Alsace Flashcards

1
Q

How many AOCs are there in Alsace?

A

There are 53 in total:
Alsace AOC (including13 DGC and a number of LIEU-DITs)
Alsace Grand Cru - 51 of this classification
Cremant Alsace AOC

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2
Q

What is a DGC within Alsace AOC?

A

A Denomination Geographiques Complementaire (DGC) is a “communal designation”, similar to a”village-level” in Bourgogne. There are 13 in Alsace.

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3
Q

What is a “ Lieu-dit” designation?

A

A Lieu-dit is a name given to a plot of land or vineyard within a single commune, because of it’s notable and significant expression of terroir. This is normally expressed in it’s traditional, historical name. It is a legally registered “cadastral unit”.

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4
Q

Where can grapes be sourced from for Alsace AOC class of wine? What styles are permitted?

A

They can come from any vineyard in Alsace. Wines can be white, red, rosé, dry or sweet, blend or varietal, and can be special cuvée, VT or SGN.

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5
Q

How does a DGC/Commune level differ from ALSACE AOC rules?

A

A DGC is a more restricted zone of production within an AOC. Quality standards are higher :

** varietals planted,vine density, pruning, trellising, grape maturity, yields**

and producers can add the name of the commune to the label. Each commune is authorised to produce specific wine styles from specific varieties.

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6
Q

How does Lieu-dit rules differ from DGC and Alsace AOC class?

A

They are intended to highlight the terroir chaacteristics of the wines. They have higher production standards than the others. There are limitations on:

** varietals planted,vine density, pruning, trellising, grape maturity at harvest, yields**

If labelled “lieu-dit” can only be red or white.

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7
Q

What is the “cahier des charges” and what does it contain?

A

It is a set of regulations which:
* delineates the production zone/s
* specifies viticultural practices and production standards.
Each AOC has one.

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8
Q

What are the main regulations of Alsace Aoc?

A
  • They can be made from any approved grape from within the stipulated zone ie Alsace vineyards
  • they can be dry white, rose, red, sweet white.
  • they can be single variety or blends.
  • they can be VT or SGN.
  • if varietal can display on label
  • Must be bottled where produced
  • must use Flute of Alsace bottle by law.
  • rules set on varieties, density, pruning, trellising,maturity at harvest, yields.
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9
Q

Which grape varieties are specified for Alsace AOC wines?

A

White: (P) Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, (plus (S) Auxerrois and Chasselas)
Rose/Gris: (P) Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris (plus (S) Savagnin Rose/ Klevener de Heliginstein)
Red: Pinot Noir
(P) = Primary (S) = Secondary

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10
Q

What is a VT wine? Why is MLF not encouraged?

A

A Vendanges Tardive is a sweet wine made from hand-picked, overripe, late harvested grapes. It may have some botrytis but this is not mandatory. It has considerable residual sugar (RS). MLF is not encouraged so that acid levels are maintained to balance this RS.
IT CAN ONLY BE CRAFTED FROM THE FOUR NOBLE GRAPES.

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11
Q

What is an SGN wine?

A

A Selection de Grain Noble wine is a late-harvest sweet wine made from berries which are hand picked, berry by berry, through multiple passes in the vineyard. Noble Rot is a requirement.
IT CAN ONLY BE CRAFTED FROM THE FOUR NOBLE GRAPES.

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12
Q

What are the four “Noble Grapes” of Alsace?

A

Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris.

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13
Q

What are the seven focal grape varieties of Alsace?

A

White: Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner
Rose/Gris: Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer
Red: Pinot Noir

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14
Q

Which are the “Ancillary” grapes of Alsace?

A

Auxerrois,Chardonnay, Chasselas, Savagnin Rose.

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15
Q

How is sweetness level determined in SGN and VT wines? What are minimum sugar levels for each.

A

As in the German tradition, they are measured in the MUST BEFORE fermentation. Sugar level and potential abv must reach prescribed levels at harvest to qualify. They are carefully monitored throughout fermentation to maintain balance in the final wine.
VT: Sugar level: Riesling/Muscat 244g/l - Gewurt./Pinot Gris: 270g/l
SGN: Sugar level: Riesling/Muscat 276g/l - Gewurt./Pinot Gris: 306g/l

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16
Q

Are the other terms found on labels such as “prestige, reserve, reserve personnelle” regulated terms.

A

No they are unique to producers and their families of wine. They can be an indicator of quality in that range of wines.

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17
Q

How much of total production does Alsace AOC represent including DGC and Lieu-dit?

A

Circa 70% (64%,1%,4%)

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18
Q

When was Alsace AOC awarded?

A

It was awarded in 1945 post WW2 but not implemented until 1962

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19
Q

When was Alsace Grand Cru established.

