One of the tasks I set myself whilst in France mid-year was to find some Alsatian wine to add to our portfolio. I am a big fan of Riesling when it is very dry. I also like Gewurztraminer when the fruit is complex and balanced by fine acidity. And I love the late picked styles when they are sweet but mineral and fresh.
One of the big issues with Alsatian wines over the last decade or two has been the amount of residual sugar. A large part of this has been the desire to produce wines that appeal to certain markets. The other issue, which is becoming more of a problem, is the effects of global warming. Unlike traditional German wines which have low alcohol, the wines of Alsace typically have alcohol of around 13%. In hot years, sugar levels can soar, and creating a dry wine can become an issue. Much work is required in the vineyard to restrict potential alcohol, yet attain properly ripened grapes.
Too much sugar (without the effects of botrytis to make a late harvest style) in theoretically dry styles has two effects. The fermentation either stops or is stopped and the wine retains a level of residual sugar. For Riesling anything above 10 grams per litre is very noticeable. Or you continue the fermentation and end up with a high alcohol and frequently coarse wine.