Alsace, tucked in eastern France along the left bank of the mighty Rhine River, has a turbulent history and enviable quality record of accomplishment.

This region’s sheltered vineyards allow grapes to fully ripen and yield elegant wines. Surprisingly, the French do not favour Alsatian wines, and consequently all represent bargains. Much of the production is exported to Germany, the U K, the U S A, Canada, and many other European countries.

Alsace specializes in white varietal wines, a rare occurrence in France, where generic appellations reign. The varietal labelling may have resulted from the on and off German administration of the region responsible for the introduction of German grape varieties. Germany and France have administered Alsace for over a hundred years. Presently it is part of France.

Here Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris (a k a Tokay d’Alsace), Riesling, Sylvaner, Muscat d’Alsace, Muller-Thurgau, Traminer, and Gewürztraminer are planted, A little Pinot Noir exists, but represents only two percent of the total production. Alsatian wines come in two styles – dry and sweet.

Most are dry, VT (vendange tardive =late harvest), SGN (selection de grains noble=select late harvest) sweet, and concentrated.

Grand cru quality designation coupled with single vineyard designation established in 1983 helped bring quality to the next level of sophistication and nuance.

Anyone who has ever tried seared goose liver with a grand cru single vineyard designated Gewurztraminer will never want to experience this delicacy with any other wine. Only Muscat d’Alsace, Riesling and Pinot Gris are entitled to grand cru status.

Alsatian Rieslings are legendary and come in two styles – for immediate consumption, or vin de garde (for cellaring) a few years to allow this grape’s intrinsic qualities to evolve.

In this region, like everywhere else, the importance of the integrity of wineries cannot be stressed enough.

Zind-Humbrecht, J. Hugel, Domaine Weinbach, L Beyer, Trimbach, Laugel. Dopff et irion, Marcel Deiss, Marc Tempe, Paul Zinck, Pierre Sparr, J B Adam, Josmeyer, Jean-Marie Haag are highly recommended.

Alsatian wines represent excellent value and those who enjoy fragrant wines of substance should try them to determine their worth!

Here are some of the best pending on vintage:

Gewürztraminer grand Cru Mambourg SGN, M Tempe
Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg
Cuvee d’Or Quintesse de Grains Noble
Gewürztraminer Vendange Tardive, Hugel
Gewürztraminer Selection de Grains Noble, Hugel
Gewürztraminer, Hugel,
Riesling reserve, P. Sparr
Pinot Blanc Cuvee Les Amour, Hugel
Pinot Blanc, P. Zinck
Muscat d’Alsace Reserve, P. Sparr
Tokay d’Alsace Reserve, J. B. Adam.
Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Tham Clos St Urbain, Zind-Humbrecht
Gewurtraminer Reserve Grand Cru de Turckheim, Zind- Humbrecht