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As a border region, Alsace has always held a strategic position in territorial conquests. The many defensive castles dominating its vineyards stand testament to its tumultuous history. With its famous ruins and renovated monuments, a tour of the Alsace vineyards is also a journey through time.
While in most vineyards the winemaking estates stand proud outside the local towns, in Alsace the wine cellars are protected by the walls of fortified villages. The walls protected them from the enemy and meant that the land could be saved for planting vines.
The vintners homes have unique architecture. You go in through a big decorative door which opens onto a courtyard leading to the different winemaking buildings. They form part of the irresistible charm of an Alsace village.
Alsace is the promised land for great white wines, which account for 90% of the appellation’s production. Depending on the terroir and the winemaking process used, the eight authorised white grape varieties (Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Chasselas, Auxerrois) produce wines of varying degrees of complexity and freshness, but with consistently great flavour.
On the labels that adorn the traditional “Alsace flute”, as the shape of wine bottle so characteristic of the appellation is known, the grape variety is the headline name.
Alsatian wines promote their grape varieties, as they should! Perhaps because their cuvées are predominantly made from a single grape variety, but definitely because the varieties reflect the region’s identity.
Alsace is home to a wide range of native varieties which do not feature heavily in other French winemaking regions, but which here express their full personality through enchanting bouquets.
51 Grands Crus hail from Alsace, making their home on the steep foothills of the Vosges mountains at an altitude of 200-400m, creating some grandiose landscapes. These clearly delineated locations provide perfect conditions for the grapes, as well as a variety of terroirs, and are also paradise for nature-lovers.
With whites, rosés, reds, semi-sweet, sweet (late harvest, selection of noble berries), and sparkling wines, Alsace is home to an extremely varied range of wines, affording an ample illustration of the expertise of the region’s winemakers, as well as the diversity of the region itself.
Alsace’s route des vins (wine route) is one of the oldest in France. For more than 100 miles, winemakers will welcome you with open arms and tell you all about their amazing craft. Throughout the year, different winemaking villages burst into life as they celebrate the famous wine festivals.
Alsace’s gastronomy is known the world over. Sauerkraut, baeckeoffe casserole, flammekueche tart, kougelhopf cake, spätzle noodles... to name but a few. Some of the local dishes are hard to pronounce, but easy enough to wrap your mouth around!
There’s far more to discover in Alsace than just the vineyards. In fact, it’s an authentic sensory odyssey.
- In early June, enjoy a picnic with the winemakers.
- Visit one of France’s most floral villages: Eguisheim.
- Meet the women behind the wines of Alsace: the diVINes d’Alsace.
- Learn about life in the Middle Ages: Haut-Koenigsbourg chateau.
- Recipes for local specialities: “Secret d’Alsace”.