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Alsace Entry Guide

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Alsace is a region which has some of the most trouble fitting into the CellarTracker geographical system. Located in the Northeast corner of France, Alsace is a cultural blend of Germany and France. This is reflect in the place names (‘bourg’ instead of ‘ville’) and in the wines where varietals like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris dominate. Alsace is also unique in France in that the wines are traditionally varietally-labeled. On a fundamental level there are basically two AOCs in Alsace – Alsace AOC and Alsace Grand Cru AOC. With the latter, a lieu-dit (or vineyard name) is attached. Additionally, the harvest of the grapes (“vendanges tardives” or ‘late harvest’ and ‘sélection de grains nobles’ (SGN) or botrytisized grapes) is also part of the label nomenclature, though it doesn’t automatically translate to the sweetness level of the wine. All these issues make Alsace quite incompatible with CellarTracker’s organization.

Initially, all of Alsace was under the single appellation of Alsace AOC, established in 1962. All wines qualifying were labeled that way along with one of the nine allowed varietals : Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Tokay Pinot Gris, Pinot (any of Blanc, Gris, Noir, Auxerrois), Sylvaner and Chasselas. Small amount of blends called Gentil or Edelzweiker were made and entitled to the Alsace AOC as well as Cremant D’Alsace AOC. Alsace Grand Cru was established by decree in 1975. It took over 15 years to delineate the 50 Grand Cru sites and there was a revision in 2001 which allowed blends to be entitled to the Grand Cru designation. To complicate matters, there are producers of some of the great wines of Alsace who do not use the Grand Cru nomenclature, but prefer to maintain the distinct wine designations that they have established even before the creation of the Grand Crus and the Alsace AOC.

We had to make some difficult decisions in CellarTracker and balance the desire to communicate as much information as possible with each wine entry with the desire for consistency and clarity to avoid duplication. The major issue was the placement of commune or town names. Neither of these have any part of the official INAO nomenclature except in the case where the same vineyard name occurs in multiple places. Nor is the traditional divisions of Alsace into Haut-Rhin (South) and Bas-Rhin (North). Nonetheless, this information is valuable to appreciate the differences and subtleties between the wines. We have dealt with this matter in the following ways:

By default, Alsace AOC is located within the region Alsace and no sub-region. We are well aware that most of the Alsace producers are small and have single vineyard located entirely within the commune of their address. We have no way to really verify the origins of Alsace AOC labeled wines and decided that if the producer did not find it necessary to indicate either a commune or vineyard in the larger typeface (and size of typeface is regulated and important), then the wine would be considered as just Alsace AOC.

Alsatian Grand Crus are associated with particular communes. Each Grand Cru has formatted as Alsace, <commune>, Alsace Grand Cru AOC. The Grand Cru name is placed in the vineyard field. A list of the Grand Crus and their associated communes is at the end of this document. The perceptive will note that some Grand Crus are shared between communes. The really perceptive and/or wine geeky will note that some Grand Crus which are shared are not indicated as such in CellarTracker and were placed with a single particular commune. This was done for administrative convenience and is subject to revision should the need arise.

Named vineyards which are not Grand Cru has been associated with their commune as much as possible. In a practical sense, this means all vineyards associated with communes who have a Grand Cru vineyard are linked with the commune and have the appellation Alsace AOC with the vineyard placed in the vineyard field. For vineyards not associated with such communes, we have made every effort to break them down between the larger distinction of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin. Please note that the Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin is intended ONLY for named vineyards. The existence of these sub-regions is subject to administrative review and elimination if warranted.

While the designations of ‘Vendanges Tardives’ and ‘sélection de grains nobles’ (SGN) are placed on the labels as part of the AOC nomenclature, these designations are listed as designations in CellarTracker. This is partly for administrative convenience (string-length issues), but mostly to keep Alsace consistent with other regions across the world and match how most people think about these wines. We try to keep the appellation field for primarily geographical information.

While blends have only recently been entitled to Grand Cru status, we have grandfathered them in order to maintain the vintage linearity in the records.

We hope this re-structuring has made the Alsace region less confusing and more useful for our users. As always, we welcome any feedback and comments.

Click to see a fantastic article from The Wine Doctor on the Alsace Grand Cru.

And here is our own list of Grand Cru and associated Commune to use as the SubRegion.

Grand Cru Commune
Altenberg de Bergbieten Bergbieten
Altenberg de Wolxheim Wolxheim
Bruderthal Molsheim
Engelberg Dahlenheim
Frankstein Dambach-la-Ville
Kastelberg Andlau
Kirchberg de Barr Barr
Moenchberg Andlau
Muenchberg Nothalten
Praelatenberg Kientzheim
Steinklotz Marlenheim
Wiebelsberg Andlau
Winzenberg Blienschwiller
Zotzenberg Mittelbergheim
Altenberg de Bergheim Bergheim
Brand Turckheim
Eichberg Eguisheim
Florimont Ingersheim
Froehn Zellenberg
Furstentum Kientzheim et Sigolsheim
Geisberg Ribeauvillé
Gloeckelberg Saint-Hippolyte
Goldert Gueberschwihr
Hatschbourg Hattstatt
Hengst Wintzenheim
Kanzlerberg Bergheim
Kessler Guebwiller
Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé Ribeauvillé
Kitterlé Guebwiller
Mambourg Sigolsheim
Mandelberg Beblenheim
Marckrain Bennwihr et Sigolsheim
Ollwiller Wuenheim
Osterberg Ribeauvillé
Pfersigberg Eguisheim
Pfingstberg Orschwihr
Rangen Thann
Rosacker Hunawihr
Saering Guebwiller
Schlossberg Kientzheim
Schoenenbourg Riquewihr
Sommerberg Katzenthal
Sonnenglanz Beblenheim
Spiegel Guebwiller
Sporen Riquewihr
Steingrubler Wettolsheim
Steinert Westhalten
Vorbourg Westhalten
Wineck-Schlossberg Ammerschwihr
Zinnkoepflé Soultzmatt

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Edited January 20, 2008 (diff)

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