Guide to Champagne, France’s Quintessential Sparkling Wine

Champagne — the name of both France’s most northern wine region and its only appellation — is world-renowned as the source of world’s finest sparkling wines; the area’s cool temperatures yield grapes with substantial acidity, a prerequisite for successful sparklers. Remember, while there are high quality sparkling wines from around the world, only Champagne can come from the 33,000 hectares of land that comprises Champagne, France.

Grape Varieties, Regions, and Soils

  • Chardonnay (29% of plantings) grows predominately in the Côte des Blancs (and the Côte de Sézanne), where it is the only authorized variety of grape. Soils are chalky limestone topped by a layer of sandy clay (in slightly greater concentrations than in Montagne de Reims, discussed below). Chardonnay gives the wine its fresh acidity; typically displaying floral and mineral elements in its youth, it offers notes of honey and toast as it matures.
  • Pinot noir (39% of plantings) is dominant in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Bar (Aube), where slightly warmer temperatures enable full ripening of this finicky grape. Soils are comprised of chalky limestone and a rockier limestone-clay (Kimmeridgian marl), respectively; pinot noir from the latter’s soils are more full bodied. Pinot noir contributes structure and fullness, providing red fruit notes.
  • Pinot meunier (32% of plantings) grows in the Marne River Valley and the Côte des Bar (Aube). Soils consist of chalky limestone and limestone-clay (Kimmeridgian marl), respectively. Low in acidity, the thick-skinned pinot meunier has an intense, fruity bouquet and a full-bodied character that add to the wine’s overall balance.
Map of Champagne, France

Map of Champagne, France

Méthode Champenoise

Méthode champenoise is the traditional Champagne production process. After primary fermentation and bottling (the creation of the still wine base, or vins clairs), a second fermentation occurs in the bottle, induced by adding an incremental dose of yeast and sugar; the carbon dioxide released from this process gives the wine its trademark bubbles. The wine is then aged on the yeast remnants, or lees, resulting from this bubble-adding fermentation, which add freshness, body and complexity. During the aging process, bottles are slowly rotated from a horizontal position to nearly vertical, neck down, guiding the lees into the neck of the bottle. The inverted bottles are then disgorged, releasing the lees, and recorked for final aging before release.

Types of Champagne

  • Blanc de blancs (“white of whites,” that is, Champagne from white grapes) designates Champagne made exclusively from chardonnay. Lighter and more elegant than other styles, these wines are an ideal pre-dinner option. That said, they are best after years of aging, as only then do their flavors open and reveal complex toasty notes and bright fruit.
  • Blanc de noirs (“white of blacks,” that is, Champagne from red grapes) designates Champagne made from pinot noir. As red grapes have clear juice (the red colored juice is derived from contact with the red colored skins), the juice used to make these wines has minimal skin contact. As you might expect, these Champagnes display rounder, richer profiles, particularly at a young age.
  • Rosé Champagnes are produced either by leaving the clear juice of red grapes to sit on its skins for a brief time (saignée method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée. These wines often display notes of delicate stone fruits and cherries.

Non-vintage vs. vintage

Most of the Champagne produced is non-vintage — typically abbreviated NV on labels — meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages (usually 15-25% from older vintages, designed to add complexity); there is a predominant base vintage, however, that some producers are choosing to reveal to consumers (along with disgorgement dates) in order to increase transparency. As a result, more so than other regions, the art of blending is critical to the success of the wines, as winemakers aim to reproduce a consistent style and taste from year to year. Non-vintage Champagne typically includes all three primary grape varieties and is aged for a minimum of 15 months (12 of which must be on the lees) prior to release. However, if the conditions of a particular vintage are particularly favorable, some producers will make a vintage wine (millésime) that must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from that particular year; the vintage wines are aged for at least three years (on or off the lees) prior to release; these elite wines typically consist only of chardonnay and pinot noir.

