Riesling is Alsace’s premier grape, and here, you can see the early stages of botrytis, or noble rot, forming. Used mostly for bone-dry, still wines in Alsace, the grape is allowed to hang on the vine in good years to produce one of two late harvest styles: Vendange Tardive or Selections de Grains Nobles.
Ready for Pressing
Pinot gris is another of Alsace’s noble varieties, used to make a rich style of wine. Here, loads of the freshly harvested grapes are ready for pressing at the winery. These grapes were measured at a 13.8 potential alcohol, perfect for a full-bodied, powerful wine.
The Alsatian Wine Route
The wine route in Alsace runs north to south along the Vosges Mountains, in France’s second most northern wine region. Known for its steep, sun-dappled vineyards, Alsace is a picturesque spot for wine exploration.
Riquewihr, home to the winery Hugel & Fils, is one of the jewels of the route, having survived World War II with little damage to its historical architecture. The town is surrounded by two sets of protective walls (the later one added as the town expanded).
Oval barrels in old cellars
Hugel, like many traditional wineries, ages its wines in an old cellar beneath the medieval town. The oak barrels aren't brought through the doorways, though: generally they're dismantled and reconstructed in the tight space.
The World’s Oldest Barrel
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Hugel purportedly has the world’s oldest oak barrel still in use—since 1715!
A New Generation
8th generation winemaker Mélanie Pfister has brought modern technology into the cellar after studying techniques at wineries like Bordeaux’s Cheval Blanc and New Zealand’s Craggy Range.
This high-tech gauge allows winemaker Mélanie Pfister to measure the temperature in each tank multiple times a day. She can stop the fermentation by bringing the temperature down once the target residual sugar and density amounts are reached.
Located throughout Alsace, a winstub (literally “room of wine”) is a cozy tavern that serves simple, traditional local food and drink. Warm, friendly, and casual, winstubs offer patrons everything from hearty choucroute garnie to fried potato rösti, a reflection of the deep cultural legacy resulting from Alsace’s location at the crossroads between France and Germany.
Tarte Flambée, or Flammekueche
A regional specialty, flammekueche (better known as tarte flambée) is a flatbread topped with fromage blanc, onion, and ham. Many purists contend that it’s best when cooked in a wood-fired oven. Another regional specialty—high-acidity Riesling—is the perfect foil for this rich dish.