Monday, February 10, 2014

The Alsace Wine Route - Tour with us JoliSoleil

The Alsace Wine Route is 170 kilometers (about 106 miles) from Cleebourg in the north to Thann in the south.  This route began in 1953 and takes visitors through the middle of the Alsace wine country vineyards and villages. 

The history of the wine making in Alsace goes back to old Roman times. Castles dot the landscape, villages, churches, vineyards and wines, cuisine and traditions all make Alsace a unique and magical European experience.

The vineyards of Alsace are among the oldest in all of France. For over 20 centuries this region of France has produced wine. It began in Roman times with the legionnaires, also known as the Roman Legion, which is basically the ancient Roman army.

Here begins the story of wine laws when in 92 AD Emperor Domitian banned planting vines in Italy, and ordered uprooting half of the vines in production in all Roman provinces to increase the production of cereals.  Other wine laws followed to combat fraud, to set boundaries, to regulate varieties, to set labeling standards and so on. Wine laws began in 92 AD and continue on to this day.

Alsace went through a disastrous time in viticulture when the 30 years war (1618-1648) came with mass destruction. Also climate change, and wine guilds that didn't work out lead to problems in wine making for Alsace that continued on until the French Revolution (1789-1799). After the French Revolution the wine guilds disappeared and wine making was able to be reorganized.

In the 19th century there were no regulations on what varieties of vines could be planted. Following the instructions of Jean-Antoine Chaptal, Napoleon’s minister of agriculture, they allowed a high sugar content in the wine believing it increased the level of alcohol, and following the instructions of Doctor Gall they believed the best way of making a good wine included adding water to bring down acidity.

Labeling the bottle (wine labels are referred to as etiquette in France) with the grape variety and the name of the region began in Alsace in 1919. 
In 1945 Sylvaner, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir achieved prominence. When France was freed from German occupation. General de Gaulle signed an edict for the first appellation dórigine. The demand for quality caused Alsace winemakers to improve their production. In 1962 Vin dÁlsace was promoted to the rank of AOC (appellation d’origine controlee), and the number of allowed grape varieties had been cut to eleven. A limitation in the size of the vines and a reduction in the maximum yield (130 hl in 1983, 88 in 2000).

The tradition of Alsace is to make dry white wines and Pinot Noir used for rose or red. Oak casks are used for a time for fermentation, also stone and stainless steel are used.The type of varieties grown, the plots of ground they are grown on, terroir, the direction in which the vines face (mostly south and south-east), the amount of rain fall and exposure to sunlight all effect the richness, complexity aromas, sugar content and acidity and other properties . Since the Middle Ages it has been known that maturity of the grapes depends on the best exposure to the sun.

Since 1975 51 Alsace Grand Cru appellation was established as a mark for the finest wines produced in Alsace.

Note on AOC qualification: 1. Alsace wines can only be  bottled in the slender usually green-colored bottles known as “Flute d’Alsace”.  2. The wines have to be bottled in the production area.

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