The wine-growing region lies in the north-east of France on the border with Germany formed by the Rhine. The départements Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin formed a separate French administrative region Alsace (Région Alsace) from 1973 to 2015. As part of the regional mergers, the Grand Est (Greater East) region was created from 2016 with Strasbourg as its capital, covering the areas of Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne.
Viticulture was already practised by the Celts (Gauls) before the Romans who appeared here in the 2nd century. After a decline in the 5th century due to the invasion of the Germanic tribes, it flourished again under the influence of the Roman Catholic monastic orders. In the 9th century there are already 160 documented wine growing sites. In the 16th century, viticulture reached its greatest expansion with more than double the size of the vineyard compared to today. At that time, there was already a kind of appellation system and Alsatian wines were exported to all European countries. The winegrowers' association of Riquewihr at that time set the harvest date with "as late and ripe as possible" and the permitted "noble" grape varieties. The variety Elbling had to be uprooted. The Alsatian was then considered the best German wine, often enriched with alcohol and flavoured with spices.