Alsace (say it with us: ah-ZAHS) is a predominantly white wine region in the Rhine River Valley in northeastern France, with Germany and Switzerland for neighbors. Throughout this 10-mile-wide, 80-mile-long strip you’ll find aromatic whites at the ready, including the fab five: your dry Riesling, spicy Gewurztraminer, the always easy-to-drink Pinot Blanc, earthy Pinot Gris, and elegant, sparkling Crémant d’Alsace.
What makes this cool-continental region of France so special is the terroir. It’s home to some of the most diverse soil in the country and the world — and it’s the second driest, thanks to protection from the Vosges Mountains to the west. Alsace also has the highest percentage of certified organic and biodynamic producers in France, so you know you’re only getting the good stuff, and the region has a long history of small, family-owned wineries, many of which date to the 1600 and 1700s.
The best part? You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a high-quality bottle, even if prestigious Grands Crus are calling your name. With plenty of sunshine and stunning views, plus 26 Michelin-starred restaurants in the area, and utterly inclusive hospitality, Alsace is the place to go.
Reign of Terroir
The diversity of Alsace’s wines is a result of the area’s 13 distinct soil types comprised of a blend of mineral-rich granite, limestone, schist, and sandstone. With each and every bottle, producers say that you can truly “taste the essence of Alsace.”
The combination of a dry climate with plenty of sunshine means the grapes take their time maturing, which gives these wines unmatched freshness and minerality, as well as complex aromas and flavors.
Behind every great bottle of wine coming out of Alsace is a passionate team of winemakers who respect the land. Many houses have been at it for centuries.
You won’t find any two bottles that are exactly the same here: Each vineyard has its own style, its own specialty, and its own personality. But what you will find all across the valley are wines that are not only high-quality, but also a great value.
Planet of the Grapes
White grape varieties are the name of the game in Alsace, cornering 90 percent of the market. Aromatic and balanced, these world-class wines are known for their acidity and structure, and tend to go hand-in-hand with France’s other favorite indulgence: food. Whether the evening calls for something light or full-bodied, there’s a bottle for every meal and every dish on the menu, from foie gras to tarte flambee.
Gewurztraminer is not for the faint of heart. This wine evokes everything from exotic fruits such as pineapple and mango, to flowers to spices such as gingerbread, peppermint, and pepper. If that’s not enough for you, honey aromas give it an incomparable richness that make this full-bodied and well-structured wine perfect for pairing with cheeses from throughout the region.
Everything from lemon, grapefruit, peach, and pear aromas to stewed fruits, flowers, and spices sets Alsatian Rieslings apart from the pack. Unparalleled in freshness and opulence and exceptionally well-balanced, this wine is elegant and dry and pairs well with everything from charcuterie to seafood, making it the perfect bottle to bring to a dinner party.
Fruit-packed and easy to drink, Pinot Blanc is dry and supple. Pale yellow in color, with a touch of green, this medium-bodied, medium-acidity wine carries aromas of peaches, pears, and apples. It’s the bottle you want to open to kick off the night, perfect for consuming with everything from poultry to flat-bread pizzas.
What would any great wine region be without a few bubbles? From extra bruts to juicy rosés, you don’t need to be celebrating something special to crack open a bottle of this elegant and mineral-driven wine. Often pale gold or salmon colored, brut Crémants can have notes of citrus, while rosés offer red berries.
If there’s one thing to take away from the region of Alsace — other than a case or two of wine — it’s nuance. Winemakers here embrace the diversity of their region’s legendary terroir, and encourage you to do the same. As individual as each winery may be, all share a common goal: to create unique, enjoyable wines that showcase the true nature of the region’s grapes.
That means that no matter your palate or your price range, there’s a bottle for you. Whether you’re new to Alsace or back for more of what you love, the region promises a one-of-a-kind experience packed with good people, great food, and some of the best wines around.
Experience the diversity of the region yourself during Alsace Rocks, a month-long celebration taking place this June in New York City. Retail stores, wine bars, and restaurants will offer special tastings, flights, and pairing experiences. On June 25, Alsace takes over Air’s Champagne Parlor for a special menu of bubbles and on June 26, take flight at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels with a tasting of terroir-driven wines paired with delectable snacks. For a full calendar of events, visit alsacerocks.com.