Premier Cru and Grand Cru

The top Champagnes are classified as Premier Cru or even higher-end Grand Cru, indicating that the grapes used to produce the wine are sourced from select villages (specific vineyards are not part of the classification) deemed to have superior or ideal growing conditions, respectively; there are 44 Premiers Crus villages and 17 Grands Crus villages (versus 296 other basic cru villages).

Sweetness

Champagne comes in a range of sweetness levels, determined by the amount of sugar (aka dosage) added immediately before final corking: dry (Brut Nature, Brut and Extra Brut; Brut, with less than 15 g/l of sugar, is the most popular), modestly sweet (Extra Sec, Sec, and Demi-Sec), and very sweet (Doux).

Know your Producer Types

A unique feature of Champagne winemaking is that many of the leading Champagne producers do not their own vineyards and rely on purchased grapes. This has created a highly fragmented network of buyers (winemakers) and sellers (grape growers); in such a environment it is helpful to know who has had a hand in the wine you are drinking. Fortunately, Champagne labels give you some critical information in this regard on the matriculation number in small print usually located at the base of the label (these codes are followed by a 7-digit number):

  • NM (Négociant Manipulant) indicates wines made by the largest and best-known producers; they are made from both grapes they grow themselves (usually a small percentage) and those they buy from third parties; keep in mind, while NMs represent 2/3 of overall production, they own only 1/10 of the vineyards.
  • RM (Récoltant Manipulant), responsible for approximately 1/4 of total production, indicates wines made exclusively from grapes grown by the producer (a maximum of 5% of purchased grapes is permitted). These “grower champagnes” are often very good values and more respectful of terroir; we advise experimenting in this category. Look for those marked as “Special Club” for the absolute pinnacle of RM wines; they are made by a select group of growers and undergo two rounds of evaluative tasting prior to being able to be released as Special Club.
  • CM (Cooperative Manipulant) indicates wines from a cooperative of grape growers who pool their grapes, produce the wine, and sell under the general cooperative label. There are over 100 of these cooperatives in Champagne.
  • RC (Récoltant Coopérateur) indicates wines from a single cooperative member that were produced by the cooperative from pooled grapes, but sold under its own name and label.
  • SR (Société de Récoltants) indicates wines made by an association of growers from pooled grapes; they are not part of a formal cooperative.
  • ND (Négociant Distributeur) indicates wines from a merchant (not a grower or producer) sold under its own label.
  • MA (Marque d’Acheteur) indicates a wine from a brand name unrelated to the producer, grower, or wine merchant; it takes the name of the end-market buyer.

 

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Best Values for Red Burgundy: Appellation Suggestions

On the heals of back-to-back excellent vintages of 2009 and 2010, the “second-tier” appellations have produced some exciting wines that begin to enter the realm of affordable, a term that is rarely associated with red Burgundy. We’ve listed below a few of our favorite appellations in Burgundy that (outside of Beaujolais) are offering the best price-to-value ratios.

