Rhine Alsace - furiously fought over great wine region
Rolling between the Vogue mountains and the Rhine Alsace is France’s smallest region and yet it’s been furiously fought over changing hands no less than 17 times in 20 centuries. There been a constant tug of war between France and Germany and if you ask me what they were after I’d say the same as the thousands of visitors who trail through here every year … Wine.
This is one of the world’s great wine regions and my personal favorite. 90 % of what’s produced here is white focusing on seven wine varieties of the big three being Minerally Riesling, tropical Gewurztraminer, and spicy Pinot Gris. There’s also the visual view the tourists come looking for. The gothic half timbered world Disney plagiarized so much, where French and German meet and the affect is all Hanson and Grattle.
Colmar is the largest pit stop on the Alsace wine route and in addition to it’s pretty cobbled streets the masterpieces like Isseheim altarpiece at the Unterlinden museum that make your trip worth it’s while, its one of its kind. Painted in the early 15th century, it’s strikingly modern and probably accounts for Unterlinden being France’s most visited museum outside of Paris.
Another museum worth visiting is the Bartolde. Dedicated to the 19th century sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. The name may not be familiar to you but you must remember New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty dedicated in 1886.
Colmar is also a good place to start your education in Alsatian wine. The Alsace wine school runs classes in English for groups of four or more. Alsatian wine is one of the most complex in the world and illicit very strong responses. Gewurztraminer- Gewurtz to it’s fans – really is a love it or leave it kind of wine with lots of fruits and a sweet and unique taste.
After wine tasting armed with the new found appreciation it’s time to explore the one hundred seventy kilometer long wine route which is festooned with achingly pretty medieval villages like Eguisheim which is the birthplace of Alsace’s only ever pope – Leo the 9th – and the stroll along its ramp paths is a highlight
Riquewihr Alsace is even more popular, exceptionally well preserved it’s a warren of small alleyways and multicolored half timbered homes wrapped inside the 13th century timbered wall. In summer tourists seem to be tripping over themselves on these cobbles.
Alsance has more 5 starred restaurants than any other region in France outside of Paris. Run by local mister chef Jean Yves Schillinger it’s rather naturally called JY’s. it’s quite a few magnums away from a usual village look. Sleek, stylish, a la mod and the cooking reflects that. They use Alsatian ingredients in the global mixing pot, everything from Sushi to Tapaz to Curree can be found here and also a flash of local talent is dove geur not everyone’s pattie de chua some fresh foie gras.
After all that food and wine the Alsace adventure park will definitely clear your pallet. It’s a fabulous alternative for those who need more action than wine gargling. 3000 meters of rope slides reach the height of 40 meters. Plus there are rope ladders, barrels, monkey bridges, all in stunning rural setting.
There’s more to Alsace than just the wine and this place would cure any hangover. The great news is that new train links are really opening up this region to visitors because to date it’s remained a relatively undiscovered corner of France. Well with all the buzz that’s definitely going to change.