A
  1. It was a single AOC, governed by a single cahier de charges, until 2011 when all of the grand cru vineyards where given an AOC of their own to allow for self-governance.(under auspices of INAO)
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20
Q

How many Grand Cru appellations are there now? What % of total production do GC represent?

A

51 GC sites are recognised for their extraordinary terroirs.
GC represent 6% of total production

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21
Q

What are the permitted grapes for GC wines? What wine styles are permitted?

A

Grapes:
White - Riesling, Muscat, Sylvaner
Rose/Gris - Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris
Styles:
Dry white and sweet white. A special cuvee can appear on the label.
Note: this may change to allow Pinot Noir in 3 GC

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22
Q

Whilst Sylvaner is permitted in Grand Cru how is it restricted?

A

It is restricted for production in one GC only - Zotzenberg GC. However this GC can also craft wines from PG, Gewrtz, and Riesling.

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23
Q

Are GC vineyards or producers ranked in Alsace?

A

Vineyards (as in Bourgogne).

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24
Q

What reservations have been expressed about GC status in Alsace?

A

Some GC apellations are too large to deliver a signature profile in the glass;
Some of the original, highly regarded terroirs expanded beyond their boundaries as vignerons on the fringe petitioned to be included in GC status - With varying degrees of talent;
Some esteemed producers opted not to put the GC name on their already known brands.eg Clos St Hune

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25
Q

What style do most GC produce? Are there any exceptions?

A

Most produce single varietal wines however the grape variety is no longer mandatory on the label.
The exceptions are Altenberg de Bergheim and Kaefferkopf which craft blends.
Hengst, Vorbourg and Kirchberg de Barr are now permitted for Pinot Noir.

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26
Q

Which three GC may introduce Pinot Noir wines? Why is this now possible?

A

Hengst and Kirchberg de Barr and Vorbourg. This is made possible because they are stand-alone appellations which means the change does not need agreement of all GCs. ( as in the past under single AOC cahier)

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27
Q

What % of total production is white in Alsace?

A

89% of total, of which 80% is put into varietal bottlings both dry and sweet. This leaves 20% as blends.

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28
Q

What are the two traditional blends in Alsace?

A

Edelzwicker and Gentil. They are styles within Alsace AOC not independent. They have set requirements.
Note: most cremants are blends also.

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29
Q

What is Edelzwicker?

A

It is a blend of any of any of the approved white grapes of Alsace, vinified together or separately. Vintage is optional. No tasting panel is required.

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30
Q

What is Gentil?

A

A blend comprising a minimum 50% of the “ noble” grapes; each variety must be vinified separately. It requires tasting panel approval AND vintage MUST appear on label.

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31
Q

Are there other types of blend in Alsace?

A

Yes. Opting out of the traditional Edelzwicker and Gentil categories.
Field blends - There are producers co-planting varieties on prominent sites and fermenting them together. These are “wines of terroir”.
Cellar blends - blending different varietal wines.

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32
Q

In general, if a variety is listed on a label means what? What are the exceptions to that rule?

A

It must be 100% of that grape.
Exceptions:
Pinot Blanc/Klevner/Pinot Vrai can be:
100% PB
100%Auxerrois, or a blend of both.

Pinot d’Alsace can be:
100% Aux, or 100% PB or 100% PN or 100% PG or a blend of any or all.

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33
Q

What is the traditional method of storage for wine in Alsace? Why?

A

Large, old, oak FOUDRES which impart no flavours into the wine because of their age and size.

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34
Q

How have the wine styles of Alsace historically been fermented?

A

Historically they are fermented to dryness ie no residual sugar.

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35
Q

Why is there an increasing number of off-dry Alsace wines coming to the market?

A
  • higher sugar levels in harvested grapes meaning fermentation ceases before all sugar is converted to alcohol;
  • winemaker’s choice to leave some residual sugar;
  • non-interventionalist winemaking approach
36
Q

Are there any wine laws governing RS levels in Alsace?
Are there any exceptions to this law?

A

No - fermenting to dryness or not is a choice.

HOWEVER, since 2008 vintage, Riesling has been given a maximum RS level of 9g/l (0.9%) but not for GC or Lieu-dit wines, nor for VTand SGN.

37
Q

How have producers informed consumers about sugar levels?

A

By the use of sweetness scales. However these can vary and are not recognised by INAO as they have no legal definition. The EU definition can be shown on the label - sec, demi-sec, moelleux or doux.

38
Q

What does “sec” signify on a label in Alsace?

A

Sec means dry - less than 4g/l(0.4%) RS.
But note in “dry” wines, that if acid levels in the wine are high the sugar levels can be high.

39
Q

What are the % of area under vine for the main grape varieties in Alsace?

