Alsace is unique within the French Wine Regions due to the German influences, which play an equal role in sculpting the area's language, traditions - and even its wines. It is also the only region of France that sells its wine according to the name of the grape variety. Wine growing is a top priority here, and the region produces fine aromatic white wines.
Alsace is also one of France's northernmost wine producing areas, and it stretches over 140 kilometres from the north to the south. Many of its slopes face east, benefiting from plenty of sunlight, as well as a very special variety of ‘Terroir' made from granite, limestone, clay, loam and volcanic soils. Alsace shares the river Rhine with Germany as a common border. Its summers are hot and sunny - and it is the driest region in France after the Roussillon in the south.
The History of Alsace Wine
You only have to stand in the middle of an Alsatian town such as Colmar, and look upon its picturesque, semi timbered, ‘chocolate box-esque’ houses, to conclude that this wine region is entirely unique in France. The key to the region’s attractive uniqueness can be found in Alsace’s political history.
The Rhine River and its flat banks on either side of the river acted as the ideal battleground when France and Germany went to war, whilst the vineyards planted on the eastern foothills of the Vosges Mountains looked on. Prussia had control of Alsace in 1890. France claimed it back in 1918.
By the Second World War, Germany had taken occupation of the region. In 1945, Alsace found its home in France once again where it has remained, very much as one with France, whilst retaining its dual personality noticeable in its architecture, town names and its Alsatian dialect. This dual personality and uniqueness is echoed in the region’s stunning, aromatic wines.
Grape Varieties and Wine Styles
The two ‘shining star’ grape varietals of the region are Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Both of which are planted extensively throughout Germany, however you would have difficulty finding them anywhere else in France. Other key grape varietals within the region are Sylvaner (also not found elsewhere in France), Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. Other lesser used grape varietals such as Auxerrois Blanc and Chardonnay play a larger part within the region’s Crémant (sparkling wine) production.
Auxerrois Blanc is often blended with Pinot Blanc as they can add to each other, what the other may lack during winemaking. Pinot Noir, whilst grown in the region, is one of the exceptions in that it is notable in other French regions, in particular it is heralded as one of Burgundy’s best grapes.
Alsace Riesling are white wines known for their perfume of green apple, lime, lemon, smoke and Thai basil. They are stunning wines, offering a round mouth whilst remaining dry and ripe.
Alsace Gewürztraminer thrives in the region’s sunny dry weather, enabling a long ripening season well suited to the Gewürztraminer grape. The climate affords the white wines a supremely perfumed bouquet, treasured for its aromatics of rose petals, lychee and ginger, and are full bodied whilst remaining dry on the palate.
Alsace Pinot Gris, known as Ruländer in Germany, are pale lemon, light and fresh wines with notes of spice, musk and exotic ripe fruits.
Alsace Pinot Noir are usually much lighter red wines than the Pinot Noir wine made famous in Burgundy, still offering a mouth of red fruits whilst adding the Alsace uniqueness of a floral overtone.
Alsace Pinot Blanc varietal white wines are known for their dry fresh, crisp green apple and white blossom.
Alsace Sylvaner are mainly light white wines that explode with a bouquet of peach, orange blossom and minerality whilst remaining harmoniously smooth and acidulous.
Buy Alsace Wine from Hourlier Wines
At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we have some superb examples of Alsace wines to explore your way through Alsace by taste.
We also offer Alsatian wines from producer Jean-Claude Gueth. Jean-Claude, his wife Bernadette and daughter Muriel are known for their passion for wine production whilst respecting the environment and terroir of Alsace. As part of their range, there is a wine that can be tried covering almost every Alsatian grape varietal for you to explore:
Jean Claude Gueth's Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes is an elegant wine offering notes of fresh peach, orange blossom and a minerality. ‘Vielles Vignes’ translates from French to ‘Old Vines’.
The wine being made from grapes of old vines affords this wine superbly concentrated flavours, making it a great wine to enjoy now or cellar/age for 5-10 years.
The prestigious Pinot Gris Grand Cru 'Goldert' gains its name from the stunning golden dress of the wine. An off-dry, complex wine with notes of honeyed poached pear, baked apple, beeswax and minerality.
We also offer a fantastic Cremant d’Alsace White from this producer - A traditional method, sparkling wine which is a perfect cost effective alternative to Champagne with toasty, delicate fruit notes.
What is the best way to store Alsace wine and how long will it keep?
All our wines are ready to drink and can be enjoyed now, however if you are interested in keeping your wines to age or are simply not ready to open them yet, they should be stored horizontally in a cool, dark area where temperatures do not fluctuate. The optimum temperature to store most wines is around 13 ºC. All wine producers agree that wine should never be allowed to get anywhere near freezing temperatures, or be exposed to temperatures of 20 ºC or more.
The extremes of which can easily spoil your wine before it has even been opened. If stored well, you can keep your Alsace wines up to five years, and those with intense concentrated flavours up to ten years. Within which time they may take on tertiary notes such as dried fruits, burnt honey and increased minerality. Once ready to drink, White Alsace wines such as Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling are best served chilled at around 7-10˚C but not immediately from the fridge otherwise you’ll miss all those lovely flavours!
What Food Pairs with Alsace wine?
Most Alsace wines are unique in that they pair well with more traditional dishes, such as white meats or roast vegetables, however they are also the sublime pairing to spicier, Asian or aromatic dishes due to the heady, perfumed bouquet of the wines. A spiced pork dish would therefore be perfect.
Can you provide product recommendations?
If you are exploring Alsace wines for the first time, trying the region’s ‘star of the show’ grape varietals of Gewürztraminer and Riesling are a must.
If you would like to explore a wine with a little uniqueness, our producer Jean-Claude Gueth has sought to harmonise Gewürztraminer and Riesling in their exceptionally refreshing wine ‘Jean Claude Gueth Alsace Harmonie’. The aptly named wine ‘Harmonie’ is made from a harmony of both grape varietals providing for an enjoyable, easy drinking fresh, fruity and aromatic wine. A delight when paired with a spiced chicken salad, white meats or Aubergine Ratatouille.