Hi, I'm Jo Locke, currently the buyer for Alsace-Lorraine, which I was lucky enough to take over from my colleague Marcel a few years ago. It was an area that I already knew, and it was wonderful to realise that The Wine Society was working with some of the same producers that I knew back then.
It's a very beautiful region, quite a small region in the east of France, and it borders Germany, and there have been a lot of Germanic influences over the years.
Wine and war has been quite a theme. There's actually a very good book on the subject, if you're interested in the history behind the region.
It's a dry climate, unusually dry, because the Vosges mountains run down, if you like, the left-hand side of the region, the vineyards are on the other side, and that protects it from ongoing winds, but also from a lot of rain. A lot of the rain drops on the other side, or on the mountains themselves.
The appellation system is based on, if you like, different cru, different vineyard sites, different soil types. So, it's very complex, except that the wines are varietly labelled, and it's one of the things that makes the wine stand out from the rest of France. So, they are labelled by the name of the grape variety; Alsace gewurztraminer, Alsace riesling etc. So, very few blends.
So, what about the style of the wines? Well, they kept the flute bottle, the tall, slim bottle, rather like the German bottles, and it's very easy to, perhaps, to expect that the wines will be sweet. Certainly my father always used to think that they would be sweet, but actually the vast majority of wines are dry, or they'll have a little bit of residual sugar, but it balances well with the acidity and freshness in the wine.
And the wines go exceptionally well with food. They do, however, make top-notch dessert wines. Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles, which is an even more specialised style. Can be tricky to pick your way through, so it's good to get to know particular producers and seek them out from the very good cooperatives. There are several in Alsace, and they’re frankly the best in France where you can actually get some really good value and then you have family domains like Zind-Humbrecht that I mentioned before like Ginglinger, and then you have the long, historical family producers such as Beyer, Dopff, Hugel and of course, Trimbach.
If you'd like to know more about the varying styles of Alsace wines, have a look at our regional pages and there's a very good background there on the whole of the grand cru system which was originally written by Marcel. Very, very good indeed.
It's a beautiful region so very popular for tourism and gastronomy in particular. I think I'm right in saying it still has more Michelin-star restaurants than any other part of France. So, if you're a foodie, it's a place to go. The wines do go remarkably well with food.
So, many, many names and styles and qualities to play with, but a region that is well-worth exploring. So, go there if you can, you won't regret it, but if you can't get there, do have a look at our regional pages because they will tell you much more than I possibly can in this short video.