Recently I have focused a lot of my writing on Germany and with good reason. I do live there after all. This week I figured we would start easing our way into France and talk a little bit about a wonderful wine region called, Alsace.
First off, this place has a crazy long history in wine. Around 58 BC the Romans took over Alsace, then part of Germania Superior, and made it a center of wine making (Julius Ceasar was behind this by the way). After the fall of the Roman Empire it became Alamanni, then it was conquered by the Franks and they had it until after the oaths of Strasbourg in 842. Then Charlemagne’s grandkids split it up, then it was split up some more and some more etc. From the mid-19th Century until 1945 it went back and forth between Germany and France. Honestly my brief history lesson does no justice to the full story. However, we are here to talk about wine, right?
The first thing you will notice about Alsatian wines is that they are varietal. This means that the wines are referred to by the grape variety. This is the only region in France that does it this way. In the rest of France, the wines are referred to by the name of the region (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Hermitage etc.). Nearly all the wines in Alsace are white and they share most of their grape varieties with Germany. The most notable Alsatian varieties are Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. In Fact, some of the best dry Rieslings you can find are from Alsace. They also have a very nice sparkling wine known as, Crémant d'Alsace.
On a personal note, I’m a huge fan of Alsatian Gewürztraminer. We eat a lot of Asian food in my home (Japanese wife) and it just pairs so perfectly. It is also nice that it doesn’t break the bank. You can find a decent Gewürztraminer Grand Cru for about 13 Euros. Don’t get me wrong, the Rieslings are great here too, but living in Germany has spoiled me a bit. One also can’t mention Alsace without talking about the tasty Pinot Gris. Legend has it that it was brought to Alsace in the 16th century from Tokay, Hungary.
If you ever get the chance to visit Alsace, do it. This place is so old and beautiful. Seriously, Disney couldn’t have created a more picturesque location. The wines are wonderful, the people are friendly and the culture is like no other. It’s a little German, it’s a little French and it is a lot of fun.
Hassell L. Butcher
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