Most of the white wines of Alsace are made from the aromatic grape varieties, so many characteristic Alsace wines are aromatic, floral and spicy. Since they very rarely have any oak barrel influences they tend to be very varietally pure in their character. Traditionally all Alsace wines were dry, but an ambition to produce wines with more intense and fruity character led some producers to make wines which contain some residual sugar. Since there is no official labelling that differentiates completely dry from off-dry (or even semi-sweet) wines, this has occasionally led to some confusion among consumers. It is more common to find residual sweetness in Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, which reach a higher natural sugar content on ripeness than in Riesling, Muscat or Sylvaner. Usually there is a “house style” as to residual sugar – some producers only produce totally dry wines, except for their dessert style wines.
Wines are produced under three different AOCs: Alsace AOC for white, rosé and red wines, Alsace Grand Cru AOC for white wines from certain classified vineyards and Crémant d’Alsace AOC for sparkling wines, a style pioneered by Dopff au Moulin in the 16th century. Both dry and sweet white wines are produced.
Producers calling themselves “Domaine” are supposed to only use grapes from their own vineyards. There are also several excellent winemaking cooperatives, such as the Cave de Turckheim.