Alsace Wine Growing Region

The Alsace wine growing region of France has been active since the time of the Roman conquest. In spite of living in the smallest French winemaking region, Alsations are proud folks who rightfully boast of their centuries old viniculture customs. Alsatians are a half French half German community, with many of the senior residents still speaking Alsatian, which is a Germanic language dialect.

The long sliver of land near to the German border may well be small but it is still home to some six thousand wine growers. Bordered on the West by the Vosages and the East by the Rhine, the Alsace wine growing region is only 118 miles by 31miles in area. Strasbourg alone is home to over 450,000 of the areas 1.8 million residents.

Being a wine grower in Alsace is no easy task due to the hot summers along with cold winters that see frequent snowfall. Soil in the locality is amongst the most diverse types of all France's renowned grape producing regions. From sand and granite to clay with marl, as well as a smattering of volcanic soil, emerges some of the finest Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Riesling grapes, nestled on neatly presented rows of hardy vines.

Grown in a region covering thirty-seven thousand acres, the juice of these grapes will ultimately fill one hundred and sixty-five million bottles, which equates to some twenty percent of the annual wine output from France. Ninety percent is devoted to producing the region's world famous whites, whose names betray their Germanic influence. Together with the more familiar Riesling and Gewürztraminer, which respectively constitute twenty-three percent and eighteen percent of Alsace's unique grapes, there are Tokay and Sylvaner.

Tokay is a delicious robust white made entirely from Pinot Gris. On a mere 3,200 acres of clay-limestone is produced twenty-two million bottles of this liquid treat with fragrance of wood and spice. It pairs perfectly with Quiche Lorraine, but can also replace a red when serving up a red meat dish.

Sylvaner, which originated in Austria, has been produced in Alsace for more than two hundred years. It forms the starting point of a fruity, dry white that is a perfect pairing for fish or pork, although Alsatians do not object to serving it with nothing more than fresh sauerkraut. On only three thousand acres, equivalent to twelve percent of the Alsace vineyard area, twenty million bottles are produced of this refreshing, light white that ages well up to five years.

For those who take pleasure in a fruity wine, the Pinot Blanc creates a dry white that hints of peaches or pears, which pairs perfectly with a Munster cheese. Of all things, some seven thousand acres of sandstone provides the soil from which eventually comes thirty-three million bottles.

Crémant d'Alsace, a sparkling white made the same way as Champagne, is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir. The combined aroma of red fruits, apricots and almonds make it a wonderful pairing with Langres cheese.

When looking into any Alsatian wine, make certain to look for the classification 'Grand Crus', a grade that recognizes the best of the wine from the region.