Map of Burgundy's Wine Regions

Map of Burgundy’s Appellations & Crus

Best Burgundy’s appellations and crus

  • Auxey-Duresses (Côte de Beaune). Like those of Monthélie to its north, the wines of Auxey-Duresses offer hints of the delicacy and high aromatics characteristic of those of its famous neighbor to the north, Volnay, although they tend to lack their concentration, complexity, and intensity. Although some of the Premiers Crus can develop bigger profiles, wines are typically medium-bodied with red fruit-biased flavor profiles. To take the comparison further: While the Premiers Crus of Auxey-Duresses often do not consistently rival those of neighboring Monthélie (they can lack the polish), its basic Village wine (labeled simply as Auxey-Duresses) often surpass those of its neighbor; accordingly, this is an appellation in which to seek out its basic Village wines (branded simply as ‘Auxey-Duresses’). We advocate a ‘Village strategy’ in the best vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Bas de Duresses, Les Breterins, *La Chapelle, Climat du Val, *Clos du Val, *Les Duresses, Les Ecusseaux, Les Grands-Champs, and Reugne.
  • Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Beaune’s Premiers Crus are medium-bodied and approachable; tannins and earthy elements are held in check, allowing their bright aromatics and soft, red cherry fruit characters to stand front-and-center. To put the wines of Beaune into stylistic perspective, they sit between those of its more famous neighbors to the south, Pommard and Volnay: Pommard’s wines are bigger and more concentrated, while those of Volnay are more refined and delicate. The basic Village Beaune wines are lighter and more straightforward than the Premiers Crus; they are grown on flatter plots where clay levels are slightly higher. The Premiers Crus should be given five years to age; the Village wines, however, are ready for immediate consumption. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Aigrots, Les Avaux, Le Bas de Teurons, Beaux-Fougets, Bellisand, Blanche Fleur, Les Boucherottes, *Les Bressandes, *Les Cent Vignes, Champs Pimont, Les Chouacheux, Clos de la Feguine, Clos des Avaux, *Le Clos des Mouches, Le Clos de la Mousse, *Clos du Roi, Clos des Ursules, Aux Coucherias, *Aux Cras, A l’Ecu, *Les Epenottes, *Les Feves, En Genet, *Les Greves, Sur les Greves, Les Longues, *Les Marconnets, La Mignotte, Montee-Rouge, Les Montrevenots, En l’Orme, Les Perrieres, Pertuisots, Les Reversees, Les Seurey, *Les Sizies, *Les Teurons, Tielandry (Clos Landry), Les Toussaints, Les Tuvilains, and *Les Vignes Franches.
  • Blagny (Côte de Beaune). Blagny reds are generally aggressive wines, packed with flavors of game and earth. Although less so than those of Pommard, they are nevertheless powerful wines. Further, as they are generally well made and relatively little known, they represent particularly good values. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : *La Piece sous le Bois, La Jeunelotte, and *Sous le Dos d’Ane (These crus can be can be called ‘Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru’ if white and ‘Blagny Premiers Crus’ if red.). Sous le Puits, La Garenne, Hameau de Blagny, and Le Trezin (These crus can be called ‘Puligny-Montrachet’ if white, yet only basic ‘Blagny’ if red.).
  • Chorey-lès-Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Chorey-lès-Beaune is known for straightforward, easy-drinking, everyday wines that have pleasant, fruity profiles; they are light-bodied, yet with noticeable tannins. We recommend looking to this appellation in the best vintages for very good values (some of the lowest price points in Burgundy). These wines should be drunk within five years of the vintage. Most of the village’s wines are actually sold as ‘Côte de Beaune Villages’, rather than as Chorey-lès-Beaune. There are no Premiers Crus vineyards, but a few select climats (named vineyards) produce high quality wines (favorites are marked with asterisks): Les Beaumonts, Les Bons Ores, *Les Champs-Longs, Aux Clous, Les Crais, *Piece du Chapitre, Poirier-Malchaussee, and Les Ratosses.
  • Fixin (Côte de Nuits). These pinot noir-based wines display good red and black fruits — leaning slightly more toward the latter — with distinctive gamey and earthy notes. Fixin’s wines are often called ‘sauvage’, meaning that they are powerful and tannic, and therefore require some aging in order to soften up; this is quite a change from the appellation’s neighbor to the north, Marsannay. Fixin is a particularly good area to look for good values in Burgundy, particularly in quality vintages, when the favorable conditions round out characteristic rough edges. While Clos du Chapitre and Clos de la Perriere (marked with asterisks below) are generally regarded as the best Premiers Crus, they are quite powerful in their youths and require aging. That said, if you are looking for something to drink young, lean toward the more delicate Premiers Crus: Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets. The non-Premiers Crus vineyards are also meaningful contributors to the affordable wines of Côte de Nuits-Villages; these are also worth being on the lookout for. Premiers Crus vineyards : *Les Arvelets, *Clos du Chapitre, Clos Napoleon, *Clos de la Perriere, and *Les Hervelets.
