Sunday, October 30, 2016

Alsace – One of the Most Beautiful Wine Regions of France

(Oct. 2016) Though there are other more famous wine regions in France, it is hard to dispute that Alsace is one of the most beautiful. With the vineyards flowing down steep hillsides to nestle against storybook villages filled with cobble stone streets, candy colored houses with bright flower boxes, and giant white storks nesting on rooftops, it seems as if the region is part of a fairytale.

Wine Village in Alsace

The wines are also exquisite, with a focus on dry, semi-sweet, and dessert styles made primarily from riesling, pinot gris, muscat, and gewürztraminer. There is even a large cremant industry for those who enjoy sparkling wine, and very light simple pinot noir if you have a desire for red wine.

All of this, along with very friendly people, excellent restaurants, museums, and historical castles dotting most every hilltop, make Alsace a wine region worth visiting time and again.

Stork Motiff of Alsace

Brief Overview of Alsace Wine Facts

According to the CIVA (Committee Interprofessional Vins de’Alsace) there are 15600 hectares of vineyards with 900 wine cellars in Alsace. The climate is semi-continental with many hot, sunny, dry days, and has some of the lowest rainfall in France. Altitude of the vineyards is between 200 and 400 meters, and there are several different soils, including both red and white limestone, granite, clay, volcanic ash, and gravel.

In terms of quality designations, there are currently 51 grand cru vineyards comprising 5% of total production, 70% Alsace AOC, and 25% AOC Cremant Alsace. Vineyard owners are are trying to get some of their AOC vineyards classified as Premier Cru by the INAO. In addition to producing the four noble grape varieties of riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, and muscat, they also grow pinot noir, pinot blanc, chardonnay, auxerrois, sylvaner, beurot, meunier, and other varietals. Some of their rare dessert wines are designated as Selection de Grains Nobles (SNG) and Vendanges Tardives.

Vineyard in Alsace

Major Cities and Towns in Alsace

The major city in the region is Strasbourg, which has a small airport, as well as an active train station. Strasbourg is famous for its cathedral and Hospice de Vin, and has several excellent universities and museums.

Colmar is the major wine town, filled with charming old flower-covered buildings and a pedestrian only walking area downtown. Though usually quite crowded with tourists, it is a good location to stay for several days while make excursions to the nearby villages and wineries.

Typical House in Alsace with Flowers

I fell in love with the tiny wine villages, which are connected by a small road that winds through the vineyards, as well as walking paths that connect the villages.  Several of my favorites include Bergheim, Saint Hippolyte, Scherwiller, Riquewihr and Turckheim, but as I didn’t see them all, I’m sure there are many I’m missing.  That’s why I plan to return.

Another Fairytale Village in Alsace

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