The wine-growing region lies in the north-east of France on the border with Germany formed by the Rhine. The departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin formed a separate French administrative region of Alsace (Région Alsace) in 1973 until 2015. As part of the regional mergers, the Grand Est (Great East) region with its capital in Strasbourg was created from 2016, comprising 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 blossomed again under the influence of the Roman Catholic monastic orders. In the 9th century, around 160 wine-growing villages are already documented. In the 16th century, viticulture reached its greatest expansion, with vineyards more than twice as large as today. At that time, there was already a kind of appellation system and Alsatian wines were exported to all European countries. The Riquewihr winegrowers' association at the time specified the harvest date as "as late and ripe as possible" and the permitted "noble" grape varieties. The Elbling variety had to be uprooted. Alsatian was considered the best German wine at the time, often fortified with alcohol and flavoured with spices.