Alsace / Alsace Grand Cru - Alsace
Certified Organic since 2014
Wine Advocate: "The wine quality is very good if not excellent, this is a very promising domaine to discover. It produces a wide but well structured range of wines".
Domaine Rieflé (see below) - Seppi Landmann (link)
Alsace - Pinot Gris 2013 "Bonheur Convivial"
The 3 parcels are located on the communes of Pfaffenheim, Rouffach, Westhalten and Soultzmatt, they represent 2.15 ha forming a mosaic of terroir. The 40 years old vines are planted on the hard limestone soils of Bill, the lœss soils of Lerchenberg and the gravelly scree of Kemmerlé, they produce a yield of 60hl/ha. Fermentations last 6 to 8 weeks in stainless steel vats. The ageing process on fine lees will last 6 to 9 months depending on the vintage in large oak vats.
PVins notes: This Pinot Gris is characterised by its remarkable freshness and moderate richness providing a pleasant texture. The palate reveals notes of pepper, peach and plum on the long finish. The wine has a cellaring potential of up to 10+ years.
Press: Wine Spectator 91
Dry and well-spiced, with tangy acidity and a thread of smoky mineral framing the flavors of kumquat, almond paste and dried apricot. The lip-smacking finish echoes a petrol-tinged mineral note. Drink now through 2026.
Alsace - Riesling 2014 "Bonheur Convivial"
The parcels planted with 40 years old vines are located on the communes of Pfaffenheim, Rouffach, Westhalten and Soultzmatt, they represent 3.08 ha on various terroirs. The vines produce a yield of 60 hl/ha. Fermentations last 6 to 8 weeks in stainless steel vats. The ageing process on fine lees will last 6 to 9 months depending on the vintage in large oak vats.
PVins notes: This Riesling which shows very little sugar residual is taut on the palate with a delicate acidity and displays aromas of citrus fruits and hints of pineapple. The wine has a cellaring potential of up to 10 years.
Press: Wine Enthusiast 87
Tart citrus fruit and earthy aspects unite in a taut, bright clean palate with a very clean-cut, dry finish.
Alsace Grand Cru Steinert - Riesling 2014
The east facing parcel is composed of hard, homogeneous, dry and filtering soil that sits directly on the oolithic limestone bedrock which is partially visible on the surface. The parcel was replanted in 1988 and only represents 0.40 ha producing a yield of 50hl/ha. Fermentations last 6 to 8 weeks in a 100 year old oak vat. The ageing process on fine lees will last 6 to 9 months depending on the vintage in the same oak vat. There is always a small amount of residual sugar in the wine that will vary each year depending on the vintage.
PVins notes: Wines from the Grand Cru Steinert vineyards are characterised by their powerful structure combined with a subtle finesse and underlying menthol notes. It has an expressive nose with a pleasant minerality that develops into striking notes of verbena, gentian flower with hints of apricot. A dry wine with richness and elegant texture on a seductive finish. The cellaring potential is about 10 years.
Press: Wine Enthusiast 93
Very pure notes of freshly cut, tart but ripe apples fill the nose, but there is also a slight perfume of fir forest and lemon zest. The palate is ripe and shows a dry but nonetheless lusciously ripe core, all straightened and brightened by fresh, lemony acidity. This has both balance and drama and is a joy to drink.
Wine Advocate 91
The 2014 Riesling Grand Cru Steinert has a clear and complex, very spicy and herbal bouquet with some fresh oaky flavors. Powerful and intense on the palate this is a very clear, pure and just-ripe Riesling with tension, concentration, a firm phenolic grip and lots of salt.
Awards: Decanter 92 - Silver Medal
Alsace Grand Cru Steinert - Pinot Gris 2011
The east facing parcel replanted in 1994 is composed of hard, homogeneous, dry and filtering soil that sits directly on the oolithic limestone bedrock which is partially visible on the surface. The parcel only represents 0.25 ha producing a yield of 45hl/ha. Fermentations last 6 to 8 weeks in a 100 year old oak vat. The ageing process on lees will last 6 to 9 months depending on the vintage in the same oak vat. There is always a small amount of residual sugar in the wine that varies each year depending on the vintage.
