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The Sensational Wines of Alsace

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Alsace in the north east of France has a dual personality. The Alsatian people are resolutely French – though they speak their language with a faint German accent. The beautiful, half-timbered houses that you frequently encounter look as if they were built for a set in a grand German opera or maybe a Walt Disney movie. The names of the villages and many of the people are German in origin. And, the food, whilst undeniably French, has something of a Teutonic feel about it, just think of choucroute (sauerkraut) and those hearty, meaty stews.

The Wines of Alsace

The wines too are without doubt French, but have more than a touch of German about them – noticeably the size and shape of bottle, the grape varieties used and the ubiquitous Germanic script on many of the labels. Stylistically though, they are very different from those we encounter in the Rhine or Mosel, being more weighty and concentrated.

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So, what is so special about this enigmatic yet intriguing region?  If you stand at the top of one of the Grand Cru vineyards high up in the Vosges mountains, you begin to get a clue. The view across the Rhine Rift Valley into Germany is magnificent on a clear day, which in Alsace is often the case. The best vineyards nestle high up, facing the sun and protected from the westerlies by the Vosges. These mountains also create a rain shadow area, which is why Colmar is the driest town in France after Perpignan deep down near the Spanish border.

The special terroir of climate, slope and soil contrive to produce some of France’s most aromatic and full-bodied white wines of all – Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat are considered the finest grape varieties in Alsace and are the ones encountered in the Grands Crus – of which there are currently 51.

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There are many very talented winemakers in Alsace. Ttake André Gruss for example, based in exquisite little Eguisheim, a picture postcard setting. Alsace has some of the most avant-garde, forward-thinking and experimental vignerons of any wine region in France and one of the most talented is the young André Gruss. He has inherited his affable, smiling demeanour from his parents – as well as their winemaking talents. The Gruss domaine is high-tech, pristine and immaculate. Not surprising then that the wines are sharply etched, pure and pristine with wonderful varietal flavours and have won many awards.

Find out more about the Alsace wine route: www.alsace-wine-route.com

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