In Alsace and especially in our region you will find seven grape varieties
Probably originated in Austria, this grape variety may have spread all over Central Europe. Light, with green shades, fresh, ageable discreetly fruity and flowery, it goes well with seafood, fish, and charcuterie or is a simple thirst-quenching wine!
Pinot blanc also called Klevner : a well-rounded variety ; Crémant d'Alsace is made mainly from Pinot blanc ; fresh, slightly yellow with aromas of fruits (peach and apple), a light wine with averge acidity. It is well-suited to many hors d'oeuvres dishes, fish, poultry, quiches and also soft cheeses.
Present in our region as early as the end of the 15th century, this grape variety has held the 1st rank since the sixties in the production area. With Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat, it is one of the four grape varieties entitled to "Grand Cru" status, "Late Harvest" (Vendanges Tardives) and "Sélection de Grains Nobles" (Noble Rot). Its bouquet is extremely refined with fruity aromas. Dependant on the soils, it sometimes has mineral notes. A gastronomic wine par excellence, it goes well with Alsace cuisine but is also unrivalled with fish and seafood ; in Late Harvest it is well suited to desserts including citrus fruits.
Two grape varieties are grown in Alsace : a small-grain variety and Muscat Ottonel. Giving the impression of eating fresh grapes, it displays golden and silver shades and is best tasted young ; it is a perfect aperitif and also goes well with vegetables (cooked or raw) ; it's a fine partner for asparagus.
According to legend, Baron Lazare de Schwendi landowner in Alsace developed plantings of this grape variety imported from Hungary, that's why it was called Tokay until April 1st, 2007. Sometimes amber-coloured, it displays woodland, slightly smoky or dried fruit aromas. Served in a carafe, its complexity is enhanced. It goes well with dishes usually served with red wines (game, pork, roasts) but also foie gras. It's also an appreciated aperitif.
The best-known Alsace wine, formerly called Traminer, displays rich aromas. Intensely yellow with golden shades it is a rich bouquet of exotic fruit, flower and spices (= Gewurz). Full-bodied and well-structured, it's discreetly fresh compared to the other Alsace grape varieties. "Late Harvest" wines and "Sélection de Grains Nobles" produce mellow wines of great aromatic complexity. This wine makes a perfect partner for all spicy cuisine and strong cheeses but also foie gras and sweet-salted dishes.
This grape variety from Burgundy is the only red variety allowed in Alsace. It's vinified in red or rosé wines. Crémant rosé is exclusively made from Pinot noir. With its fruity, cherry-like bouquet, this wine is fresh and light ; matured in oak barriques, this variety produces a more-structured and deeper-coloured wine. As a light red wine, it makes a good match for charcuterie and grilled meat. Matured longer it's suited to red meats and game and even chocolate desserts that are not too sweet.
It's a blend of white (A.O.C.) Alsace grape varieties without any mention of percentage but including noble (= edel) grape varieties ; fruity and fresh, it's easily appreciated with simple dishes such as salads and charcuterie.
According to an agreement in Alsace viticulture, le Gentil must be made of 50% riesling, muscat, pinot gris and/or gewurztraminer, the rest of sylvaner, chasselas and/or pinot blanc. Moreover, the grape varieties must be vinified separately. This wine is an agreable match throughout a meal.
"Vendanges Tardives" and "Sélections de Grains Nobles" : specific classifications
Either label may complete Alsace wines or Alsace Grand Cru wines. They refer to exceptional wines according to very strict French A.O.C. criteria.
Little rain and exceptional Autumnal sunshine in the Alsace vineyard forces the over-ripening of the grapes in order to increase their sweetness and the concentration of noble rot (Botrytis cinerea). Their picking can thus take place several weeks after the start of the harvest.
"Vendanges Tardives" (late harvest) wines may only be made from the four grape varieties A.O.C. Grand Cru : Gewurztraminer, Tokay Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Muscat picked when over-ripe several weeks after the official harvest time. The aromatic character of the grape is forcefully enhanced by the concentration and development of "noble rot".
"Sélection de Grains Nobles" is made from successive pickings of over-ripe grapes shrivelled by noble rot. The character of the grape variety is overshadowed by the concentration resulting in powerful wines of great complexity and exceptional length on the palate.
Producing conditions are very strict :
- these wines may only be made from one of the authorized grape variety and bear the name of this grape variety.
- mention the vintage
- they may not be forcefully enriched
- they have to be declared beforehand to the A.O.C. National Institute
- they have to be tasted and approved under this appellation
... and Crémant d'Alsace
Julien Dopff from Riquewihr was the first Alsatian wine-grower to adapt the white wine champanization. In the 1900's Paris "Exposition Universelle" he had seen the process of removing sediment from Champagne wine prior to its final corking.
But the official creation of A.O.C. Crémant d'Alsace was decreed only on August 24th, 1976.
Today, there are about 500 members of the Union of Crémant d'Alsace Producers. This quality sparkling wine obeys rules as strict as those which apply to Champagne itself.
Crémant d'Alsace owes its finess and originality to the unique personality of each Alsace grape variety and to the ideal climatic conditions enjoyed by the vineyard region : a dry, sunny climate, vineyard slopes bathed in the rising sun and favourable geological characteristics. The grapes from which Crémant d'Alsace is made are picked right at the start of the harvest, at the ideal moment for vinification when the natural sugar and acidity of the grape are most finely balanced. Crémant d'Alsace come from a blend of several grape varieties : Pinot blanc, Riesling (lively, fruity notes), Pinot gris (rich and opulent) and Pinot noir, the only variety to produce pink "rosé" Crémant d'Alsace, full of charm and elegance.
In 1995, the production of Crémant d'Alsace was 21 M bottles (more than 160 000 hl) which represented 13% of all Alsace wine by volume. Sales were multiplied by 7 in 13 years and 90% is sold and consumed in France. It is the most popular A.O.C. sparkling wine. (30% of total market).