Alsace Wine Road - Grape Varieties -
Whereas other French regions call their wines by the name of their terroirs, Alsatian wines bear the name of the grape varieties used to produce them. Also the wines are put in long bottles similar to German shape bottles. Alsatian wines are classified under 3 official designations (AOC):
• The "Alsace" AOC, designates wines, which are made from a single variety of grape. Only the Edelzwicker designation does not correspond to a particular variety of grape.
• The “Alsace Grand Cru” AOC is for wines whose key characteristic is the originality of the terroir in which they are grown. It mainly applies to Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Tokay Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sylvaner. These wines are harvested at the 50 Alsatian locations specified by the AOC designation. Also the bottle labels may say Vendange Tardive - "Late Harvest" (long ripening grapes) or “Selection of Noble Grapes” (grapes affected by noble rot - botrytis). Some versions tend to higher in alcohol - lower in sugar - than similar German wines so they are semi-sweet rather that sweet.
• The Crémant d’Alsace (Alsatian Sparkling Wine) AOC produced according to a same “traditional method” as in Champagne. There are many of excellent producers in the region and their bubblies are great value for celebrations and as aperitif alternatives.
• Sylvaner: clear green tinted colour a light, fresh wine with discreet, fruity taste (citrus). . Goes well with fish, seafood and cold meats.
• Pinot Blanc: clear often brilliant sometimes with hint of yellow or green - well-balanced and often fruity – peaches – apples – with floral hints. Pleasant and soft on palate it offers slight to medium acidity combined with aromas of violet or iris. Versatile, accompanies most dishes starters and main courses.
• Klevener de Heiligenstein: bright colour with gold flecks. Considered ancestor of Gewurztraminer, only spicier. This wine is round, with a light fruity but varies according to region some versions have mineral as well as buttery characteristics. Versatile for whole meal - from aperitif to dessert- an excellent food wine.
• Muscat: clear yellow with silver glints, distinguished from the sweet Muscats of the South of France by its dry character that offers peppery sensations - a refied bitterness like biting into grape. Has the powerful aromas of fresh grapes and fruit. It can be served as an aperitif and is good with asparagus
• Riesling: Pale yellow with bright green tinges that emphasize freshness.
The bouquet can be elegant or racy, with fruity aromas (lemon, citronella, grapefruit, peach, pear, stewed fruits…) and floral aromas. Some versions also have aromas of anise- liquorice. As it evolves, Riesling is unique in that, depending on the soil it is planted, it develops mineral aromas (gun powder, flint, gasoline …). These highly distinctive aromas are found in terroir-driven wines such as the Grands Crus and “lieux-dits” (single, named vineyards). This dry wine displays great vertical structure. It is characterized by freshness from start to finish, whilst the mid-palate is defined by opulence and richness. This wine is an ideal partner for haute cuisine. Riesling from Alsace posse sses unique and distinctive flavours that develop great intensity in certain terroirs. It is a wine that can improve in bottle over several years . Harvested late, Riesling “Vendanges Tardives” or “Sélections de Grains Nobles” yield extremely elegant wines, sweet to a greater or lesser degree bases on wine makers preferred style usually with generous body and extraordinary harmony.
• Pinot Gris: varies from light yellow gold to amber colour. A full-bodied ,round and well-balanced wine more intense and flavorful than the Italian versions, moderately acidic,. Can have smoky notes and hints of mushrooms, apricot and ginger bread. Benefits from decanting or a few minutes pause before being served. goes perfectly with foie gras, poultry salads and the reional pork and potato dishes. Works as aperitif also.
• Gewurztraminer: colour yellow to light gold, with a rich, aromatic bouquet – an explosion of fruits and spices, this wine is intense and full-bodied. Goes well with Asian cuisines Thai – Chinese - ~Indian. An Alsace triumph and a must to try different versions on your visit to various Alsace villages. Also try the “late harvest” styles that go so well with desserts, cheese and exotic cooking. It is excellent as an aperitif, as well.
• Pinot Noir: this variety can be used to produce two different wines: Rosé Pinot Noir and Red Pinot Noir. Rosé Pinot Noir is light, fresh supple and acidic - flavours of red berries. Red Pinot Noir can offer aromas of cherry or smoke. Both wines may be served with red meat, strong cheese or cold meat. It is also used for Cremants d’Alsace – blancs de noir and Cremant Rose.
• Blended Wines – In Alsace the term Edelzwicker is often used to designate any blended wines of AOC Alsace white grape varietals, usually without indicating the percentages in the composition. The different grape varieties may be vinified together or separately and he mention of vintage is optional.
• Marc - Brandy - Can be distilled Grapes or Fruit ( Plum- Pear- Cherry ) fermentation starts in casks. After three months, it is distilled twice in traditional style and heated in a copper still which is itself heated in a bain- marie.
Alsace Brandies usually very fruity and are excellent after dinner drinks.