Growing grapes in Alsace

The decade of the vineyards

The 1990s has seen tremendous progress in the cellar. Improved understanding of the fermentation and stabilisation processes, improved technology and a willingness to make investments have increased the quality of both the average standard and the best wines. Today, very few Alsace wines are bad.

However, now the attention is turned to vineyard. The philosophy is that the vine should get optimal conditions to produce great fruit, and once the grape has released its fruit, the winemaker should intervene as little as possible.

Man should stand back in favour of the nature and the terroir.


In Alsace, two training systems are allowed, simple and double Guyot. Double Guyot, the preferred method, means that two ∩-shaped branches (baguettes) carry the fruit-bearing shoots. The shoots are tied to horizontal steel wires (accolage), and receive extra support in early July when nylon string is added. Hence, a row of Alsace vines has the shape of a hedge, up to 200 cm high.

In Alsace, the following limitations apply for training (pallisage) and pruning (taillage):
Simple Guyot
Max 22 eyes per vine
Dubbel Guyot
Max 10 buds per meter
Alsace Grand Cru
Dubbel Guyot
Gewurz: Max 12 buds per m2
Others: Max 8 buds per m2
Crémant d´Alsace
Dubbel Guyot
Max 12 buds per m2

The pruning aims to stimulate as well as to limit the plants ability to create vigorous shoots and fruit. In addition, it should shape the vine so it can give high quality fruit for more than half a century.

The training should ensure a good balance between leaf mass (photosynthesis) and fruit amount. In addition, sufficient aeration should be allowed to avoid rot during the maturation process.

The annual cycle

In all, each hectare requires ca 140 hours of labour in the field. Unfortunately, the work load is uneven over the year, the most intense period being the harvest. Still, it means that 10 ha of vineyards requires close to one man year.

The annual cycle is as follows:
November − March
Pest prevention
Training and cutting
July − August
Green harvest (Vendange vert)
Cutting and harvest
Harvest and graftning
Late harvest

It is common to see small plants that have replaces older plants in a vineyard. There are two reasons to replant. One is of course to maintain the yield, but an other as important reason is to prevent remaining vines to seek shallow soils for their roots.