The history of wines in the Alsace region, located on France’s eastern border, is not new. By the end of the first millennium, 160 Alsace villages were already growing vines and, by the Middle Ages, Alsatian wines were among the most highly prized in all of Europe. Ideally suited to the cultivation of the vine, the entire wine-producing region has a dry and sunny climate, complex geology, favorable soils and excellent exposure.
After World War I, winegrowers adopted a policy of “quality first,” and from 1945, this policy was reinforced by delimitation of the vineyard area and by strict enforcement of production and vinification legislation. These efforts were officially rewarded by three Origin Appellations (AOC): “Alsace” in 1962, “Alsace Grand Cru” in 1975 and “Crémant d’Alsace” in 1976. Wine lovers can immediately recognize Alsace wines by their slim, elegant bottles.
In Alsace, wines generally take their name from the grape variety from which they are made. Gewurztraminer is one of the best-known grape varieties among the seven grown in the region (the other varieties are Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d’Alsace, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir). Gewurztraminer is characterized by an early maturation and a medium yield. The grapes require granitic soils and sun exposure to develop its aromas. It is a vigorous wine, full-bodied with aromas of exotic fruits, flowers, citrus fruits and spices.
Gewurztraminer is perfect to accompany spicy dishes and vigorous cheeses like Munster. It is also highly recommended for many Asian foods: Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, and Indian. Gewurztraminer grapes can also be picked when overripe, often several weeks after the start of the harvest. Known as “late-harvest grapes,” the vinification process will give sweet or even liqueur-like wines.
To enjoy the best Gewurztraminer wines in the region, the Alsace Wine Route will drive you for more than 100 miles along the eastern foothills of the Vosges. This delightful itinerary runs across a succession of undulating hills and through pretty villages. Visitors can easily explore the heart of the vineyards, along numerous vineyard paths leading to the crest of each slope, where signs explain the work of the winegrower and the diversity of the grape variety. They are welcomed into testing cellars to discover the traditional appeal of the vine and the wine.
To learn more about the Alsace Wine Route, please visit the Interprofessional Council of Alsace Wines’ (CIVA) English website: