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The Alsace winegrowing area stretches North - Southfor about 100km (60 miles) along the foothills to the east of the Vosges mountains. Its position there gives it a subcontinental climate with harsh winters, and summers which are often stormy. Protected from any maritime influence by the height of the Vosges, it has one of the dryest climates and one of the lowest rainfalls in France. This hot, dry, sunny climate encourages slow and prolonged ripening of the grapes and favors aromas of great subtlety.The 50 AOC, Great Alsace growths.
Born 50 million years ago from the splitting of the mountains which formed the Vosges and the Black Forest, Alsace has an extremely wide range of soils. It is chalky-clay at Rouffach, sandy clay at Ammerschwir, Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, loess at Eguisheim, limestone at Ingersheim and Mittelwihr, and elsewhere even clay, granite and stony alluvium. Sometimes, in one single commune such as at Kientzheim or Kaysersberg, one can find four or five different soil types.
These geological conditions lead to the use of many different varietals : Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Tokay Pinot gris, Muscat, Sylvaner, Pinot blanc (Klevner) and Chasselas for the whites and Pinot Noir for the reds and rosés. Alsace is one of the rare regions of France, where the wines are usually known by the varietal names, and the wine must be made entirely from the named variety. The only exception to this is Edelzwicker, which is a blend of several alsatian varietals. Thus the appellation "Alsace" must be accompanied by the name of the varietal or "Edelzwicker".
Alsace wines are always bottled in the area of production, and are sold in a characteristic bottle, the "Flûte d'Alsace", which is only used here.
An Alsace appellation can only be used for the Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Tokay Pinot gris varietals, and then only if they fulfil especially strict conditions, concerning the yield per hectare and the amount of sugar in the original must. The Appellation Alsace Grand Cru may be accompanied by the name of one of the fifty permitted place names.
varieties, one region.
In Alsace, white varietals reign supreme.
Just one red varietal has broken their hold, showing in this terroir some very special characteristics: the Pinot Noir. One should guard against the error of crudely classifying the quality of these alsatian white varietals on the basis of progressively higher prices and the increasing aromatic interest.
First Sylvaner, then Riesling and finally "Gewurztraminer the prestigious", condemning Chasselas, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Tokay-Pinot Gris and the great Pinot Noir to the sidelines. This isn't valid at all.