Alsace is a mecca for people who love white wine — whether they visit its famous hillside vineyards near the German border in the east of France, or whether they simply order a gewürztraminer from a restaurant wine list or a case of riesling at their local wine store.
To understand Alsace whites, you have to know two things. One, most of their white grape varieties are aromatic and quite versatile — gewürztraminer, riesling, and pinot gris are the best-known and most valued, but there are also excellent wines being made from pinot blanc and even the much-derided sylvaner. Two, each of these grapes can be made into very dry wine, wines that are off-dry but balanced by good acidity and those that are dessert sweet and nectary.
I recently was in Alsace for a week, visiting vineyards and wine cellars and talking with the people who make these wines. Although they say wine is all about terroir and the grapes, it is these people and their philosophies that determine how a wine will ultimately taste. For lovers of Alsace wines, meet the people responsible for making them.