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 Alsace

Map of Alsace

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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