The Alsace wine route or route des vins d'Alsace twist through the valleys near the Franco-German border. Although the route itself is not that long, there is much to experience and taste in the many picturesque towns and villages we will pass. This route is ideal for gourmet excursions.
About the wines
The total wine-growing area extends over 11,000 acres and is mainly cultivated by small-scale wine growers. The grapes are on the southern slopes in the valleys between 200 and 400 meters altitude and are protected by the hills of the Vosges against snow and other harsh weather conditions. In the valleys it is usually dry, sunny and warm.
In Alsace, one produces mainly white wine of the following grape varieties: Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Muscadet d'Alsace. The Pinot Noir is also used, and the red wine of the Pinot Noir is freshly drunk in contrast to many other red wines. Unlike the other French wine regions, the wine has the name of the grape variety, the bottles have a long narrow neck and the Alsatian wines must also be bottled effectively in this region.
The Pinot Noir grape
There are several types of wine growers:
- The propriétaires viticulteurs: they do everything themselves, from grape harvesting to wine sales
- The coöperative viticole: they deliver grapes to others who then prepare and sell the wine
- the producteurs-négociants: own a vineyard but also buy grapes and wines from others to prepare and trade
Gastronomy in Alsace
The region is famous for its typical winter dishes, available all year long, such as the quiche and the choucroute. The latter is mainly served with pork meat (sausage or bacon). Another local specialty is the baeckoffe, a stew of which the preparation takes 2 to 3 days. Potatoes, vegetables, pork, sheep and beef are cooked in different layers. As a result, all tastes mingle. However, due to the long preparation time, the dish is not always available anywhere. For dessert there is the Kougelhopf, a round cake with a hole in the middle based on raisins and almonds.
A typical baeckoffe
Start of the route: Obernai
Not far from Strasbourg lies the town of Obernai, with a cozy market square and medieval fortress walls. On top of a hill next to the city is the monastery of Mont Saint Odile. Not only is the panorama from the hill beautiful, the monastery itself is also worth a visit with its various chapels and terraces. Another attraction is the Mur Païen, a defense wall raised from large rocky blocks that are over 2000 years old. You can follow it on foot over 10 kilometers.
Market square Obernai
Near Sélestat we find the castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg. This medieval castle was built on a hill that controlled several important trade routes. The castle burned largely in the 17th century and was then abandoned for 200 years. At the beginning of the 19th century, the complex was completely restored on behalf of Emperor Willem II and became a large open-air museum with its own smithy, mill house, craft buildings and residential buildings. Certainly climb one of the towers, from the top of the castle you can overview the Alsace to the Vosges and the Black Forest. During the summer months it can be very busy here.
It is a bit more quiet in the town of Tannenkirch, a 6 kilometers drive from Haut-Koenigsbourg. We are surrounded by meadows, vast vineyards and forests. From the town there are 60km of marked walks, certainly worth the effort.
Bergheim is another example of where time has stood still. Here too, the fortified walls with the many towers have been preserved. In the local witch museum "La maison des Sorcières" you can relive how a witch process occurred in the Middle Ages. There is also a wine walk that leads you past several vineyards to end with a tasting in one of the many wine cellars.
In the village of Ribeauville there are many typical half-timbered houses. In the 12th century, the Ribeaupierre family lived here, and they built 3 castles around the village. Today the castle ruins are worth a visit. A hiking trail leads you through the three sites. Also the town hall with its collection of silver beers cups from the Middle Ages and the old church are worth checking out.
Ruines around Ribeauville
The place to be and probably the most beautiful Alsatian town is Riquewihr. Unfortunately, this translates into a lot of tourists (about 2 million a year). Therefore, preferably go outside the high season so that you can stroll the cozy main street. In addition to the beautiful half-timbered houses and medieval towers you can do Christmas shopping here all year long. In fact, there are surprisingly many similarities with Rothenburg ob der Tauber, that other medieval gem on the Romantic Road in Germany.
There are also countless wine cellars to visit and also to taste. Highly recommended is the Schoenenbourg grand cru.