The Alsace Wine Region Of France

The Alsace region lies in northeastern France and is an area of land approximately 50 km wide and 190 km long running along the border between France and Germany and which has been producing wine since the Romans first occupied the area in about 12 B.C. The principle city of the region is Strasburg, the home of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, which lies on the banks of the Rhine and is often mistakenly thought by many to be a German city.

Approximately six thousand wine growers live in this smallest of the French winemaking regions and the people of this area are very proud of their centuries old winemaking tradition.

Alsace is situated between to Vosges mountains to the west and the Black Forest to the east and is thus sheltered from both easterly and westerly winds. This makes the area particularly hot in the summer and leaves it very cold in the winter. The soil in this area is very diverse including sand, granite, clay and marl and the combination of the climate and soil conditions means that this is not the easiest of areas in which to grow grapes. Nevertheless, the region produces some of the finest Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer grapes.

The area produces about 20 percent of France's annual production of wine (approximately 165 million bottles) and the vast majority of the grapes grown are used in the production of a number of world famous white wines whose names echo their German influence. The most well known of these are Riesling and Gewürztraminer, which together account for about 40 percent of Alsace wines but other wines include Tokay and Sylvaner.

Although perhaps not well known, Tokay is a full-bodied white wine made from the Pinot Gris grape with a wonderful aroma of wood and spice and is perfect alongside Quiche Lorraine. As a full-bodied wine it is also an excellent choice as an accompaniment for meat for people who prefer a white rather than a red wine.

Sylvaner, which was originally made in Austria, has been produced in Alsace for about two hundred years and is a fruity and dry white wine which is often served with both fish and pork.

Another excellent wine from this region is the Crémant d'Alsace, a sparkling white wine made in the manner of Champagne. Crémant d'Alsace is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir grapes and has an aroma of red fruits, apricots and almonds.

If you are buying an Alsatian wine, either for yourself or as a wine gift, be sure to look for the words 'Grand Crus' on the label which distinguishes a wine as being one of this region's best wines.

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About The Author, Donald Saunders provides information about wine for connoisseurs and wine for dummies and also has details of the perfect accompaniment - a wine country gift basket.