A

Riesling - 21%
PB/Aux - 21%
Gewurz. - 20%
PG - 16%
PN - 11%
Sylv - 6%
The rest - 5%

40
Q

Why are PG and Gewurz. the main grapes for VT/SGN wines?

A

Their ripening curve coincides with autumn mists

41
Q

What are the two versions of Savagnin Rose?

A

Gewurztraminer - aromatic
Klevener de Heiligenstein - non-aromatic ( also known as Savagnin Rose)

42
Q

Where is Klevener authorised?

A

It authorised only around the town of Heiligenstein and existing plantings cannot be replanted.

43
Q

Are Klevner and Klevener the same variety?

A

No. Klevner is Pinot Blanc ( also known as Pinot Vrai).
Klevener is the non-aromatic mutation of Savagnin Rose.

44
Q

What is the main use of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois?
Are they the same grape?

A

Cremant and blends.
No they are dissimilar but counted as PB only in official figures.

45
Q

Which grape is given the spotlight in Alsace only?

A

Gewurztraminer. It is often used to craft VT and SGN wines. It is the aromatic version of Savagnin Rose.

46
Q

When does Sylvaner do better than a modest grape with modest flavour?

A

When it is given a superior site eg GC Zotzenberg it achieves higher quality wines.

47
Q

Which are the two Muscats found in Alsace?

A

Muscat a Petit Grains Blanc (15th Century) which produces aromatic wines and is fermented dry.
Muscat Ottonel (19th Century) which is less aromatic but vinified similarly.

48
Q

What are the small plantings of Chardonnay and Chasselas permitted for in Alsace?

A

Cremant at AOC level but can be found in blends at VdeF

49
Q

When was Cremant d’Alsace AOC awarded? Which wine styles are permitted?

A

Starting in 1976. Approved for Sparkling White and Sparkling Rose.

50
Q

Which grapes are approved for Cremant d’Alsace?

A

White- PB,Aux,Chardonnay, Riesling;
Rose/Gris - PG
Red - PN
Gewurztraminer is forbidden

51
Q

Which method is used to produce Cremant?

A

The Methode Traditionnelle.

52
Q

Is Cremant production falling?

A

No it has grown rapidly with over 500 producers making 33 million bottles per year. There are an increasing numberof PB vineyards also.

53
Q

What are the main bottlings of Cremant?

A

Mainly blends but can be 100% of Chardonnay or PG or Riesling.
Blanc de noirs and Rose is 100% PN. Rose can be made by saignee or maceration method

54
Q

Where is Alsace located?

A

In NE France in the Rhine Graben a section of the rift system that zig zags across Europe. It lies between 47th and 49th parallels.

55
Q

What is a graben?

A

A rift valley is bedrock which has collapsed between two parallel geological faults. A graben is a localised rift valley.

56
Q

How was Alsace formed?

A

Over 300 mya the earth crust thrust up cooling magma which formed igneous rock. 150MYA Alsace was covered by an inland sea which wore down igneous rock and deposited marine sedimentary over the rocks. 50MYA there was an upheaval and buckling of landforms. A dome of earth arose in Alsace then fell along parallel fault lines. The Vosges mountains formed on the western side and Black Forest on the eastern.

57
Q

How many major soil types does Alsace have? Why does Alsace have so many soil types?

A

There are 13 major soil types. There are this many because whenever the the faults were formed they did not have one clean break. They had multiple fractures which also developed cross faults creating a chess board like effect. This exposed many different soil types from geological epochs. These eroded to form the Vosges foothills. In short earth movement and erosion.

58
Q

Where are the large majority of vineyards found in Alsace?

A

South and SE facing slopes of the Vosges foothills between 660 -1200 ft/ 200 - 360 m. These are significant but less dramatic slopes.
Some are found on the the lower elevations of the Vosges peaks.

59
Q

Where are the most steep slopes found?

A

The lower elevations of the Vosges peaks on decomposed granite, schist, sandstone and volcanic elements. Some slopes have a 60deg gradient and have some vineyards between 820-1300 ft/250-400m. They face south and SE to maximise sunlight and warmth.

60
Q

What grapes are grown on the base of the foothills?

A

Because the soils are so fertile, rich and deep it is mainly grapes for cremant production.eg Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, etc.

61
Q

What explains the diversity of grape varieties planted in Alsace?

A

The diversity of soils means that over time vignerons have selected the optimal pairing of grape and soil. In the past it was more indiscriminate.

62
Q

Name the 13 types of soil by location.

A

Slopes of the Vosges : granite/gneiss, schist, volcanic elements, sandstone
Foothills of the Vosges: limestone, marly limestone, marly sandstone, marly clay, calcareous sandstone, calcareous-marl-sandstone
Alsace/Rhine Plain: alluvium, loess/loam, colluvium

63
Q

On which type of soil are the majority of GC located?