PVins notes: Wines from the Grand Cru Steinert vineyards are characterised by their powerful structure combined with a subtle finesse and underlying menthol notes. Expressive bouquet of zesty yellow fruits such as pineapple and mango. Although smooth in texture, it is well-balanced by the limestone terroir giving a fresh and acidic structure, candied notes of quince and fig on the finish. Cellaring potential is about 10 years.
Press: Wine & Spirits Magazine 92
The Rieflé brothers farm 1.6 acres in Steinert, certified organic, their pinot gris at the lower part of the parcel. The name of the cru refers to the stoniness of the hillside, where the oolitic limestone comes to the surface, a soil built on the skeletons of microscopic sea creatures, which now provide structure to the ground and show a talent for water management that sustains the vines. This wine is as tight and airy as that soil structure might suggest, firmly dry, with a refined meadow-flower scent and enough juicy pinot gris flavor to round it out.
Alsace "Selection de Grains Nobles" (SGN) - Pinot Gris 2007 "Bonheur Exceptionnel"
It is only produced in exceptional vintages with ideal botrytis/passerillage conditions. The grains picked to produce this wine come from the Steinert Grand Cru parcel of 0.25 ha. The east facing parcel is composed of hard, homogeneous, dry and filtering soil that sits directly on the oolithic limestone bedrock. Once the grapes to produce the Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris are picked, a number of bunches will be left on the vines to be harvested at a later date when the grains are covered with botrytis (noble rot) and naturally dehydrated. The yield is ridiculously low at 2 hl/ha producing only 600 bottles. Due to the high sugar concentration in the grains the fermentations will be slow and will take up to 6 months in a small stainless steel vat. The final residual sugar will be at least 140g/l depending on the vintage. The ageing process will last about 4 months in the same vat.
PVins notes: The wine is bright golden in colour with an expressive nose bursting with ripe and confit fruits. Rich on the palate with a great texture, flavours of stone fruits linger on a fresh and mineraly finish. The wine has a long term cellaring potential.
Press: Jancis Robinson 17/20
Very rich and opulent with some rose petals and just a hint of beeswax. Slightly savoury underneath. Big and bold.
Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé - Riesling 2012
The south facing parcel of 0.67 ha is situated halfway up the steep slope. The soil is composed of sandstone and limestone. The vines averaging 40 years of age produce a yield averaging 50 hl/ha. Fermentations in oak vats may take from 6 weeks to a couple of months at cellar temperature. The wine is aged on fine lees for 9 months in oak vats at cellar temperature. There is always a small amount of residual sugar in the final wine that varies each year depending on the vintage's potential.
PVins notes: The nose shows floral aromas of honeysuckle, orange flower and fennel. It is broad and rich on the palate, well-balanced by the acidity, long on the finish. A couple of years cellaring is preferable for the wine to show its full potential. Drink over 20 years.
Press: Wine Enthusiast 91+
Perfumed and off dry, this rich wine has spice, structure and a floral character. It is so young with its white fruits, hint of lychee and lime-juice acidity. The wine needs to age to reveal its potential. Drink from 2018
Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé - Pinot Gris 2013
The south facing parcel of 0.24 ha is situated halfway up the steep slope. The soil is composed of sandstone and limestone. The vines averaging 40 years of age produce a yield averaging 45 hl/ha. Fermentations in oak vats may take from 6 weeks to a couple of months at cellar temperature. The wine is aged on fine lees for 9 months in oak vats at cellar temperature. There is always some residual sugar in the final wine that varies each year depending on the vintage's potential.
PVins notes: Yellow in colour, a fruity nose of apple and plum aromas. Full-bodied with a noble texture, the richness is well-balanced by a natural freshness. A couple of years cellaring is preferable for the wine to show its full potential. Drink over 20 years.
Press: Wine Enthusiast 93
While showing sweetness, this wine also manages to retain great freshness. It's delicious, with bright green plum fruitiness as well as weight and richness. It will be a great food wine, but wait until 2018.
Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé - Gewurztraminer 2013
The south facing parcel of 0.73 ha is situated halfway up the steep slope. The soil is composed of sandstone and limestone. The vines are 40 years old on average producing an average yield of 45 hl/ha. Fermentations in oak vats may take from 6 weeks to a couple of months at cellar temperature. The wine is aged on fine lees for 9 months in oak vats at cellar temperature. There is always some residual sugar in the final wine that varies each year depending on the vintage's potential.
