Written By: Ray Mogenis
Alsace wine or Alsatian wine is produced in the Alsace region in France and is noted for its white wine and dry and off-dry Rieslings, usually from the Grand Crus. Because of its Germanic influence, it is the only appellation d'origine contrôlée region in France to produce mostly varietal wines, typically from grape varieties similar to those used in German wine.
Along with Austria and Germany, Alsace produces some of the most noted dry Rieslings in the world, as well as highly aromatic Gewürztraminer wines. The wines of Alsace are produced under three different AOCs: Alsace AOC for white, rosé, and red wines, Alsace Grand Cru AOC for white wines from certain classified vineyards, and Crémant d'Alsace AOC for sparkling wines. In the region, both dry and sweet white wines are produced.
In Alsace, It’s All About the Wine Pairings
To fully appreciate wines of Alsace, it’s important to understand how paramount gastronomy and wine pairings are in the region. Virtually every noteworthy winemaker has a clear idea of dishes and specific ingredients that pair with their wines. This region has a deep affection for cooking, and the wine and food have long been crafted to go together. But even if Alsatian cuisine, which highlights pork, game, foie gras, and seasonal vegetables, isn’t your thing, you’ll find that these wines, with their salinity and fruitiness, are also incredible with spicy Asian food.
Overall, Alsatian wines are relatively affordable. For example, you can find fantastic bottles from Alsace at half the price of Burgundy. Keep in mind that all fine white wines should be served at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit — but not straight out of the fridge, otherwise you won’t fully experience the aromatics. All of these wines are best when cellared — if you can resist drinking them now!
The Wines of Alsace: Riesling vs. Gewürztraminer vs. Pinot Gris
Alsatian Riesling is often full-bodied with wonderful texture, hints of petrol on the nose, notes of peaches and apricots on the palate, and a searing acidity. Most Grand Cru Rieslings need at least a few years of bottle aging, so look for something from 2019 or earlier, when possible. Riesling is superb when paired with pork or young goat cheese.
In Alsace, Gewürztraminer is often grown on the limestone and sandstone soils of Grand Crus to emphasize the grape’s potential for finesse and minerality. The Steingrübler Grand Cru is one such vineyard site. While there, you can try excellent Gewürtz wines from biodynamic domains.
Often, Alsatian Pinot Gris (a cousin of Pinot Grigio) does retain a bit of residual sugar, resulting in an off-dry wine. Alsace-based sommelier Romain Iltis, who earned the title of Best Sommelier in France in 2012, says that Alsatian Pinot Gris is like “a white wine with a red wine structure” because it has qualities resembling tannins. He also added that its fruitiness makes it wonderful alongside salty foods. Pinot Gris is a great opportunity to experience how a lightly sweet wine, as long as it is made well and has enough acidity, can age beautifully and be an ideal companion to spiced dishes like Thai or Szechuan.
Along with the above varietals, wines of Alsace also include Alsatian Dry Muscat, Sylvaner, and Pinot Blanc (which consists primarily of the grape Auxerrois blanc) for whenever you need a refreshing, affordable aperitif wine.
Into bubbles? Alsace also makes a lot of Crémant (Champagne-method, sparkling white wine) that’s always perfect to satisfy the palate.
Here are some examples you can purchase at our location: