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The Alsace wine region, located in northeastern France along the border with Germany, is a picturesque and renowned wine destination known for its exceptional white wines. This region is characterized by its unique geography, diverse soils, and rich winemaking history. 

More information about the Alsace region

The Alsace region is sheltered from the rain-bearing westerly winds by the Vosges Mountains, creating a rain shadow effect that results in a relatively dry climate, ideal for viticulture. The region's diverse soils, including granite, limestone, and volcanic rock, contribute to the distinct character of Alsace wines. While Alsace does produce some excellent Pinot Noir (known locally as "Pinot Noir d'Alsace"), its true stars are the white grape varieties. Common grapes grown in Alsace include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. Riesling, in particular, is highly regarded for its mineral-driven, aromatic, and age-worthy expressions. Alsace boasts several appellations, known as "AOCs" (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). Among the most famous are Alsace AOC, Alsace Grand Cru AOC, and Crémant d'Alsace AOC. The Alsace Grand Cru AOC designates specific vineyard sites believed to produce the finest wines, while Crémant d'Alsace is the designation for sparkling wines produced using the traditional method.

Alsace is famous for its varietal wines, which are labeled with the name of the grape variety from which they are made. The region produces a wide range of styles, from dry to off-dry and sweet. Late harvest and noble rot-affected wines, such as Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles, are also produced and highly sought after. Alsace wines are traditionally bottled in tall, slender bottles with a long neck. The labels are known for their distinctive design, featuring the grape variety and vineyard name prominently. The region's white wines are versatile and pair well with various dishes. Alsace Riesling complements seafood and subtly spiced dishes, while aromatic Gewürztraminer is an excellent match for Asian cuisine. Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are often enjoyed with poultry, pork, and cream-based dishes. The Alsace wine route (Route des Vins d'Alsace) is a popular tourist destination, winding through charming villages and picturesque vineyards. Visitors can explore wineries, taste wines, and indulge in the region's rich culinary heritage, which includes specialties like tarte flambée and choucroute garnie. The Alsace region has a rich winemaking history dating back centuries. Its wines have been influenced by both French and German winemaking traditions due to the region's history of changing national borders.

In summary, the Alsace wine region's exquisite white wines, unique terroir, and stunning landscapes make it a captivating destination for wine enthusiasts and tourists alike. With its combination of natural beauty and a rich winemaking heritage, Alsace continues to be celebrated as a premier wine region in France.

What grapes are used in the Alsace region?

The Alsace wine region in northeastern France is primarily known for its white grape varieties. Here are some of the key grape varieties used in Alsace:

Riesling: Riesling is arguably the most famous grape variety in Alsace. It is highly regarded for its ability to express the region's terroir, producing wines that range from dry and mineral-driven to sweet and aromatic.

Gewürztraminer: Gewürztraminer is known for its intensely aromatic and slightly spicy wines. It's a signature grape of Alsace, offering flavors of lychee, rose, and exotic spices.

Pinot Blanc: Pinot Blanc is a versatile grape used to make both still and sparkling wines. It often produces wines with a fresh, crisp character.

Pinot Gris: Pinot Gris (known as Tokay Pinot Gris in Alsace) produces wines that are rich, full-bodied, and often have a slightly off-dry to sweet character. They can display flavors of ripe stone fruits and honey.

Muscat: Muscat grapes, including both Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat Ottonel, are used to create aromatic, floral, and sometimes slightly sweet wines.

Sylvaner: Sylvaner is a less common grape variety but still used in Alsace. It produces light, easy-drinking wines.

Pinot Noir: While Alsace is renowned for its white wines, it also grows Pinot Noir. This grape variety is used to produce red wines and some rosé wines.

These grape varieties collectively contribute to the diversity of wines produced in Alsace, with an emphasis on aromatic and white wine styles. The region's terroir, characterized by its unique soils and microclimates, plays a crucial role in shaping the character of these wines.

What about Alsace's subregions?

Alsace is divided into several subregions, each with its own distinct characteristics and terroir. These subregions contribute to the diversity and complexity of the wines produced in Alsace. Here are some key subregions of Alsace:

Bas-Rhin: This subregion is located in the northern part of Alsace, closer to Strasbourg. It is known for its cooler climate and a wide range of soil types, including granite, limestone, and marl. Wines from Bas-Rhin often have bright acidity and a pronounced mineral character.

Haut-Rhin: Situated in the southern part of Alsace, Haut-Rhin is known for its warmer climate and diverse terroirs. The vineyards here benefit from more sunshine, resulting in riper grapes. This subregion is famous for its Grand Cru vineyards, producing some of Alsace's most prestigious wines.

Haut-Rhin Central: This area includes some of Alsace's most famous wine villages, such as Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, and Kaysersberg. The vineyards feature diverse soils and microclimates, allowing for the production of a wide range of wine styles.

Haut-Rhin South: The southern part of Haut-Rhin is known for its complex geology, with soils ranging from granite and limestone to volcanic rock. Wines from this subregion often exhibit depth and complexity.

Marlenheim: This subregion is located near Strasbourg and is known for its limestone-rich soils. It's particularly suitable for the production of high-quality Riesling wines.

Obernai: Obernai is home to some of Alsace's most famous wineries and vineyards. It offers a combination of marl and limestone soils, contributing to the diversity of wines produced in the area.

Rosheim: This subregion features vineyards on the lower slopes of the Vosges Mountains. The soils here are varied, including granite and marl, leading to wines with distinct mineral characteristics.

Schweighouse-Thann: Situated in the southern part of Alsace, this subregion is characterized by its steep vineyards and unique soil types. Wines produced here often showcase richness and depth.

Sélestat: Sélestat is known for its granitic soils, which are particularly well-suited for the cultivation of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.

Each of these subregions contributes to the mosaic of Alsace's terroir, offering a wide spectrum of soil types, microclimates, and grape varieties. The diversity of terroirs in Alsace allows winemakers to produce a range of wine styles, from bone-dry Rieslings to luscious Gewürztraminers and everything in between. This rich tapestry of subregions is a testament to Alsace's reputation as a top-quality wine-producing region.

Some history about Alsace

The history of Alsace is long and complex, marked by a mix of cultures, conflicts, and shifting allegiances. Here is a brief overview of Alsace's history:

Ancient Times: The area that is now Alsace has a history dating back to ancient times. It was inhabited by Celtic tribes and later by the Roman Empire, which introduced viticulture to the region. The Romans recognized the fertile soils and favorable climate for grape cultivation.

Medieval Period: During the early medieval period, Alsace became part of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a region with a mix of Germanic and Alsatian culture, and it continued to produce wine. The wines of Alsace were highly regarded, even during this early period.

Conflict and Change: Over the centuries, Alsace experienced a series of territorial disputes between France and Germany, as it is located on the border of these two European powers. The region changed hands multiple times, and this history of conflict had a significant impact on Alsace's culture and identity.

Thirty Years' War: The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) had a devastating effect on Alsace, as it was caught in the crossfire of this European conflict. Many villages and vineyards were destroyed, and the population suffered greatly.

French Annexation: In the late 17th century, Alsace came under French rule, and it remained part of France for much of the following two centuries. During this period, the French influence on the region's culture, language, and wine production became more pronounced.

German Influence: In the late 19th century, Alsace was annexed by the German Empire following the Franco-Prussian War. The influence of German culture, including language and wine production techniques, became more prominent.

World Wars: The 20th century brought two devastating World Wars to Alsace. The region was heavily impacted, with significant destruction and the disruption of wine production.

Post-World War II: After World War II, Alsace was once again incorporated into France. The French influence returned, and Alsace's wine industry underwent a revival. Winemakers in Alsace began producing wines with a more distinct French influence, emphasizing varietal labeling and producing drier wines.

Modern Era: Today, Alsace is known for its unique blend of French and German influences. It has a strong winemaking tradition, with a focus on varietal wines. Alsace wines are highly regarded for their quality and diversity, with a particular emphasis on white wines, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris.

The history of Alsace is a testament to its resilience and adaptability in the face of changing political and cultural influences. This rich history has contributed to the unique character of Alsace wines and the region's cultural heritage.


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