Alsace & Jura
Alsace’s wines are amongst the most distinctive in France. It’s a delightful area to visit with its pretty villages, attractive landscape and rich tradition of gastronomy. As in many places, the flat ground produces good, standard, everyday wines while the ‘grand cru’ vineyards are on the slopes, although the process of deciding what is and isn’t a grand cru has been beset by politics and vested interests.
The wines are as individual as the region and very different to those elsewhere in France. Perhaps the producers should move away from the flute-style bottle for some styles, but don’t let these dissuade you trying the clean, fresh Pinot Blancs, the rich and intense Pinot Gris and the exotic and floral Gewurztraminers. They are normally drier than you would expect!
Ask a confirmed wine buff to place Jura on the map and they would probably struggle! Well it is half way between Burgundy and the Swiss border in an area also famous for Mont d’Or cheese. Its intriguing range of unique wine styles combined with a great number of artisan, often organic and ‘natural’, wine producers has made Jura a darling of sommeliers worldwide. White wine styles generally fall into two distinct camps. Ouillé wines are ‘normal’ whereas sous voile wines, including Vin Jaune, sit under a layer of yeast in the same fashion as Fino or Manzanilla sherry.
Alsace Various Grape Varieties
Famille Hugel’s wines are always an excellent introduction to Alsace, from a company that still manages to operate out of its original cramped cellars in the middle of the tourist town that is Riquewihr. Ammerschwir’s Kaefferkopf is one of the top Riesling sites in the region.
Alsace Pinot Gris & Pinot Blanc
Dopff & Irion is based at the Château de Riquewihr, and is managed by the go-ahead Pfaffenheim co-op which makes textbook varietal wines. François Sorg and his father Bruno have quietly been purchasing top sites from which they make full and rich styles of wine.
Gewurztraminers are signature Alsace wines – rose petals and lychees, silky and rich. Schlumberger, in the South of the region, make wonderful Gewurztraminers from their grand cru sites.
Chardonnay and Savagnin are used for the whites, Pinot Noir, Pulsard and Trousseau for the reds. The AOC districts of Arbois, Château-Chalon and L’Etoile sit within the Côtes du Jura appellation. In the South of the region near Lons-le-Saunier, Fabrice and Valérie Closset at Champ Divin make superbly individual wines using biodynamic cultivation from their five hectares of vines, as well as some rather good honey!