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Pinot Noir renaissance continues in Alsace

Published:  12 August, 2022

The ratification of Pinot Noir for use in of two Alsace's grand cru is opening up “new possibilities” as well as reviving a key part of the history of the region, an Alsace official has said.

Typically known for its racy and often smoky whites, until recently, winemakers in France’s northernmost region were prohibited from red production for all grand cru wines.

That changed back in May, when winemakers were officially given permission to use Pinot Noir for two of Alsace’s 51 grand cru – Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr (Barr, Bas-Rhin in the north) and Grand Cru Hengst (Wintzenheim, Haut-Rhin in the south).

Some say the decision has been over 20 years in the making, with winemakers making serious strides in that time to elevate Pinot Noir production. However, red winemaking in the region actually goes back much further.

“This ruling opens up new possibilities for Pinot Noir and will further facilitate its revival,” Foulques Aulagnon, export marketing manager at Alsace Wines (CIVA), told Harpers.

“Until the 17th century, Pinot Noir was one of the two main varieties in Alsace alongside Riesling. Its renaissance has been taking place over the last three decades, and now that it’s been officially recognised by the INAO, it has the chance to be great again. Currently, two Pinot Noir Grand Crus are recognised, but we hope this number will increase.”

Twenty years ago, Pinot Noir represented 8.5% of Alsace’s total vineyard area. Today, that figure has risen to 11%. The changes mean that Hengst and Kirchberg de Barr are now currently the only AOC Alsace Grand Cru reserved for white wines and still reds, with the first to be released from the 2022 vintage.

The change does not affect sparkling wines, which are subject to different rules. Pinot Noir is currently the only variety allowed for Crémant Rosé (a rosé de saignée).

This is a “growing market for us in the US currently, where more than one in three Alsace Crémants sold are rosé”, Aulagnon said.