PVins notes: Complexity on the nose with citrus fruits and lychee with hints of floral aromas such as rose petals. Full-bodied and elegant finesse, great minerality, complex and intense flavours on the well-balanced and fresh long finish. When released the wine will benefit from a few years of cellaring to express its full potential as a Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé. A couple of years cellaring is preferable for the wine to show its full potential. Drink over 20 years.
Press: Wine Enthusiast 93
Even the richest, spiciest wines from Rieflé-Landmann retain freshness. So this hugely spicy wine still has a crisp element that gives it a great lift. It's structured with some dryness at the end as a contrast to the more honeyed opening. Drink from 2018
Wine Advocate 91+
Very clear, deep and fresh, on the nose opens the excellent 2013 Seppi Landmann Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé, displaying citrus and ripe apricot flavors, along with floral aromas and the purity and piquancy of crushed stones. Fresh (if not buoyant), intense, very elegant and full of finesse on the first palate, this is a remarkably aromatic, invitingly fresh and vibrant Gewürztraminer: full-bodied but tight, very mineral, complex and with a long and salty, tension-filled finish. Due to its tight mineral character and nervy acidity, this well balanced cru tastes more dry than it really is: sweeter than medium-dry but not as sweet as a moelleux. The wine will gain even more balance and elegance over some years of bottle age, but even as a baby it is highly recommended as one of the finest and most tension-filled Gewürztraminers of the southern Alsace in 2013.
Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé "Vendange Tardive" - Pinot Gris 2012
The south facing parcel of 0.24 ha is situated halfway up the steep slope. The soil is composed of sandstone and limestone. Fermentations in oak vats may take from 6 weeks to a couple of months at cellar temperature. The wine is aged on fine lees for 9 months in oak vats at cellar temperature. The wine is not produced every year as the development of botrytis and passerillage process are needed on the grapes, which will depend on the vintage's climatic conditions. If the vintage has the potential to produce a high quality late harvest then the whole plot may be used to produce a dessert wine, therefore the dryer style mentioned above will not be produced as the fruit comes from the same small parcel. The sugar residual for this type of wine is around 100g/l.
PVins notes: Golden-yellow in colour. Intense aromas of white stone fruit, tropical fruits and honey. The palate is rich, round and structured with a beautiful acidity. The length of the finish is impressive and it ends on aromas of lemon tart. Cellaring potential is about 20 years.
Press: Wine Advocate 93+
Golden-yellow in color and deep and intense on the nose, opens with a very clear, fresh and aromatic bouquet of ripe stone fruits, white pepper, tobacco and crushed stones. Rich, round and nobly sweet on the palate, this is a highly elegant, minerally-piquant and luscious VT with an excellent structure, fine tannins and a lingering salty acidity. Bottled with 12% alcohol and a lot of tension, this outstanding cru is perfectly balanced and still young, but so lovely to also enjoy today. Highly recommended. Drink 2015 - 2027
Wine Enthusiast 94
This is a sweet, honeyed wine that's powerful and concentrated. It's full of spice, ripe tropical fruits and pleasurable sweetness. Just behind all this richness lies a great acidity that's so attractive. The wine could be drunk now, but it will be even better from 2017.
Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé "Vendange Tardive" - Gewurztraminer 2012
The south facing parcel of 0.73 ha is situated halfway up the steep slope. The soil is composed of sandstone and limestone. The vines are 40 years old on average. Fermentations in oak vats may take from 6 weeks to a couple of months at cellar temperature. The wine is aged on fine lees for 9 months in oak vats at cellar temperature. The wine is not produced every year as the development of botrytis and the passerillage are need on the grapes which will depend on the vintage's climatic conditions. If the vintage has the potential to produce a high quality late harvest then the whole plot may be used to produce a dessert wine, therefore the dryer style mentioned above will not be produced as the fruit comes from the same small parcel. The sugar residual for this type of wine is around 65g/l.
PVins notes: Beautiful aromas of exotic fruits and orange marmalade with hints of lychee. The texture on the palate offers full-bodied richness but balanced by the freshness, complex flavours of orange marmalade and peaches with notes of cinnamon on the lingering finish. Cellaring potential is about 20 years.
