Despite the long, tall bottles and Germanic names, Alsatian wines are unmistakably French in their ability to complement the region’s traditional cuisine. This is white wine country – if you do spot a local red, it will invariably be a Pinot Noir. Winemakers take advantage of the long, dry autumns to pick extremely ripe grapes producing wines with a little more sweetness than elsewhere in France, but good wines will have a refreshing natural acidity, too. Each of the three main grape varieties listed below can be made with a sweetness level ranging from off-dry right through to “Séléction des Grains Nobles” for the most highly prized dessert wines (vendages tardives being the label for the slightly less sweet late-harvested wines). Grand Cru labelled wines come from the best vineyard sites.
Riesling The ultimate thirst-quencher, limey, often peachy, excellent with fish dishes and choucroute.
Gewurztraminer Alsace’s most aromatic grape, with roses, lychees, honey, spices and all manner of exotic flavours. Try with pungent Munster cheese or rich pâté.
Pinot Gris Rich, fruity, smoky and more understated than Gewurztraminer. A versatile food wine; try with white meat in creamy sauces and milder cheeses.
Other wines you’re likely to come across include the grapey Muscat, straightforward Sylvaner, and delicate Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois, which also forms the base of the region’s excellent sparkling Crémant d’Alsace. Pinot Noir is used for light, fruity reds and rosés.