An area of hill-side on the left of the river Rhine along the Franco-German border running from the city of Mulhouse to Strasbourg produces some superb white wines which are Germanic in style and French in substance (the German wine producing regions of the Black Forrest is just on the right side of the Rhine). While the grapes (as well as the tall bottle shape) are common with Germany the wine is always dry, never sweet except wines deliberately made from late harvest or from noble rot.
The main grapes are Riesling (white grape), Gewurztraminer (pink grape), Sylvaner (white grape), Pinot Blanc (white grape) and Pinot Gris (gray grape). The wines made from them are all white. Another point which marks Alsace differently from the other wine regions of France is that the wines here are all specified by the grape variety on the label such as AOC Alsace Riesling.
The bulk of production is dry white Riesling and Gewurztraminer or Sylvander under the appellation of AOC Alsace. The wines are dry, light, flowery and fresh in taste. There is a proportion of wine made in the Champagne method called Cremant d’Alsace which is a high-quality good-valued sparkling wine.
There are 50 villages covering about 10% of Alsace production designated as Great Growth from 1975 on. The Grand Cru wines are mostly Riesling and Gewurztraminer. The same is true for the sweet wines made from late harvest (vandange tardive). In exceptional years some grapes are deliberately left on the vines to concentrate the sugar content in order to make the sweet wines that can challenge the best from Sauternes in Bordeaux.
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