  • Givry (Côte Chalonnaise). Givry’s pinot noir-based reds strike a balance between those of its neighbors to its north, Rully and Mercurey: They are a bit more intense and full bodied than Rully’s light reds, yet hold back from the bold, earthy profile characteristic of those from Mercurey. That said, these medium-bodied wines have a persistent quality and intense aromatics; as you might expect, they favor the red side of the spectrum, display brisk acidity, and have an earthy, peppery finish. The wines are also typically good values. Of all the appellations in the Cote Chalonnaise (which includes Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny), Givry gets our vote for the consistently best wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Berges, Bois Cheveaux, Bois Gauthier, Clos de la Barraude, Clos du Cellier aux Moines, Clos Charle, Clos du Cras Long, Clos Jus, Clos Marceaux, Clos St-Paul, Clos St-Pierre, Clos Salomon, Clos de la Servoisine, Clos du Vernoy, Grands Pretants, Les Grandes Vignes, Marole, Petit Marole, Petits Pretants, Vaux, En Vignes Rouges, and Le Vigron.
  • Maranges (Côte de Beaune). The appellation’s heavy clay soils serve to yield wines of great power that possess a characteristic earthiness. In their youth, Maranges’ wines pack quite a punch and typically require years of bottle aging to soften them up. That said, wines are made to a high quality standard and represent good values. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Le Bourg, *Le Clos de la Boutiere, *Le Clos des Loyeres, Le Clos des Rois, *Les Clos Roussots, La Crois aux Moines, *La Fussiere (aka Fuissiere), Les Loyeres, En Marange, Maranges, Les Plantes de Maranages, and Aux Roueres.
  • Marsannay (Côte de Nuits). Reds based exclusively on pinot noir lead the charge in Marsannay, accounting for two-thirds of total production. Compared to the wines from its better known neighbors to its south, Marsannay reds are relatively simple affairs, tasty but not overly layered or complex: they are medium-bodied and low in tannins, with notes favoring the red fruit (cherry, raspberry, and strawberry) over black fruits, often with an inkling of earth and game. Marsannay is actually best known for its high quality and attractively-priced roses, which account for 15% of total production; they are juicy wines, reminiscent of strawberries and peaches. Marsannay is unique in that it is the only Village-level appellation that is allowed to produce a rosé under its own designation; all other Burgundy rosés are restricted to the regional appellation Bourgogne. These pinot-based pinks are some of the tastiest, food-friendly versions available and get our vote. There are no Grands Crus or Premiers Crus vineyards in this appellation, only about 20 lieux-dits (named vineyards).
  • Mercurey (Côte Chalonnaise). Mercurey is a good source of value-priced, red Burgundy. Due to higher clay and iron levels in its soils and slightly warmer temperatures, Mercurey’s reds are fuller bodied, deeper in color and possess greater aging potential than other appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise. Stylistically, they tend to be rather earthy wines, with their cherry fruit flavors often taking a back seat to those of wet soil, stone, and mineral; further, while there are some excellent winemakers, there is some inconsistency in this appellation, owing chiefly to its large size. We advise only opting for red wines from Mercurey in the best vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : La Bondue, Les Byots, La Cailloute, *Champs Martins, La Chassiere, *Clos des Barraults, Clos Chateau de Montaigu, *Clos l’Eveque, Clos-des-Fourneaux, Clos des Grands Voyens, Clos-Marcilly, *Clos-des-Montagus, Clos des Myglands, Clos de Paradis, *Clos-du-Roi, Clos Tonnerre, *Clos Voyens (Les Voyens), Les Combins, Les Crets, Les Croichots, Les Fourneaux, Grand Clos Fortoul, Grifferes, Le Levriere, La Mission, Les Montaigus, Les Naugues, Les Puillets, Les Ruelles, Les Saumonts, Sazenay, Les Vasees, and *Les Velley.
