Alsace

Alsace is located in North-Eastern France near Germany, squashed between the Vosges mountains on one side and the Rhine River on the other. It is unique in the scheme of things in that not one red wines flies the Alsatian flag (even Champagne makes some red wines!). And that is probably why when many commentators think of the great regions of France, Alsace is often forgotten. But it really shouldn’t be because these wines are some of the most refreshing and food friendly in the country. Drinking Alsatian wines is often a bit of a surprise for first-timers because the wines smell like they are going to be sweet, with all their fruity and flowery aromas, but often end up fairly dry. The local Riesling is wonderfully aromatic, every glass smelling of soap and flowers on a crisp and restrained palate. The Pinot Gris is rich and creamy with flavours of apple and pear. Probably the most fascinating wines, although often overlooked, are the hedonistic Gewürztraminers, all lychees and roses with streamlined palates; great with spicy foods. Alsace is actually the perfect place to start a journey through France as it is one of the only regions where the grapes from which the wines are made are clearly marked on the majority of labels. It must be the strict Germanic influence from just across the Rhine. So almost every bottle is labelled as either Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc or Sylvaner. To find the top wines is also a walk in the park - just find bottles labelled as Grand Cru, which only come from the best vineyards. Easy peasy. While the wines are often dry in style, there are a small number of brilliant sweeter styles, made from Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. These late harvest wines come in two different styles, Vendange Tardive being medium sweet wines and the Selection de Grains Nobles which are gorgeously luscious in a traditional dessert wine style. Sadly, not every season allows for great Selection de Grains Nobles to be made, but in the best years they are some of the best sweeties in France. Enjoy!