Press: Wine Enthusiast 93
While the wine is very sweet, the sweetness does not stand out as much as the intense spiciness. It's a gorgeous wine without excess, textured and with minerality. The aftertaste has a light touch of acidity. It's impressive now, although it will be better from 2018.
Wine Advocate 91
The 2012 Seppi Landmann Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé Vendange Tardive is lovely, clear and fresh on the nose, displaying flavors of paprika, lime juice and passion fruit. Highly elegant, very juicy and gently sweet, well balanced, piquant and with finesse, this full-bodied and intense yet not heavy VT reveals a lingering mineral aftertaste, which is a kind of reprise of all the aromas from the nose. Drink 2015 - 2030
Domaine RIEFLE is located at Pfaffenheim in the southern part of the Alsace wine region, about 11 kms south of the town Colmar. The family RIEFLE has its roots that run very deep in the history and culture of the Rhine valley. The family's viticultural tradition dates back to 1850. It is under Joseph RIEFLE, born in Pfaffenheim in 1908 and his wife Madeleine Freytag a winemaker's daughter, that Domaine Rieflé was extended. They acquired the very beautiful winemaker's house built in 1609 in the heart of the village next to the church.
Today, the cellar and office are located about 800 metres south-east of the village centre facing the Grand Cru Steinert. In 1986, Jean-Claude RIEFLE took over the running of the 8.5 ha estate from his father René Rieflé. He has put a lot of energy in the development of the estate by striving to produce quality wines and developing the Domaine's reputation on the export market. Jean-Claude was also part of a group of vignerons who for many years strived to produce high quality wines to justify the creation of the new appellation Côte de Rouffach, which was finally granted in 2011. Today their objective is to work towards the creation and recognition of a "Premier Cru" ranking in Alsace for selected parcels, the approach is based on the principal of the Burgundian "climat". Jean Claude's sons Thomas and Paul joined him in 2009 and 2010 representing the 6th generation. Thomas is in charge of the vineyards as he completed two years of studies in vineyard management and wine making in Montpellier. As for Paul his activity involves marketing and sales while waiting to be the future winemaker after his father.
In 2009, Domaine RIEFLE purchased the reputable Domaine SEPPI LANDMANN in Soultzmatt located in the Vallée Noble. The Domaine represents 8.5 ha including 1.82 ha in the famous Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé situated on the communes of Soultzmatt and Westhalten. The acquisition has extended the holdings of Domaine RIEFLE already owners of parcels in the Grand Cru Steinert in Pfaffenheim and parcels in the surrounding areas. Since 2011 Domaine SEPPI LANDMANN and Domaine RIEFLE share the same office in Pfaffenheim under the new entity Domaine RIEFLÉ-LANDMANN, but both names are promoted as individual Domaines. Even though Seppi retired in 2011, he is still a very active ambassador for the wines from the Domaine he created in 1982.
Today Domaine RIEFLE-LANDMANN represents 23 ha representing 80 plots, mainly located around the village of Pfaffenheim with parcels situated in the following appellations: regional Alsace (18.5 ha), Steinert Grand Cru (0.66 ha), Côte de Rouffach (1 ha), both "lieu-dits" Bilh 1 Cru (0.5 ha) and Bergweingarten 1 Cru (0.24 ha) and since 2009 in the Zinnkoepflé Grand Cru (1.82 ha). The classic grape varieties of the Alsace region planted on the Domaine are: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Muscat and a little amount of Chardonnay for the Crémant (sparkling).
The estate's vineyards in the AOP Alsace are mainly situated on sedimentary soils of varying depths. In the communal appellations Côte de Rouffach and Vallée Noble located on the communes of Pfaffenheim, Rouffach, Westhalten and Soultzmatt, the vineyards are set on east and south-facing slopes at the foothills of the Vosges Mountains protected from strong westerly winds. The area forms part of a geological fracture zone caused by the collapse of the former Vosges-Black Forest mountain range 50 million years ago. This area has a highly calcareous terroir dating from the Jurassic and Trias periods bringing power, warmth and minerality to the wines.
The Steinert Grand Cru, meaning "field of rocks" in reference to its limestones, is situated on a steep slope facing east between 250 to 350 metres in altitude overlooking Pfaffenheim. The area is well-drained and dry limestone based terroir make the Pinot Gris and Riesling wines famous for being highly aromatic and long-lived. In 1150 the convent of the Benedictines of Muri (Switzerland) and the clergy of Bâle and Strasburg were already growing vines in this “lieu-dit”. Domaine Rieflé's 2 plots are planted in Pinot Gris (0.26 ha) and Riesling (0.40 ha).