  • Monthélie (Côte de Beaune). The wines of Monthélie share much of the delicacy and high aromatics characteristics of those of its well-regarded neighbor to the north, Volnay, although they tend to lack their concentration, complexity, and intensity. That said, overall they are impressive, sophisticated wines, particularly for the price; they exhibit medium-bodied profiles and red fruit-biased flavor profiles, with subtle notes of underbrush, earth and spice. Overall, Monthélie is a little known appellation producing consistently good quality wines; as a result, we believe it is a highly recommendable source for very good red Burgundy values; seek out wines from Premiers Crus vineyards (particularly those we have highlighted with asterisks below). Premiers Crus vineyards : Le Cas Rougeot, *Les Champs Fulliot, Le Chateau-Gaillard, Le Clos Gauthey, Les Duresses, *Le Meix Bataille, Les Riottes, La Taupine, *Sur La Velle, *Les Vignes Rondes, and Le Village.
  • Pernand-Vergelesses (Côte de Beaune). The red wines of Pernand-Vergelesses have seen great improvement, and as they are relatively unknown, offer good values. Most resembling those of neighbor Savigny-lès-Beaune, they are bigger wines than others in the Côte de Beaune; further, they are more polished, exhibiting less earthy rusticity and more bright fruit. The iron-heavy soils create wines that are medium- to full-bodied, with concentrated flavors of black fruits (think blackberries and black cherry); the Premiers Crus have more polish than the Village level wines. We recommend looking to these wines as excellent values; however, these wines should generally only be sought out in high quality vintages; in less favorable vintages winemakers can have difficulties bringing pinot noir to optimal ripeness (yielding less attractive, green, herbal flavors), due to the less than favorable northeasterly exposure of most of the vineyards. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Basses Vergelesses, En Caradeux, Clos Berthier, Clos Le Village, Creux de la Net, Les Fichots, Ile des Hautes Vergelesses, *Ile des Vergelesses, Sous Fretille, and Les Vergelesses.
  • Saint-Aubin (Côte de Beaune). Stylistically, the reds of Saint-Aubin resemble those of neighboring Chassagne-Montrachet, however they are lighter, have a bit more acidity, and display a greater bias toward the red fruit side of the flavor spectrum (think cherries, raspberries, and strawberries). These are very pleasant and well-made reds that should appeal to price-sensitive wine lovers (aren’t we all?) seeking a relatively lighter-bodied style of red Burgundy. We advise seeking these wines out, particularly in high quality vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Bas de Vermarin a l’Est, *Les Castets, Les Champlots, Le Charmois, La Chateniere, Ez Champs, Les Combes au Sud, Les Cortons, Derriere Chez Edouard, Derriere La Tour, Echaille, En Creot, En Vollon a l’Est, *Les Frionnes, Le Bas de Gamay a l’Est, Sur Gamay, Marinot, En Montceau, Les Murgers des Dents de Chien, Les Perrieres, Les Petangerets, Les Puits, En la Ranche, En Remilly, *Sous Roche Dumay, *Sur le Sentier du Clou, Les Travers de Marinot, Vignes-Moingeon, and Le Village.
  • Savigny-lès-Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Overall, the reds of Savigny-lès-Beaune are a relatively light style, with a seductive aromatic profile, offering notes of violet and red berry fruit, often with some earthy flavor notes. While all wines generally share the prior character, those on the Pernand-Vergelesses side are medium-bodied, intense, fruity, and can be drunk younger; those on the Beaune side are fuller-bodied, earthier, and require aging to soften up their more aggressive profiles. In our opinion, Savigny-lès-Beaune is an excellent appellation from which to seek out very good red Burgundy values, particularly from the northern portion; production levels are high (which keeps a lid on pricing), but quality levels are consistently good.To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Northeast side (towards Pernand-Vergelesses) : Basses Vergelesses, *Batailliere, Les Charnieres, Aux Clous, La Dominode, *Aux Fourneaux, *Aux Gravains, *Aux Guettes, *Les Lavieres, Petits Godeaux, Les Rouvrettes, *Aux Serpentieres, Les Talmettes, *Aux Vergelesses, and Les Vergelesses. Southwest side (towards Beaune) : *La Dominode, Les Hauts Jarrons, Les Jarrons, Les Marconnets, Les Narbantons, Les Peuillets, Redrescul, and Les Rouvrettes.
  • Santenay (Côte de Beaune). Although wines are more sophisticated and restrained in the highlighted Premiers Crus, Santenay’s medium-bodied reds tend to be powerful and spicy, with tannins that are abrupt in youth; flavors favor the red fruit side of the flavor spectrum, e.g., cherries and strawberries. While the distinctive earth and mineral component characteristic of Santenay’s wines can overpower the fruit in some cases, this is typically not the case. These wines are good values and are appealing options for those who find a sophisticated, earthier style red appealing. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Beauregard, Beaurepaire, Le Chainey, *Le Clos Faubard, *Le Clos de Mouches, *Le Clos de Tavannes, *La Comme, Comme Dessus, Les Fourneaux, Le Grand Clos Rousseau, *Les Gravieres, La Maladiere, *Passetemps, and Le Petit Clos Rousseau.

