One of the most wonderful and anticipated aspects of the best French river cruises has got to be the wine tasting. France is famous the world over for its regional vintages and top quality production, with Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy taking centre stage on many a connoisseur’s table. That said, however, the Alsace, despite its numerous Michelin starred restaurants and excellent climate, has a wine culture that is often misunderstood and therefore overlooked. |
For those who do investigate further though, there some delicious vintages to try. If you book onto any of the best French river cruises that take in the area, you will have ample opportunity to sample.
Introducing Alsatian Wines
With their Germanic sounding names and often distinctive sweeter taste (though by no means are they all of the sweeter variety), the wines from this region are somewhat unlike any others from France, but this doesn’t render them any less delicious.
Most of the production is white (although there is a relatively small production of pinot noir) and they are helpfully labelled by grape variety rather than, as with other areas of production, by their region. The appellation system is much simpler in Alsace too, with wines classified as AC Vin d'Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru or AC Crémant d'Alsace. You may also see Vendange Tardive and Sélection des Grains Nobles as two alternative designations on the label. The first refers to a wine made from late-picked grapes with increased sugar content, and the second indicates a dessert wine made from grapes that have been affected by noble rot.
The region is also very famous for its blended vintages and on any of the best French river cruises in the area you will have a chance to try several of these. They all take flavour and texture elements from the different grapes used and are generally fresh and aromatic. All make for easy drinking, perfect accompaniments to food and are equally wonderful enjoyed as a pre-dinner drink onboard your boat. Conversely, the 50 named Grand Cru varieties that are made from any of the four ‘noble’ grape varieties (riesling, muscat, pinot gris and gewurztraminer) are much more distinct.
Interestingly, the influence of the producer holds great acclaim when it comes to wines of this region. The ‘house style’ and its effect on the drink’s character is very strong and possibly second in line of importance to the grape variety that is used. Some of the producers to look out for are:
Dirler-Cadé - This is a biodynamic producer from the south of Alsace. Run by a husband and wife team, the artisan wines are stunning. Based near the Grand Cru sites, the vineyard grows riesling and Sylvaner.
Domaine Faller Weinbach - Mostly made dry except the classic gewurztraminer, these wines are produced from grapes picked late and very ripe. Some sweetness is retained and these wines are regarded as a speciality and among the best in the region.
Beyer – Producers of dry wines that you will often see in restaurants, these winemakers are famous throughout the region. It is often said that the vintages need to be opened in advance and given time to breathe, but even their entry level bottles are of exceptional quality. (They’re fabulous with oysters.)
Hopefully this brief introduction to the wines of Alsace has whetted your appetite and inspired you to consider this area for your next water based adventure. When looking to book one of the best French river cruises, make sure you go through a reputable tour operator who will help you make the right choice in terms of itinerary and destination.
Author Plate Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive luxury barge holidays. If you're looking for the best French river cruises or cruises to other great destinations they are the go-to experts. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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