White wines: Dry vs sweet

Today I’ve attended a conference on: Alsace dry white wines, myth or necessity?

Hosted by famous people from the Alsatian field (sommelier, winemakers and oenologists), it was a 3 hours long conference and debate on:

  • The current place of Alsace dry white on the French and international markets
  • The influence of tasting reviews, rewards and critics on Alsatian winemaking
  • The consumer point of view

Let’s explain the current situation of Alsace as a wine region:

Alsace is a very atypical wine region. It has more than 7 different grape varieties and sells its wine by the name of the latter (unlike the rest of France, which sells by the name of the appellation ( i.e the place ex: Saint Emilion, Sancerre, Côte de Beaune etc.). It has a great variety of different soils, ex: limestone, marl, clay, granite, schist, sandstone. It has 51 Grand Cru appellations which can be made of 4 different grape varieties (Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris) on different types of soils.

Alsace is a very complex region to understand as a consumer and on top of that, for 20 year, wines have been vinified dry, medium dry, sweet or very sweet and whatever the grape variety or the appellation, unless it’s a “Vendange Tardive” or a “Selection de Grains Nobles” there is little to no way for the consumer to know what he is buying.

As a consumer, some would argue that this is a good thing as they like sweet wine and that is why they buy Alsace wine.

On the other hand, others (such as the people debating today) would argue that it’s just a disappointment when they open a Riesling or a Pinot Blanc, thinking it’s a dry wine but in fact, it’s not. But, there was no other way for them to know than to open the bottle.

And, that is the problem. Alsace sweet wines are full bodied and complex, they get excellent reviews and win awards. They pushed winemakers to vinify more of these wines. But what about the dry wines, the ones that one can enjoy for a whole meal and not just a tasting.

At the end of the debate, it was agreed that there is a need to make it more understandable for the consumer. So until things change, ask your local wine merchant for advice!

What is your experience of Alsace white wine?

This entry was published on January 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm. It’s filed under Countries, France, Learn More, Old World Wines and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “White wines: Dry vs sweet

  1. Interesting article, I knew Alsace was a Riesling producing wine region but I was under the impression that most Rieslings from Alsace were dry. Very informative, thanks.

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