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Beaujolais’ Chiroubles AOC: Great Wines, Superb Values

Beaujolais, the largest and southernmost region in Burgundy, lies roughly midway between Burgundy’s famed Côte d’Or and the Northern Rhône Valley.   For the most part, Beaujolais wines — 99% of which are based on the red gamay grape variety — are light to medium bodied, high in acidity, low in tannins, and deliver big, up-front red fruit flavors. They have a high capacity for soil and site expression, which makes for an exciting range of flavors and styles across the region. While most Beaujolais is made for immediate drinking and best served with a light chill, some of the region’s ten best village cru producers offer fuller-bodied, more structured styles.

The ten elite crus (villages). There are ten villages in Beaujolais whose wines stand above all others; they have been afforded cru status and account for roughly 25% of total production. The Cru Beaujolais villages include (listed by the style of wine they produce, from lightest bodied to fullest bodied): Chiroubles, St-Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent.

Map of Beaujolais

Map of Beaujolais

We wanted to profile one of our favorites of these Cru Beaujolais appellations for you: Chiroubles.  This appellation offers some of the best price-value wines in the market today.

Chiroubles is positioned mid-way along the strip of hilly land in northern Beaujolais that is home to these ten select villages; soils are primarily of rough granite. Chiroubles is situated at the highest elevation of the Beaujolais crus (400 meters); the resulting relative coolness afforded by this higher elevation affords them a characteristic delicacy. These lighter-bodied wines have an expansive bouquet (violet, orange blossom, and peony are often referenced); they are fruit-forward (think raspberry), yet sophisticated, often with delicate notes of game, stone, currant, and tea that add complexity. Wines are designed for immediate drinking. This appellation gets our vote for the best of lighter style Beaujolais.


Learn about the wines of France with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of France’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Understanding Alsace Grand Cru

Alsace’s Grand Cru covers fifty-one individual vineyard sites and the AOC laws dictate which grapes can be grown in each. The yield specifications are much lower than regular AC wines (60 hl/a). In general, Grand Cru sites must be made from one of the four ‘noble varieties': riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris or muscat; though exceptions have been made for Zotzenberg, where sylvaner is permitted, and for Altenberg de Berheim where blends are permitted.

Map of Beaujolais

Map of Beaujolais

The Alsace Grand Cru wines are controversial and the convention is not accepted by all growers in the region. Some producers elect to forgo the Grand Cru appellation they are entitled to in favor of traditional or brand names. Theoretically, a Grand Cru should be a guarantee of quality, but this is not necessarily the case. The rule of thumb here is similar to the one in Burgundy: find a producer you trust. There are many sub-par wines grown on Grand Cru sites and many exceptional wines that do not use the Grand Cru system.

That said, we have provided a list of all fifty-one cru vineyard sites in Alsace, with their prevailing soil types and vineyard areas (in hectares) in order to give readers an efficient means of assessing the general profiles of the wines produced therein. Larger Grand Cru sites have more variable conditions throughout the vineyard and are less likely to be consistent throughout the site. Further, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the highest quality wines.

