This region is remarkable. Standing at the heart of Europe at the crossroads of cultures, it cultivates its ambivalence in its language, its traditions and even in its wines. It is also the only region in France to sell wines under the name of the grape variety – and has done so for a very long time. Another paradox: despite being big on business and very densely populated, Alsace is also a wonderful agricultural - and winegrowing - region.
Wine can definitely hold its own here: the region produces great, aromatic white wines such as the aristocratic Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Find out more: http://www.vinsalsace.com
Alsace is perceived as a Nordic region. Yet in summer the mercury rises to over 30°C and the sun shines more than average. Rainfall levels are among the lowest in France. The Vosge Massif is to thank for this. It protects the hilly vineyards from atmospheric disturbance from the Atlantic in the west. Rain falls on west-facing slopes thanks to the altitude, and dry air is warmed as it descends upon east-facing slopes, home to Alsace’s vineyards, facing the morning and midday sun. These favourable weather conditions often continue well into autumn, enabling the grapes to mature slowly and retain all their flavour.
The Alsace plain is a wide band of land on either side of the Rhine, rich in alluvial deposits. It was formed at least five million years ago when the Vosges-Black Forest Massif collapsed. Its vineyards are located on the edge of the plain, along the Vosges fault. Three main groups of terroirs live side by side. The first - the highest and the most sloping - has soil that is granitic and sandy, filtering and acidic. The second boasts well-drained hills that are calcareous or marly at altitudes of between 200 and 300m. This is where the Grands Crus are to be found, wines with amazing personality. The third group is formed by big alluvial terraces of pebbles, sand and gravel.
Art de vivre
The vineyards in Alsace seem to exist beyond the reach of time. They look down on the Alsace plain, aloof from the hustle of business life in a region that borders on three countries. The vines wind their way around a multitude of small villages, where red roof tiles snuggle around the pointed steeple of a church. Half-timbered houses with red and pink geraniums at every window reflect the peaceful pace of life in a picture-postcard setting. The well-ordered vineyards reflect the Alsatians’ love of precision, whereas the multitude of gourmet restaurants and "Winstubs" remind us that we are in France. It is precisely this duality, the fruit of a very long history, that is so pleasing in Alsace. Savoir-vivre. A warm welcome. And dedication to the best possible viticulture. The famous Route des Vins running through the vineyards along a north-south axis is a huge success with tourists.