thus officially removed in 2007.

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Wine grape varieties

Winemaking

Most Alsace wines are aromatic, spicy and strong flavoured due to the grape varieties. Most grapes grown in this region are strong flavoured with high acidic and tannin content, unlike the varieties in the south that tend to be more sweet and alcoholic.

Of these vines, the Pinot noir grapes are one of the most popularly used vines to produce beverages. These are pale red grapes used to produce popular wines.

Wines like the Cremant d’Alsace are made from these grapes. Similar to Cremant d’Alsace, most Alsace wines are made from aromatic and spicy grapes that are grown here.

Pinot Gris and Gewurztaminer are another popular grape variety grown in Alsace.

Just like their relatives, they are spicy, floral and strong flavoured. In recent times, these grapes have undergone several experiments by winemakers to make them fruitier in flavour by reducing their spicy content as well as reducing the excessive tannin content and balancing out acidity by blending with extra wine varieties.

Alsace wines also lack a sort of labelling that differentiates them from the rest. This leads to much confusion among wine consumers on their credibility, however, winemakers have started labelling them.

For example, the Pinot Gris is usually higher in sugar content than say Riesling or Muscat so that leads to confusion among wine consumers.

For this, winemakers usually produce either dry wines or modified wines to differentiate them.

Viticulture

The determining factors on the wine growing areas are the Vosges mountains in the west and the Rhine to the east.

Vineyards are seen to be concentrated at a small north-south strip along these geographical elements with an ideal altitude of 150-420 metres.

The area is generally very dry and these altitudes provide a good balance between sunlight and drainage.

Because of the westerly winds, the grapes grown here are generally sheltered from rain and maritime forces and therefore the region remains dry.

Colmar, one of the important sites of Alsace wine, is the driest city of France. Besides, most slopes here are east facing so they benefit from natural sunlight and exposure.

Alsace’s geology is not uniform besides being a small region however due to the geological fault of the western Rhine Graben, two systems of parallel units exist between the Vosges mountains and the Black Forest.

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What foods go with Alsace wines?

Alsace wines are usually dry with low alcoholic content. Their acidity and sugar levels have only been recently found to be able to get modified because of technology although winemakers usually produce wines in original, unmodified form.

Considering this, wines like Pinot Gris that are dry and less sweet can go with any food item. Take it with sweet consumables or simply normal house food.

This can also be served with guests although this will definitely go well with spicy flavours since the strong flavours won’t compliment with strong flavoured food.

As usual, the sweet wines can always be used in cooking, with guests and as a sweetener with mild French and German cuisines.

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Author

Mac Wheeler

Mac Wheeler

Wine Writer

Mac is an avid traveller, who spends many months of the year wandering the world with a laptop and a suitcase. He has been a wine lover for over 30 years, and has a fondness for Italian reds, although don’t ask his opinion on the Barolo Wars. On his travels he has tasted a great many wines. Some good, some bad, and some that should never have been sold for human consumption.

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