The Alsace wine region is in the north-east of France and borders Germany. Although the region only accounts for 2% of France's vineyards it is responsible for producing some of the worlds finest white wines. Perhaps because of its Germanic influence, it is the only Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée region in France to produce mostly varietally labelled wines. In other words it is the only region in France where you're likely to see Pinot Gris or Riesling denoted on the wine label. Another interesting note is that the region is the birthplace of biodynamic viticulture and the region still has the country's highest proportion of biodynamic producers.
Alsace gets plenty of sunshine hours, with a deep continental climate and superb meso-climate created by the sheltering presence of the Vosges Mountains. This allows the full spectrum of aromatic flavours to show in the grapes. The soils are quite diverse, with 13 different soil types in all.
The noble grapes of Alsace are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Muscat Ottonel and Muscat d'Alsace in the white wines, and Pinot Noir in the reds. Recent decades have seen an increase in Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir plantings, while the classical Sylvaner grape is on the decline.
Wines are produced under three different appelations or AOCs:
Alsace AOC - Must be made from one of the 8 permitted grape varieties in the appellation (white, rosé and red wines)
Alsace Grand Cru - Introduced in 1983, currently recognising 50 Grand Cru sites. It is the pinnacle of Alsace, where topography, aspect and soil type must be in harmony along with a track record of producing excellent wines.
Crémant d'Alsace - Appelation for sparkling wines, that can be both dry or sweet.
High quality liquers and spirits are also made in Alsace by producers such as Bertrand and Vedrenne.