Alsace is located in the northeastern corner of France. Its juxtaposition makes it a fascinating study on geography and history, as the region has switched hands between France and Germany several times. The region is most widely known for its aromatic Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, but also equally as captivating are the three Pinots from the region. Alsace produces earthy Pinot Gris, refreshing Pinot Blancs and elegant Pinot Noirs. It is a region with passionate winemakers that have been making wines for centuries. The wines are exceptionally unique as Alsace is one of the most geologically diverse region in the world.
Alsace is located in between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River. The mountains protect the region from ocean influences like rain and wind, making Alsace one of the driest in France. The climate is continental with warm dry summers and cold winters. In between the mountain and the river is the Alsatian Wine Route, one of the most famous and oldest in France.
Alsace blends the best of France and Germany into one unique wine region. It is a picturesque region with rolling hills and charming villages of colorful timber homes that remind you of scenes from Hansel and Gretel. Along the wine route you find many beautiful vineyards and restaurants. The wine and gastronomy of Alsace is a wonderful fusion of French and Germanic influences.
The geology and soils of Alsace are one of the most diverse in the world. There are 13 distinct soil types from 8 mother rocks, allowing winemakers the opportunity to pick the type of grape that is best suited for its soil type. This results in wines that are complex and concentrated. Often times as I sip Alsatian wines, I feel as if I am drinking rocks(and I mean that in the most positive way), as the minerality of the soil types are very prominent in the wines. When I think Alsatian wines, I clearly understand the term terroir.
If you are a geology buff, then there is no other region like Alsace to spark your interest, as Alsace is a mosaic of soils composed of granite, schist, limestone and sandstone. The soil history goes back to a seismic shift that occurred fifty million years ago. The Vosges and the Black Forest of Germany were once a single massif. This massif collapsed and created a plain. The Alsatian vineyards are along the fault line of the massif and thus the vines reap the benefits from the soils that were created and shifted from the collapse of the massif.
Rockin with Pinots – Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, & Pinot Noir
Pinot Blanc from the Alsace is a delicate soft grape that has notes of peach, apple and floral aromas. Grown throughout Austria, Germany and France, it is here in Alsace where it thrives. The wines have a sense of grace that is pleasing and easy on the palate. In Alsace, Pinot Blanc has the middle child syndrome, often finding it hard to distinguish itself from the Noble Grape Pinot Gris as its older sibling. While its is also not as elegant and distinguished Pinot Noir. So help Pinot Blanc find its own identity on your table as it pairs deliciously with mussels and other shellfish, soft cheeses, charcuterie as well as colorful vegetable. It is also a great alternative to Chardonnay. Several years ago, Pinot Blanc was elevated to a higher status in Italy as it was mistaken for Chardonnay. Today there is no mistaken identity and Alsatian Pinot Blancs are known for quality wines that are consistent and affordable.
Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Tradition 2017
Emile Beyer is a family estate that is run by Christian Beyer. He is the 14th generation of Beyers to making wine in Alsace. Remember earlier I said that Alsace has been making wines for centuries, well this is a prime example, fourteen generations of winemaking is incredible. The Emile Beyer vineyards are located in Eguisheim on chalky marl, sandstone, and clay soils, all on the same vineyards. Only in Alsace will you find that wealth of diversity in soil types on one plot of land. The clay and sandstone soils bring out the freshness and aromatics of the wine.
I have a soft spot for Pinot Gris, especially Pinot Gris from Alsace. It was originally called Tokay d’Alsace but since 2007 it is known in Alsace as Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris from this region has its own identity and world-renowned reputation. Pinot Gris is one of the Noble Grapes of Alsace and no one does it better than Alsatian winemakers. All over the world winemakers grow Pinot Gris, and they like to refer to their style of wine as “Alsatian Pinot Gris”, like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers around the world like to refer to their wines as “Burgundian in Style”. Alsatian Pinot Gris is a style that is widely admired around the globe. The grape is powerful and opulent with a deep rich color. It is well structured with a long finish and it has an aromatic bouquet with a slight smokey finish.
Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Doff Pinot Gris 2012
René Dopff took over the estate in 1945. He left behind old winemkaing tradtitions and looked to terroir, where he divided his vineyards into four estates. His wines express the very soul of the terroir. This Pinot Gris is a beautiful example of a classic Alsatian Pinot Gris. It is golden-yellow in color. There are strong aromas of peach, melon, apple, and a smokey characteristic that is classic Pinot Gris. The smokiness is imparted from the marl, limestone, gypsum, clay and sandstone soils on which the grapes are grown.
Alsatian Pinot Noir is originally from Burgundy and has aromas of cherries, blackberries, and raspberries. There is a bit of spice that is a quintessential characteristic of Pinot Noir from Alsace. It is the only red grape varietal permitted in the region. The wines don’t require much aging and are light to medium body with great structure. I love to pair Alsatian Pinot Noir with chicken, red meats, and pork. It also pairs well with cheeses and charcuterie.
Léon Beyer Pinot Noir 2015
Leon Beyer is one of the oldest family owned estates in Alsace, going back to 1580. Marc Beyer is the 13th generation owner, working alongside his son and team. They own over 173 acres on which two choice grand cru sites reside; Eichberg and Pfersigberg. This Pinot Noir is sourced from 25-30 year old vines grown on prime southeast facing slopes. The grapes are grown on limestone and clay, which is ideal for Pinot Noir. The wine has wonderful fruit, most notably cherry on the palate with a light tannins.
Domaine Zinck Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose
Paul Zinck has been focusing on winemaking since 1964, where he grew from just 5 acres to 50 acres of organically farmed wines. His son Phillipe and wife Pascale run the winery today. The gorgeous sparkling wine is 100% Pinot Noir made tin the traditional method. They combine three vintages to give consistency of flavors. It is aged 12 months on lees. The nose is full of cherry, raspberry and strawberries. There is wonderful acidity and the fines bubbles dance on your palate. A fantastic value for a sparkling wine made in the traditional method.
Alsace All The Time
Alsace is a darling among wine professionals and is one of my favorite regions to explore and discover wines of terroir. Alsace wines are perfect year round, whether for a special occasion or a casual night. They are versatile and food friendly, and don’t require ageing, though some grand cru wines could use some time in the bottle. Grab your slender tall bottle of Alsace wine and celebrate Alsace Rocks this June and all year-long.
The French Winophiles have been excited to share with you different aspect of the Alsace region. There are many different and exciting topics with lots of information on Alsace, so click on the links below to read more. In addition join us on Saturday 16 June at 11am EST for a twitter chat, look for hashtags #winophiles and #alsacerocks
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “A Palette of Pinots – The Hues of Alsace”
- Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Pinot d’Alsace…Yes Please!”
- Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Rockin Alsace With Pinots”
- Julia at Julia Coney shares “Alsace – Where Pinot Rocks!“
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Alsace Rocks the Summer Grilling Scene”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Alsace Wines in the American Kitchen”
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “Alsatian Temptation: Wine from the Vosges Mountains in France“
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Tips and Recipes for Alsace Pairings”
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Alsace Pairing Challenge? Accepted!”
- Olivier at In Taste Buds We Trust shares “Taking gewürztraminer to a higher level”
- Michelle at Rockin Red Blog shares “Getting Dirty with Alsace Riesling“
- Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Alsace: A Geologist’s Dream”
- Jill at L’Occasion shares “A Riesling Experience: Nuanced Terroirs of Alsace”
- Liz at What’s in that Bottle shares “All in for Alsace Riesling”
- David at Cooking Chat shares “Pork and Cabbage Skillet with Riesling from Alsace”
- Gwen at Wine Predator shares “Alsace Rocks 4 Riesling With Fondue!”
What a great selection of wines! I had the same flight and thoroughly enjoyed each bottle. Cheers!
Rupal, I loved your overview of the region and how you tied the various Pinot’s with their counterparts from elsewhere.
The geology of Alsace is truly interesting and how the terroir impacts the wines. Great job breaking it all down by the “Pinot” variety.
Martin Redmond says
A concise and well-written post Rupal.! As I was reading about the soil types I was thinking of how many soil types are in Napa. How about you?
Robin Bell Renken says
The varieties in soil in this region are amazing. This has all really wet my interest in the influences of soil on wines. Thanks for a great piece!