Alsace is a region in North Eastern France bordered by the Vosges Mountains on the west and separated by the Rhone River on the East. It is a region of picturesque little medieval-style wine villages with cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, and flowering window boxes. Over the centuries this region has alternated between being first German, then French, then German, then French, etc, etc. For the reason being that the Alsatian wine strip is only about 70 miles long and never more than 2 miles wide, it is well protected by the Vosges Mountains, resulting in over 50 days of additional sunshine. Also due to the cool weather the grapes mature more slowly, which allows them to develop outstanding fruitiness and bouquet.
Alsace is a unique among French wine regions in that it labels its wines with the name of the grape used, rather than the vineyard or village where the wine comes from, and must be produced with 100% of the grape variety stated on the label. Most of the wines from Alsace are white, although a small portion of Pinot Noir is grown. Among the most important grape varieties are: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Chasselas.
Some terms to remember, when buying Alsatian wine are: “Vendange Tardive” (late harvest), which refers to a style of desert wine, where the grapes are allowed to hang on the vine until they start to dehydrate, increasing their sugar concentration; “Selection de Grains Nobles” an even sweeter category of wine.
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