Gewurztraminer is a particularly aromatic selection of an old grape variety that has always been recognized in Alsace as Traminer rose. In the past, it was known as Traminer, and was not as powerful a wine as Gewurztraminer.
It is interesting to note that the Klevener de Heiligenstein, a varietal grown in a small area in the region of Barr, is a variant of this Traminer, still called Savagnin Rose. Etymologically, the name Gewurztraminer literally translates as “spicy Traminer”.
Also called Klevner (not to be confused with the Klevener of Heiligenstein that corresponds to the Savagnin Rose grape variety), it is the white version of Pinot Noir.
It was only as the result of a congressional decision at Chalons in 1896 that this varietal was distinguished from Chardonnay. It was first identified in 1895 as the white version of Pinot Noir by Pulliat in Chassagne-Montrachet, and then in 1896 by Durand at Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Pinot Blanc and the varietal Auxerrois (also referred to as Auxerrois de Laquenexy) are frequently referred to under the same designation Pinot Blanc or Pinot. This varietal is often used in the production of base wines for Crémant d’Alsace.
Pinot Gris, originally from Burgundy and notable for its qualities and ability to produce very concentrated wines, had been substituted under the name Grauer Tokayer. In addition to these scientific and taste factors, it is the tantalizing story of its various designations that was to capture the attention of the wine world. Referred to as Grauer Tokayer before 1970, Pinot Gris was successively named Tokay Gris, then Tokay d’Alsace, followed by Tokay Pinot Gris, and finally, as of April 1, 2007, Pinot Gris.
Even though Alsace is known predominately for its white wines, there are numerous documents relating to the stocks of abbey cellars and to wine taxes raised by the Church of the Middle Ages, alluding to considerable quantities of red wine.
Among the 40 grape varieties cultivated during this era, Pinot Noir figures most prominently. Surprisingly, a decline in production began at the end of the 16th Century and the only localities in Alsace to preserve the tradition of red wine were Ottrott, Saint Léonard, Boersch, Saint Hippolyte, Rodern and Marlenheim. What is today considered a novelty in the region is in reality a legacy of the past that is becoming increasingly successful.
Two varieties of Muscat are cultivated in Alsace. Muscat “à petits grains" or “Muscat d’Alsace” appeared in Alsace at the beginning of the 16th Century (it is cited by the great Alsace poet Fischart).
The Muscat Ottonel varietal appeared in Alsace in the middle of the 19th Century.
Traditionally cultivated in Alsace, Sylvaner may originally originate from Austria and was scattered throughout Central Europe, and as far as Russia, Australia and California.
Transylvania is sometimes considered to be the homeland of this varietal, as referred to in the grape’s name.
Riesling is the Rhineland’s ultimate varietal and the Rhine Valley is recognized the world over as its birthplace. Some experts believe it was the argitis minor wine grape in Roman times, and its culture goes back to the Roman occupation. According to Stoltz, Riesling was introduced in the 9th Century in the vineyards of Rheinghau. In 843, just after the division of the empire of Charlemagne, Louis II le Germain planted gentil aromatique, along the Rhine.
The grape variety soon adopted the name Riesling, originating from the word Reisen (fall, in German), for before it was acclimatised to Alsace, it was succeptible to coulure (during difficult climatic conditions such as rain at the time of budburst, causing buds to fall to the ground. Under such circumstances, the grapes cannot grow).
Different to its German cousin, Alsace Riesling was introduced to our region at the end of the 15th Century. It is widely cited during the next century, but its culture did not develop until the second half of the 19th Century. It was after the 1960’s that it reached the highest rank of production areas in Alsace.