The Zinnkoepflé Grand Cru meaning "Mont of the sun" is located 15 kms south-west of Colmar in the Vallée Noble. Its vineyards face south, south-west on steep slopes at an altitude of 250 to 420 meters enabling the grapes to reach a high maturity. The Grand Cru overlooks the village of Soultzmatt. Its terroir is made of limestone towards the top and sandstone towards the bottom with some quartz and micas. Late harvest wines when produced from this Grand Cru are rich and of a high quality. The area seems to benefit from a warmer micro-climate compared to a classic semi-continental climate in Alsace. The Domaine's grape varieties planted are Pinot Gris (0.24 ha), Riesling (0.59 ha), Gewurztraminer (0.78 ha) and Sylvaner (0.21 ha) which are of an average age of 40 years old. As for the Sylvaner, the wine is labeled under the appellation Alsace as the variety is not recognised as a noble grape for a Grand Cru appellation, Seppi Landmann names it the cuvée "Z".
In 2011 with Thomas' initiative, the conversion to organic farming on both estates was undertaken and the certification was obtained in 2014. This new approach will lead the way to a healthier vineyard and increase the terroir's typicity in the wines as Jean-Claude Rieflé is a strong believer of terroir and also quiet knowledgeable on the subject.
As for the style of Domaine RIEFLE-LANDMANN, the wines show some residual sugar, this is due to the optimum maturity of the grapes that Jean-Claude and Thomas seek and also as a result of the local terroir. The amount will vary from vintage to vintage for each type of of grape variety, but the wines are always well balanced by the terroir's natural acidity. Domaine RIEFLE-LANDAMNN also produces late harvest wines from botrytis (noble rot) and passerillage known as "Vendange Tardive" (VT) and in exceptional vintages "Sélection de Grains Nobles" (SGN) wines will be produced. The grains to produce a SGN wine are handpicked individually producing ridiculously low yields with a high residual sugar, but here again the balance is maintained with the terroir's freshness. On rare occasions, climatic conditions permitting an Ice Wine will be produced in a very small quantity such as in the 2014 harvest. An Alsace Pinot Noir is also produced.
As for the winemaking, the fermentations process is done at cellar temperature with indigenous yeasts and will last from several weeks to several months depending on the vintage quality and the wine made. Stainless steel vats and/or century old oak vats are used in the wine making process. After the fermentations the various wines are aged on fine lees to increase the complexity and bring a little extra richness and texture to the wines. The vats are of different sizes from 25 hl to 70 hl depending on the volume of each wine produced and the size of the parcels.
Aromatically some wines may show notes of exotic fruits with hints of dessert wine aromas even though there is no botrytis on the grapes at the time of picking. These characteristics are due to the high maturity of the grapes seeked influenced by the warm terroirs from which the grapes are grown.
Alsace Zinnkoepflé Grand Cru - French version
The Alsace appellation was created in 1962. It is located in the eastern part of France near the German border, the Rhine River acts as a natural border. The area stretches 120 kilometres from near Strasbourg (north) to near Mulhouse (south), covering 15,500 hectares at the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. The vineyards spread over two departments, Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin in which 119 communes are allowed to produce AOP Alsace wines. The region added two new appellations in the 70’s: Alsace Grand Cru in 1975 and Crémant d’Alsace (sparkling) in 1976 which today represents 24% of the wines produced in Alsace. The Alsace Grand Cru appellation was extended over the years: the first lieu-dit was in 1975, then 24 new parcels in 1983, 25 new parcels in 1992 and one new parcel in 2007 making a total of 51 Grands Crus. As for the late harvest wines known as “Vendanges Tardives” (VT) and “Séléction de Grains Nobles” (SGN) their designations were introduced in 1984 and may be indicated on the label of both Alsace and Alsace Grand Cru. Since 2011, 13 communal appellations have been classified with their name allowed to be indicated on the label such as Côte de Rouffach, Vallée Noble, Bergheim etc... These new lieux-dits are regulated by the type of grapes allowed, yields, pruning and planting density to produce quality wines as per their terroir. Some vignerons are now working on the project of developing 1 Cru "lieu-dit", similar to Burgundy, hopping the concept might be accepted by the appellations governing body INAO over the next decade.
