If you’ve already come across one of the iconic, tall, slender bottles with their often ‘classic’ label designs that characterise Alsace wines, there is a great chance that it was white wine. Alsace is strongly associated with white and sparkling wines, but we must not forget that roughly 10% of grapes grown in this ideal climate are actually Pinot Noir.
Even so, much of the Pinot Noir grown in Alsace is used to make some delicious Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs, Crémant d’Alsace Rosé or blended to add some weight to other styles of wines. However, a small but growing percentage is kept for making crisp rosé or classic Pinot Noir wine.
While the region of Alsace can count on above average warmth and protection from cold rains thanks to its sheltered location, it is still a northerly European region and so the climate generally suits white grapes better than red that need longer ripening periods.
However, increasingly warm average temperatures across Europe have meant that it is becoming easier and less risky to plant Pinot Noir in Alsace, so winemakers are keen to experiment. However, don’t expect something like the ripe and soft style of the New World, but something much more akin to lighter Burgundy.
- most Alsace Pinot Noir is made to be drunk fresh and young
- lighter reds, or even rosés, are all about cherry fruit, a little tart raspberry fruit and delicate tannins
- some more serious reds may have been aged in oak and will add more dark cherry fruit with some wild strawberry with smoky, slightly stalky tannins
- the lighter style of Alsace Pinot Noir is a wine to be enjoyed chilled, a style that works very well with salty cold meats and charcuterie, or dishes involving tomatoes like a salsa or fresh salad
- more complex reds can be matched to roast white meats and smoked meats