Kitterle is an Alsace Grand Cru vineyard and corresponding appellation in the village of Guebwiller in Alsace, north-eastern France. It is among the more southerly of the 51 Grand Cru sites dotted along the eastern slopes of the Vosges Mountains.
(© CIVA / Z Vardon)
The quality of the local terroir has been known for many centuries and Kitterle is one of several Grand Crus in the immediate area. It shares the lower slopes of the Unterlinger hillside with its immediate neighbors Saering and Kessler, from which it is separated by a natural spur of granite jutting out from the foot of the hill. Kitterle covers 64 acres (26ha) on the western side of the hill, plus the area on the spur itself.
With its steep, south-facing terraces high above Guebwiller village and the Lauch river running around its base, the site bears more than a passing resemblance to Rangen, eight miles (13km) to the south. The key difference lies in the soil, which in Kitterle is composed primarily of sandstone over a hard granitic bedrock; in Rangen, the soils are of volcanic origin. The 50% gradient here means that the vines are not competing with one another for the available sunshine, enabling each plant to benefit from optimal ripening conditions. Kitterle's terraces climb from 1000 to 1425ft (305–435m) in a very short distance.
The climate of the area is of continental type with marked low rainfall – a result of the rain shadow cast by the Vosges. The mountains also provide protection from the prevailing westerly winds, making the Alsatian summer one of the driest and warmest in the northern half of France. At the other end of the temperature scale, the winters here are cold; it is not uncommon to see Alsace vineyards lined with snow. With the Lauch river at its feet, Kitterle's lower slopes are prone to spring frosts, which are potentially damaging to new and vulnerable buds.
Apart from a few notable exceptions, all Alsace Grand Cru wines are varietals and may be made from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris or Muscat. Riesling and Pinot Gris are the most successful varieties as far as Kitterle wine is concerned.