When we traveled to Burgundy, we learned that hundreds of thousands of years ago it was seaside. The limestone deposited during that time (and complex soil from subsequent fracturing from land shifts) make their wines unique.
Like Burgundy, Alsace sits on a geological fault line and its soil varies extensively. Also like Burgundy, it is one of the most prominent wine regions of France. The best vineyards of Alsace are along a geological fault zone that stretches from south to north along the Voges granitic mountain range. It is 120 km (74.5 miles) long but only a few kilometres wide. This is the Alsace Wine Route/Route du Vin, a scenic journey to enjoy the French wines, countryside, architecture and food.
The vineyards are located in the foothills of Les Voges mountain range around villages from the middle ages. Ruined hilltop castles from the middle ages overlook the towns. Many of the towns have fortified ramparts and cobblestoned streets. They are postcard pretty with flower-decked streets, historic churches, timbered buildings and gurgling fountains. In addition to the usual assortment of delightful shops, cafes, restaurants, wine tasting rooms (winstubs) which serve wine from many local vineyards fill the towns. Ooh la la.
Turckheim, Ribeauville, Riquewihr and Kayersberg are the most popular towns on the Alsace Wine Road and are regularly visited by tour busses and the crowds they bring. Other nice towns include: Obernai, Barr, Mittelberghein, Andlau, Dambach-la-Ville, Selestat, Berghein, Hunawihr and Eguisheim (which we visited). Alsace is a popular destination for vacations/holidays. While we saw other tourists, we were lucky (and surprised) we didn’t see any crowds.
Alsace is well-known for its crisp white wines. Alsation wines use seven varieties of grapes: Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. It has Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation. There are countless opportunities to taste these in roadside wine cellars (caves in French). Everyone recommends advance appointments (particularly during busy times like harvest). Not all wines are created equal and not all wineries are created equal. The quality can vary drastically from winery to winery. As a result, if you want to taste the best, research them in advance.
One of the best surprises was the Cremant D’ Alsace, a lively and delicate sparkling wine made by the traditional method of fermentation in the bottle. It’s kind of like Champagne. What’s not to love?
Although you can drive the Alsace Wine Route, there are many well-marked hiking trails (sentiers viticoles) and bike routes if you get Alsauced.