A

They are on sedimentary soils, with a large number on combination of marl and limestone or marl, limestone and sandstone. Around 12 are on ancient rock such as granite, schist and volcanic elements. They include respected GC of Rangen, Schlossberg and Brand.

64
Q

What is the size of Alsace?

A

Runs N to S. approximately 75ml/120km long and 3ml/4.8km wide.

65
Q

What enables the grapes to achieve such high levels of ripeness?

A

It’s unique topography, i.e. the Vosges mountain rain shadow, which keeps its region sunnier and warmer than it should be at a northerly latitude between 47-49 deg N. The northerly location also provides long warm sunny growing season which allows for slower ripening.

66
Q

What is the unique topographical feature of Alsace?

A

The Vosges mountains to the west create a “Rain Shadow” effect. These mountains are high enough to block the rain laden clouds and westerly winds from reaching Alsace. It therefore receives some of the lowest rainfall in France and makes Alsace hot, sunny and dry.

67
Q

What is the climate type of Alsace?

A

It has a continental climate. It has significant seasonal temperature differences (continentality) and diurnal range. It has low rainfall - circa 400-500 mm p.a. and 1800 hours of sunshine.

68
Q

How does its climate influence the grapes and finished wine?

A

The cool nights during the growing season help preserve the natural acidity, keeping the wine fresh and vibrant on the palate. The northerly clime bathed in sunshine provides for grapes ripening slowly with more aromatics.
Result - BALANCED WINES

69
Q

What are the principal risks from the climate?

A

Frost, thunderstorms, hail and drought which can be isolated.

70
Q

How does noble rot develop here?

A

The humid autumn encourages the rot to develop. Damp mornings allow it to develop on the grapes followed by dry sunny afternoons to prevent turning to rot.

71
Q

What happens to Riesling if it does not get true dormancy?

A

It will degenerate. In Alsace the cold winters ensure it happens.

72
Q

Which country took Alsace after the 30 years war from 1618-1648?

A

France. It had been German since 870 AD

73
Q

When did Alsace return to Germany?
France?

A

After the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 it was reclaimed by Germany. It returned to France after WW1 but occupied by Germany in WW2. It was finally returned to France after WW2.

74
Q

What are the recognisable German influences on Alsatian wine?

A

The slender Flute bottle;
Varietal labelling;
The importance of Riesling;
Production of botrytised dessert wines.

75
Q

What is a “Foehn”wind?

A

A warm, dry wind which forms on the leeward slopes of a high mountain. In Alsace it is created by the Vosges mountain rain-shadow. It raises temperature and reduces disease pressure.

76
Q

What % of Alsace wine is exported?

A

25%. Almost 75% consumed at home in France.

77
Q

Who was the first vigneron to convert to biodynamics in France?

A

Eugene Meyer from Alsace.

78
Q

When was the first documented wine shipment from Alsace recorded?

A

As early as 2 CE.

79
Q

What % of Alsace wine is produced by cooperatives?

A

Approximately 40%. This is due to the number of small holdings. There are 3734 growers. 50% sell their grapes to co-ops and 31% to negociants.

80
Q

When did Alsace reach its peak of prosperity and renown?

A

During the Renaissance (1600’s) as a principality of Germany.

81
Q

Why did the Germans, after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, change the viticulture of Alsace?

A

They saw it as a competitor so insisted on replanting with inferior grapes, (eg Auxerrois and Chasselas), and French-American hybrids.

82
Q

When did the French government order the removal of hybrids from Alsace?

A

They first ordered the removal after they retook Alsace after WW1. But due to the Great Depression growers could not afford to do it. After WW2, in 1949, the government mandated their removal.

83
Q

What is the current area under vine in Alsace (ha/acre)?

A

Approx. 15,621ha./38,600 acres.

84
Q

Which training method is used in Alsace. How are vines trained:
On the slopes?
On the plains?

A

Principally Guyot single or double. On the plains the vines are trained higher to mitigate frost, and lower on the slopes to capitalise on reflected heat and light.
It is mandatory in GC sites.

85
Q

When is harvest in Alsace? Why is it so long?

A

It runs from September through November. It is longer due to:
Different varieties have different ripening curves;
Different soils either reflect or do not reflect heat and light;
Each site receives different amounts of sunshine;
Style of wine being crafted - late for VT or SGN ; early for Cremant.

86
Q

How is harvesting carried out in Alsace?

A

On the hills - by hand ( required in GC );
On the plains -by machine.

87
Q

What effect has climate change had on viticulture?

A

As a result of higher average annual temperatures in the growing season:
harvest dates have been brought forward 2-3 weeks over last 20 years;
Higher levels of ripeness in grapes particularly Pinot Noir.