The regions viticultural history dates back to at least the Roman times. At the time, the region was on the border between the Roman Empire and the Germanic areas. As usual, the roman legions needed wine and they discovered that the sun-drenched hillsides along the Vosges could produce great wines. By the 3rd century, large scale wine growing was initiated and wine was transported along the Rhine and Mosel rivers. The region was invaded by the German tribe the Francs in 496 and viticulture declined. Later, under the Merovingian and Carolingian Kings the population was gradually converted to Christianity. During this period, the church grew in strength and several monasteries were founded such as in Turckheim in 742 and in Andlau in 880. As usual, vine growing expanded and improved close to the monasteries. The concept of "cru" or quality “lieu-dit” came about as early as the 7th century as the king Dagobert gave vines on the “Steinklotz”to the abbey of Haslach. In Rouffach in 762, Heddo the Archbishop of Strasbourg, founded the abbey of Ettenheim and made up his income from the vines of the “Vorbourg”. These “lieux-dits” are today classified as Grand Cru appellations. These famous numerous “lieux-dits” were owned either by Lords or the clergy until the French Revolution. They form the historical basis of the delimitation of today’s Alsace Grand Cru appellations. By the end of the first millennium, 160 Alsace villages were already growing vines.Alsace’s golden age was between the 13th century and the Renaissance period. During the 13th and the 14th centuries, Colmar was used as a port and the wines exported across Europe via the Rhine, trade was intense. But, the region has had its fair share of bad times, with a 30 year war between 1618 and 1648 that ruined the Alsace. The region was depleted of its population by 75% and the vineyards destroyed, for example between 1610 and 1636 the population of Riquewihr dropped from 2,245 to 74 people. Then, the Franco-German war of 1870-1871 became a giant failure for France as Napoleon III Emperor of France lost the Alsace and parts of the Lorraine region to Bismark. The region was integrated into the German Imperial territory until the end of World War I. After the Great War the Alsace-Lorraine region was given back to France as a part of the Versailles treaty of 1919. Under the German occupation vine growing was maintained. Unfortunately high yields were practiced, acidic wines were made, they were also diluted with water and/or had sugar added for the German market. These poor quality wines were harming the reputation of the Alsace wines. The vignerons of Alsace had to wait the end of World War II to replant and re-organise the vineyards. From 1945 onwards, they aimed at producing high quality wines, abandoning planting in the plains for planting the new vines on the slopes of the Vosges. This policy was reinforced by delimitation of the vineyard area and by the strict enforcement of legislation regarding production and vinification.
The vineyards stretch 120 kilometres from Marlenheim near Strasbourg to Thann near Mulhouse in the south. They cover 15,500 hectares at the foothills of the Vosges Mountains in the departments of Haut-Rhin (southern district) and Bas-Rhin (northern district). The vineyards are set at an altitude of 150 to 400 metres, most of the slopes face south and south-east. The Grands Crus vineyards cover 1,751 hectares and only represent 4% of the volume of wines produced in the region, their size vary from 3 to 80 hectares. The 51 Grands Crus are located in 47 communes with 33 Grands Crus in the Haut-Rhin and 14 Grands Crus in the Bas-Rhin. The grape varieties of the Alsace region are: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Sylvaner, Muscat, Savagnin and a little of Chardonnay and Chasselas for the Crémant d'Alsace (sparkling). The main grape varities planted are Riesling (23%), Gewurztraminer (18%) and Pinot Blanc (21%) mainly for the Crémant. Within the Alsace Grand Cru appellations only the noble grapes Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat are allowed to be planted. Alsace wines are mainly made from a single grape variety, but they are always exception to the rules. Under the name Edelzwicker any white grapes from any parcels may be blended. The other option is under the name Gentil, the blend must include at least 50% of either Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat and 50% of other white grapes. Each grape variety must be fermented and aged separately before the final blending, the wine is then submitted to an official tasting panel for approval. These two wines represent a very small volume. Another wine with its own appellation since a 1971 decree and defined as a sub-appellation is the Klevener de Heiligenstein. This decree was followed by the establishment of the area of production in 1997. The AOP Alsace wines with the mention “Klevener de Heilgenstein”, are those made from the varietal Savagnin-rose and produced within the designated areas in the communes of Bourgheim, Gertwiller, Goxwiller, Heiligenstein and Obernai in the Bas-Rhin. Since Savagnin rose isn't an allowed variety for other Alsace wines, its planting outside of this area isn't allowed. The Savagnin rose grape is identical to Traminer, which was until the end of the 19th Century largely present in Alsace throughout its vineyards. It is of the same family as the Gewurztraminer, which is considered to be the aromatic pink variant of Savagnin (or Traminer). As for the only red grape Pinot Noir, it represents about 10% of the surface area. It is used to produce red still wines as well as Crémant sparkling rosé, Blanc de Noirs and sparkling blends.
