France: Alsace

South of Colmar

The wines of the Haut-Rhin from Turckheim to Guebwiller
By Sue Style

This Guide was last updated on 14 March 2011
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Main appellations


This appellation covers all the wines of Alsace except Grands Crus and Crémant d’Alsace. Nearly all the wines, unusually for France, are sold by the name of the grape variety. However if the wine is a blend of grape varieties the name used on the label may be Edelzwicker (if a random mishmash of Alsace varieties) or, more rarely, Gentil (when the so-called ‘noble varieties’ – Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat - make up at least 50% of the blend). The village or vineyard may also be named. Within this appellation are wines labelled Vendange Tardive (late harvest wines which may be affected by noble rot (botrytis cinerea) with specific minimum sugar levels) and those labelled Sélection de Grains Nobles (made by successive harvest selections of grapes, extensively affected by noble rot and with higher original sugar levels than Vendange Tardive). Only four grape varieties are allowed for these wines: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat.

Alsace Grand Cru

There are 51 delimited areas where Grands Crus can be produced. Vineyard sites are strictly specified and there is a requirement for lower yields, higher minimum alcohol levels and, with a handful of exceptions, use of only four grape varieties - Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. Grand Cru Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles can also be made. Four per cent of Alsace wines are Grands Crus. The vineyard and the grape variety are both named on the label and the wines are subject to a qualitative tasting. A few producers (notably Hugel, Trimbach, Beyer) choose not to use this appellation, even for their wines that are grown in Grand Cru vineyards, considering the term to be devalued.

Crémant d'Alsace

Sparkling wine made by the Traditional Method (bottle fermentation). Most Crémants are made mainly from Pinot Blanc, though Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay are also used. Production is 23% of the total Alsace wines and increasing.

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