Five Great Wine-Themed Drives: Alsace, France
There are many fabulous vineyards to discover in Alsace.
Route des Vins, Alsace, France
Is this 21st century France or a medieval embodiment of Grimm’s Fairy Tales? Sandwiched between the Vosges mountains and the river Rhine, Alsace has a heritage and geography that sets it apart from the rest of the country. Combine that with the region’s distinctive gastronomy and you have all the ingredients for a truly memorable road trip. The locals have even made it easy and created the 170km Route des Vins, running from Marlenheim near Strasbourg at its northern end via Colmar to the town of Mulhouse, close to the Swiss border.
Vines line the whole length of this route, but it is the villages radiating out from Colmar that account for Alsace’s most famous names. Make sure to stop off at the Ribeauvillé tasting room of Trimbach, one of the region’s oldest producers and still at the top of its game. If your budget doesn’t stretch to Trimbach’s famous Clos St Hune then head down the road to the Cave de Hunawihr, an excellent co-operative whose large portfolio includes wines from the same grand cru Rosacker vineyard. It’s worth planning ahead and booking a tour at Hugel, another great name of Alsatian wine whose 16th century cellars lie in the heart of medieval Riquewihr.
Alsace’s low rainfall has helped this region become a world leader in biodynamic viticulture. Taste the results for yourself by booking an appointment at two major pioneers: Zind-Humbrecht in Turckheim and Josmeyer in neighbouring Wintzenheim. As you drive south, the terrain becomes ever steeper. Imagine roping yourself up to harvest from those terraces above Guebwiller and Thann, then take the easy option instead with a tasting at the cellars of nearby Schlumberger estate.
But Alsace isn’t just about wine. This region is also a major place of pilgrimage for food lovers, boasting one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants in France. Begin your trip in style with a night at Le Cerf, a 4* hotel and 1* Michelin restaurant in Marlenheim. After exploring Colmar, the spiritual and commercial hub of the Alsatian wine community, dine at Wistub Brenner for an atmospheric, authentic rendition of specialities including onion tart, choucroute and local Munster cheese, a star partner with Alsace’s heady Gewürztraminer.
If you still have space, celebrate the end of your trip with a final Michelin-starred feast at 18th century coaching inn Auberge St Laurent in Sierentz. Alternatively, you might want to mark the end of that gourmet marathon with a simple, cleansing beer. Thankfully it’s yet another local specialism. Eighth generation family business Meteor has a brewing heritage as proud as any of the winemakers here.
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