France - Alsace
Alsace in the north east of France is adjacent to Germany and has two possible natural borders from it – the Rhine river and Vosges mountains. The vineyards stretch over 170km north to south from Marlenheim to Thann – making up a magnificent ‘wine route’ that celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013.
Alsace is the only French wine region allowed to label its wines based on grape variety. With the greatest examples being Riesling and Gewuztraminer, it makes German wines in a French way: dryer, with more alcohol and, importantly, designed to be matched with the fine cuisine of the region.
Vine growing is determined by two main factors, the Vosges mountains in the west and the Rhine river in the east. The vineyards are concentrated in a narrow strip, running in a roughly north–south direction, on the lower eastern slopes of the Vosges, at altitudes of 175–420 m. Those altitudes provide a good balance between temperature, drainage and sun exposure under Alsace’s growing conditions. While the slope down the Vosges is generally east-facing, many of the best sites are south-west to south-east facing, and benefit from extra sun exposure.
Because of predominantly westerly winds, the Vosges mountains tend to shelter Alsace from rain and maritime influence, and the region is therefore rather dry and sunny – the driest wine growing region in France despite its northern latitude.