Published in Cru Magazine, May 2016
Tell your friends you’ve been to Bordeaux and they’ll simply nod. Tell them you’re going to Alsace and they’ll think you’re French – or maybe German!
SMALL BUT POWERFUL
Alsace is the smallest region of France. It may be tiny in size, but is actually big in fame and has an extremely rich heritage of culture, history and gastronomy. Did you know that this small territory gave birth to great personalities? English Premier League Arsenal’s coach Arsene Wenger, Marie Tussaud, founder of the famous Madame Tussaud Museum, and World Rally Racing Champion Sebastien Loeb are all from Alsace.
Strategically located on the Eastern border of France close to Germany, Alsace has been the object of desire from both countries for many centuries. It belonged to France, then Germany, then France again, and Germany again etc. – it changed nationality four times! – over the past 75 years. Today its French capital, Strasbourg, is also the capital of Europe with many institutions including the European Parliament.
FALLING IN LOVE
The enchantment continues (as described in our previous article here).
Every time I have brought groups to discover Alsace, its charm has worked on me and my guests. For some it is love at first sight, and for me it feels like a loyal lover. Alsace has its own identity and character that is worth to discover. Alsatian people speak an Alsatian dialect of French which originates from Old High German language. They live in small houses built with timber wood frames and flat tiles which are great to store food and welcome guests.
When you travel to Alsace, you experience a unique art-de-vivre and lifestyle which has wine, beer and gastronomy at its heart. Riesling, Gerwurztraminer, Sylvaner but also Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir make fantastic wines. Together with many wineries, the region is also known for its beer breweries such as Fischer, Karlbrau, Kronenbourg, and the Schnapps digestive liquor. You will often find joyful Alsatians singing after a few glasses in the local taverns and brasseries.
A WINE LOVER & GOURMET DESTINATION
Alsace is the perfect off-the-beaten-track destination for many reasons. The Alsace Wine Route is ideal for wine lovers: it takes to 1,000 wineries of Alsace, from big iconic names like Hugel & Fils, Trimbach or Domaine Zind-Humbrecht to smaller boutique growers like Charles Sparr, Paul Blanck or the biodynamic Domaine des Deux Lunes. Each time I’d had a very friendly welcome, walking the vineyards with the winemaker in Summer or at harvest, and tasting wines straight from the tanks in the cellars. This way I learnt how Alsace Riesling wines are different from Germany or Austria, as they tend to have more fruit and lower alcohol.
This is also the chance to taste authentic traditional gastronomy: flammkueche, Alsace’s own delicious and extra-thin version of the pizza, and choucroute, a sublime variety of sauerkraut with flavourful Morteau sausage and marinated cabbage. And if you choose to go in Winter, you can enjoy artisan craft shopping at the largest Christmas market of Europe in Strasbourg, and eat the local fresh gingerbread specialty – while you admire all the snowflakes falling from the sky.
Find more about our gourmet destinations here.