Unlike most regions, all Alsace wines are appellation wines—defined and protected by French wine laws to ensure consistent and the highest-quality winemaking. They belong to one of 53 Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées (AOC)--51 of which are Grands Crus--depending on their viticulture and vinification.
While it is no longer mandatory, the majority of AOC Alsace wines indicate the grape variety on their labels. When you see a label reading Alsace Riesling or Alsace Pinot Gris, for example, you’ll know the wines are 100% comprised of that grape. If it’s not so indicated, the wine is typically a blend of several grapes. Since 1972, AOC Alsace wines are required to be bottled in their region of production, and are always sold in the famous, slender green bottle called the “Flute of Alsace.”
As of 2012, a new regulation awarded the 51 Alsace Grands Crus individual AOC status to better protect the vineyards. The 51 AOC Grands Crus of Alsace are made from a mosaic of different terroirs, and thus express the unique influence of the vineyard itself on the wine. How? For one, the grapes for an Alsace AOC Grand Crus wine must be hand-picked within one of the defined sites, which meet strict criteria of geology and microclimate. Typically, only four grape varieties are authorized for AOC Alsace Grand Crus (with a few exceptions), Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat d’Alsace.
Fresh and elegant, sparkling wines from the AOC Crémant d’Alsace are produced according to the exacting demands of the traditional method, which is the same method as in Champagne. These grapes are picked at the very beginning of the harvest, when the grapes are at their freshest with bright, cleansing acidity that is essential for producing vibrant, lively sparkling wines. Outstanding quality coupled with inexpensive prices makes Crémant d’Alsace the top AOC sparkling wine consumed in France. Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay grapes are authorized for the production of Crémant d’Alsace, which is either brut (white) or rosé. Chardonnay can only be used in Crémant d’Alsace production.