The notion of Grand Cru appeared in Alsace as of the 9th century. The best terroirs were founded from the know-how and experience of wine-growers who overtime exposed the most remarkable soils on oftentimes impressive slopes all boasting a unique micro-climate. Today 51 areas, classified according to the strict geographical and climatic criteria, compose the mosaic of Alsace Grands Crus. The wines from these areas represent 4% of the total wine-growing region production.
These exceptional localities, inspired by the historic core of production, were rigorously classified into parcel areas by the INAO (National Institute of Origin and Quality), during several committee meetings.
From 1975 to 2007, 51 localities were therefore steadily defined with parcel surfaces areas varying between 3 to 80 hectares.
51 AOC Alsace Grands Crus
For protection measures, the names of these 51 localities were filed in October 2011. Each area is also awarded its own AOP (European equivalent of an AOC). Today Alsace has 51 AOC Alsace Grands Crus.
The new specifications book includes a full description of these 51 geographical areas and highlights the natural and human factors contributing to the terroir-specific connections, as well as information on the wine quality and characteristics.
The most stringent production rules of the wine-growing region
The 2011 specifications book describes the set constraints in terms of vine training, vinification, yields, grape harvest …
But already in 2001, the decree from January 24 aimed to involve wine syndicates even more in the management of their specific lieux-dits. This way, local management allowed the Grands Crus producers to work together to promote the quality and the typicity of their regional wines. This flexibility presently allows them to make some ambitious choices.
The new specifications book thus describes the accentuated constraints fixed for the localities of Zotzenberg, Altenberg de Bergheim and Kaefferkopf.
The basic yield was set at 55hl/ha for any grape variety from a Grand Cru.
Four varietals are usually allowed in the Grands Crus appellations: Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. There are however three exceptions to this rule: the blending of varietals is therefore authorised in Altenberg de Bergheim and Kaefferkopf whereas the Sylvaner is allowed in Zotzenberg.
The label must mention one of the 51 appellations including the name of the lieu-dit as well as the vintage year. It usually indicates the grape variety unless it’s for blended wines. Vendanges Tardives & Sélection de Grains Nobles: either one of these two prestigious classifications may also be indicated on Alsace Grands Crus appellation labels.
The terroir connection
The steady regulatory-framework changes with the implementation of evermore constraining standards has only one goal: assign the unique and inspiring influence of exceptional terroirs to authentic wines, nourishing the memory of history and the specific melody of each lieu-dit.