Alsace Wine Route
The Alsace Region of France was originally settled by German speaking people. King Louis XIV felt that the region should be a part of France, so he pushed the French border eastward to the Rhine River. The area came back into German control from 1870 until the end of WWI when it was returned to France. Next, the area was re-annexed into Nazi Germany in 1940 but became French again after World War II. Though French speaking, the people of the region today don't think of themselves as German or French, but rather Alsatian. You will find an appealing mix of pride of culture that originates in both of these neighboring countries.
This pride is evident in the highly respected wines produced by the region. The Alsace Wine Route, a string of towns and villages at the center of this production area, is one of the most popular wine routes in France. It meanders from Marlenheim to Thann, some 110 miles, and runs through over 50,000 acres of vineyards that provide jobs for over 100,000 people.
The natural beauty of the land and charm of the marriage of cultures is what makes the route so popular. Vines climb the hills towards the forests of the Vosges Mountains dotted with medieval castle ruins. Small towns still have medieval ramparts almost locking the quaintness inside. Cobbled streets, flowered window boxes, baroque wrought iron signs, Roman churches, fountains and wine cellars all fill you senses.
The stork is the emblem of Alsace and you will find a large stork's nest resting on top a chimney or steeple in most of these charming towns. Some of these nests weigh as much as 500 pounds, and are each summer the home to several large stork eggs.
The Wine of Alsace
In 1975 the region started a 'Grand Cru Appellation' to make sure that the region produced high quality wine. Each vineyards production in the Grand Cru is limited to only 4 tons of grapes per acre, and within these vineyards only four grape varieties may be grown. Known as "the 4 noble grapes", each has specific characteristics. The Pinot Gris grape produces a full flavored wine that is slightly higher in alcohol. The Muscat grape produces a sweet, but dry, wine. The Gewurztraminer grape also produces a sweet wine, but with a hint of fruity spices. Finally, the most popular is the Riesling grape, which Alsatians take the most pride in producing. The other types of grapes from the region include Pinot Noir (for rosé wine), Sylvaner (for house or table wine) and Pinot Blanc (used to make a sparkling wine called the Crémant d'Alsace.
The region is divided into a northern and southern section know as Bas Rhin and Haut Rhine. True wine connoisseurs feel that the wines in the south (Bas Rhin) are the best. Wine can be sampled in winstuben (wine taverns) in almost every town of the region. Please also see our page about French Wine.
Beer and Food in Alsace
While Alsace is famous for their wine, you will also find excellent beer. Kronenbourg is brewed in the Alsace region and is one of the most popular beers in Europe.
Alsace is also a well know gastronomic region that delights in its mix of cultures. Main dishes feature pork, chicken and trout, and as might be expected many of them are served with a sauce made from the local wine. Another popular specialty is sausage and choucroute (sauerkraut).
Alsace leads France in the production of pâté, with over 50 varieties from the area. Make sure you visit a charcuterie (delicatessen), to sample some pâté varieties.
The capital of Alsace, Strasbourg, is while worth a visit as is Colmar. But we feel the true charm of the region lies in the many small towns of Alsace, each one set like a pearl strung on the necklace of the Wine Route.
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