Remember the following basic rules when trying to gauge the wines from the list below:

  • In general, rockier flint, granite and schist soils tend to give wines an oily, petrol and gunflint character (especially with riesling).
  • heavy clay and marl give weight and broad fruit flavors.
  • sandy limestone soils give wines with finesse.

Listing of Grand Cru Vineyard Sites:

Altenberg de Bergbieten : marl – limestone – gypsum, 29 ha.

Altenberg de Bergheim : marl – limestone, 35.1 ha; very good riesling and gewürztraminer.

Altenberg de Wolxheim : marl – limestone, 31.2 ha.

*Brand : granite, 17.7 ha; exceptional gewürztraminer.

Bruderthal : marl – limestone, 18.4 ha.

Eichberg : marl – limestone, 57.6 ha; particularly good gewürztraminer.

Engelberg : marl – limestone, 14.8 ha.

Florimont : marl – limestone, 21 ha.

Frankstein : granite, 56.2 ha.

Froehn : clay – marl, 14.6 ha; muscat wines are exceptional.

Furstentum : limestone, 30.5 ha.

Geisberg : marl – limestone – sandstone, 8.5 ha; very good riesling.

Gloeckelberg : marl – limestone, 23.4 ha.

*Goldert : marl – limestone, 45.4 ha; excellent muscat.

Hatschbourg : marl – limestone – loess, 47.4 ha.

*Hengst : marl – limestone – sandstone, 75.8 ha; exceptional gewürztraminer.

Kaefferkopf : granite – limestone – sandstone, 71.7 ha.

Kanzlerberg : very heavy clay – gypsum – marl, 3.2 ha.

*Kastelberg : shale, 5.8 ha; very good riesling.

Kessler : sand – clay, 28.5 ha.

Kirchberg de Barr : marl – limestone, 40.6 ha.

*Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé : marl – limestone – sandstone, 11.4 ha; very good riesling and muscat.

Kitterlé : sandstone – volcanic, 25.8 ha.

Mambourg : marl – limestone, 61.8 ha.

Mandelberg : marl – limestone, 22 ha.

Marckrain : marl – limestone, 53.4 ha.

Moenchberg : marl – limestone – gravel, 11.8 ha.

Muenchberg : stone – sandstone – volcanic, 17.7 ha.

Ollwiller : sand – clay, 35.9 ha.

Osterberg : marl, 24.6 ha; very good riesling.

Pfersigberg : limestone – sandstone, 75.5 ha; good muscat.

Pfingstberg : marl – limestone – sandstone, 28.2 ha.

Praelatenberg : granite – gneiss, 18.7 ha.

*Rangen : volcanic, 18.8 ha; outstanding pinot gris and riesling.

Rosacker : dolomitic limestone, 26.2 ha; site of Trimbach’s Clos Ste-Hune; Trimbach does not support the Grand Cru classification, so the wine made from this site only indicates Clos Ste-Hune and will not say ‘Grand Cru Rosacker’.

Saering : marl – limestone – sandstone, 26.8 ha.

Schlossberg : granite, 80.3 ha.

Schoenenbourg : marl – sand – gypsum – limestone, 53.4 ha.

Sommerberg : granite, 28.4 ha; very good riesling.

Sonnenglanz : marl – limestone, 32.8 ha.

Spiegel : marl – sandstone, 18.3 ha.

Sporen : stone – clay – marl, 23.7 ha; very good pinot gris and gewürztraminer.

Steinert : limestone, 38.9 ha.

Steingrubler : marl – limestone – sandstone, 23 ha.

Steinklotz : limestone, 40.6 ha.

Vorbourg : limestone – sandstone, 72.6 ha.

Wiebelsberg : sand – sandstone, 12.5 ha.

Wineck-Schlossberg : granite, 27.4 ha.

Winzenberg : granite, 19.2 ha.

Zinnkoepflé : limestone – sandstone, 68.4 ha.

Zotzenberg : marl – limestone, 36.4 ha; only Grand Cru site allowed to use sylvaner; very high quality sylvaner produced.


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