Nestled between the forest covered Vosges Mountains and the German border, Alsace is France's most north-easterly wine region, with its capital city Strasbourg and its wine centre being Colmar. Alsace is one of the driest wine areas in France due to the influence of the Vosges Mountains, and with annual rainfall as low as 500mm.
The mountains also shelter the vines which are grown on both the plains and slopes. The steep slopes are also home to Grand Cru vineyards, the soils vary from alluvial to granite and schist. Alsace as a French wine region, has at various times in its past belonged to Germany, resulting in many of the white grapes grown being the same as those in Germany. By law, all wines must be bottled in the recognizable tall, tapered green bottles called Flutes d'Alsace.

 

Alsace was one of the first wine producing regions in the world to label its wine bottles according to the grape varietal, rather than by where the grapes were grown, as done in other wine areas of France.
Wines of Alsace are primarily varietal; Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Over 90% of the wines are white; Alsace also produces an excellent semi-sparkling wine known as Cremant d'Alsace from Pinot Blanc. Most wines are fermented dry as distinct from their German counterparts which are often sweet or off-dry. For this reason many wines achieve high levels of alcohol, especially Gewürztraminer which can reach 14%.

Alsace also produces specialty wines and some excellent Grand Crus. Grand Cru wines must come from one of four permitted grape varietals; Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. They must be from a single vineyard in the best location, a single vintage, have lower yields and pass a stringent quality test. Vendange Tardive wines are made from late picked grapes with much higher sugar levels from the same varietals as the Grand Crus in exceptional vintages.
Possibly the most expensive wines are the Selection des Grains Nobles which are made in the same way as the Vendange Tardive but with the effect of botrytis, crafting wines of enormous richness and complexity.