The vineyards of Alsace are a mosaic of different soil structures on the slopes of the Massif des Vosges mountain range. Stretching 120 km from the north at Marlenheim to the south at Thann and only a few kilometres wide. The Vosges granitic mountains face the flat Plaine d´Alsace to the east. the mountains are a complex mineral-rich blend of granite, limestone, schist and sandstone that have been cumulated and eroded over millions of years through weathering and geological events. The clock has to be turned back to about 500 million years to understand the succession of bedrock formations through the Primary and Secondary periods. Over millions of years, marine, continental and lagoon sedimentary deposits formed the different layers of bedrocks. The granite rock itself is more than 570 million years old. During the Trias period (250-205 million years ago) erosion of the continents produced sandy particles that were transported and deposited in shallow seas. The deposits transformed over millions of years into a sandstone layer many tens of meters thick which in turn covered the granite under the sea level. During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (200-65 million years ago), various marls and dead sea organisms produced a limestone layer on top of the sandstone. Up until 50 million years ago the continent was relatively stable. Thereafter the continental drift of Africa colliding with the European continent caused the folding process that created the basis for present landscape of Europe such as the Alps, a result of folding crust subject to an upward lift. The uplift in the area is estimated at more than 2,500 metres, much of which has since been eroded. During this uplift the layers of Triassic rock cracked. But the most dramatic event was that the whole central part of the mountain range collapsed over millions of years during the Eocene epoch 45 to 33 million years ago, leaving the Vosges and the Black Forest on the edges of a giant depression at opposite sides.The German Black Forest and the French Vosges were at one time part of a same block of sediments before the appearance of the fault named "fossé rhénan". The fault stretches from Basel to Frankfurt measuring 300 km in length and up to 40 km wide. During the creation of the fault, volcanic activity such as the Kaiserstuhl Volcano (German side) deposited lava modifying the rock structure in some parts of the fault. Over the last 35 million years, erosion and weathering including the Ice Age have modified the landscape of the region. The highest peak of the Vosges is known as the Grand Ballon at 1,424 metres in altitude located 8 kilometres to the east of Guebwiller, the name was given by the Gauls in reference to the "Sun God". The Alsace plain has also been modified by waterways as the sea moved in the area during the Oligocene epoch and during the Pliocene epoch (5 to 2 million years), creeks and rivers were formed such as the l'iLL and Rhine rivers. These factors also contributed to the erosion and movement of rocks and sediments contributing to the complexity of the soils. The various soils that make up the Alsatian terroir are: limestone, marl, clay-Marly, limestone-marl, granitic, schist, sandstone, loess, volcanic sediments and alluvial deposits. It has been noticed over centuries that some Alsatian grapes are better suited or excel in some soil types resulting with an array Alsace wine styles.
The region is sheltered by the Vosges providing lower rainfall levels than the neighbouring regions. Colmar has a dry micro-climate of its own making it the second driest town in France with just 550 mm of rainfall per year. In general the climate is semi-continental and the region frequently enjoys a pleasant Indian summer. In autumn, the mists which appear on the plains and in the damp valleys create an ideal climatic condition for the botrytis to develop for the “Vendanges Tardives” and “Séléction de Grains Nobles” wines. Winters are cold with abundant snowfall on the Vosges Mountains, but snow is less frequent at the foothills and in the plains. Spring is generally mild with a few showers and some cold spells. The summers are hot and dry here, out in the plain temperatures can reach 30°c+. Fortunately, the cooler and higher altitudes of the Vosges provide some relief from the heat. During this time of year, the levels of sunshine are comparable to those of southern France.