This article is also available in: Italian
Among the food and wine itineraries in the region, the most famous is the one that follows the Alsace wine road (La route des vins d’Alsace), which is the oldest wine road in all of France. The tourist route was inaugurated in 1953 and extends along 170 km and 67 municipalities, between Thann to the south and Marlenheim to the north, at the foot of the eastern slope of the Vosges, through the departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin.
Along the way, visitors are welcomed in the winstubs, the typical Alsace restaurants, and in the cellars (caves), where they can taste the famous wines. The Road crosses the hills planted with vineyards, passing by villages flowered surrounded by ancient medieval walls, ruins of medieval castles, ancient half-timbered houses, Romanesque churches, all cloaked in the nearby Vosges forest.
Along the itinerary, getting out of the car, it is possible to follow the so-called wine paths, which can be traveled on foot, of variable length between one hour and two hours, which enter the vineyards and allow, through descriptive information panels, to discover the work of the winemaker, the art of Alsatian wine and the characteristics of each grape variety. All paths are closed 1 month before and during the harvest.
Among the most beautiful towns and villages crossed by the Alsace Wine Route we find, from north to south: Molsheim, Ottrott, Obernai, Barr, Mittelbergheim, Dambach-la-Ville, Sélestat, Bergheim, Haut Koenigsbourg, Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Riquewihr , Ammerschwihr, Kaysersberg, Colmar, Eguisheim, Gueberschwihr, Guebwiller and Thann.
This panoramic road passes near more than three hundred wineries and of these 48 (out of a total of 51) are the producers of the prized Grand cru d’Alsace, a white wine with a controlled designation of origin (appellation d’origine contrôlée, AOC ) which represents the highest point of wine production in the region.
In addition to the Grand cru d’Alsace, two other Alsatian wines have the AOC designation, these are Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine which is produced in the whole Alsace wine region, and Alsace or vin d’Alsace which can be white (blanc), rosé (rosé) and red (rouge) wine.
THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE
Itinerary of the Alsace Wine Route (La route des vins d’Alsace):
The northern part of the road, from Marlenheim to Barr, winds through the vineyards of the Couronne d’Or and the Piémont of the Bas-Rhin and allows you to visit some treasures of medieval and religious architecture such as the Molsheim Charterhouse (Chartreuse de Molsheim), the Mont Saint-Odile and the village of Obernai.
Among the products to try and taste are foie gras (liver of duck or goose), Gertwiller’s pains d’épices (gingerbread), and obviously wines such as the Klevener of Heiligenstein or the Red of Ottrott (Rouge d’Ottrott).
The stretch between Barr and Ribeauvillé is rich in history, there are castles such as those of Landsberg, Haut-Koenigsbourg, Andlau, Kintzheim and Frankenbourg, or small medieval towns such as those of Saint-Hippolyte, Dambach-la-Ville, Rorschwihr and Bergheim.
To understand Alsatian society in the past, it is certainly worth visiting the museum of the stately holiday home Marco (musée de la Folie Marco), a palace built at the end of the 18th century by Louis-Félix Marco, bailiff of the lordship of Barr, the building has kept its refined decor with period furniture dating from the 17th and 19th centuries, its visit is an essential complement to the knowledge of Alsatian life.
Another interesting visit, which will particularly appeal to children, can be made to the Eagle Park (Volerie des Aigles) located in Kintzheim, here visitors will have the unique opportunity to observe and admire the most beautiful birds of prey in the sky, or in the aviaries and largest in the world.
Another place not to be missed for those traveling with children is the Monkey Mountain (Montagne des Singes), which is also located in Kintzheim and which houses a 24-hectare forest with over 200 barbary macaques or Barbary monkeys (Macaca sylvanus).
The route between Ribeauvillé and Colmar is the most touristic and visited area of the Alsace Wine Route, among the vineyards there are beautiful medieval towns such as Riquewihr with cobbled streets, towers and wooden houses, or Kaysersberg.
Riquewihr is also home to interesting museums such as the one on the history of communications in Alsace (Musée de la Communication en Alsace), where you can admire old postal coaches, or the museum of the Maison Hansi, dedicated to the French artist and illustrator Jean-Jacques Waltz known as Hansi, where you can find lithographs, watercolors, postcards, labels, posters, books.
Kaysersberg is a splendid medieval town built at the mouth of the Weiss valley in the Alsace plain. The city is dominated by two mountains on one of which there are the ruins of Kaysersberg castle.
Ribeauvillé itself deserves an in-depth visit, dominated by three medieval castles, full of ancient half-timbered houses, there are important wine cellars and it is the venue for numerous events including, during the month of June, the Kougelhopf Festival (Fête du kougelhopf), the typical Alsatian dessert; during the month of July, the Wine Festival (Fête du vin); the Minstrel Festival (Fête des ménétriers) is held on the first Sunday of September, and during Advent, it hosts the famous Medieval Christmas Market (Marché de Noël médiéval).
Another place not to be missed, especially for those traveling with children, is the town of Hunawihr, the town of storks, with an exquisite historic village, with a 14th-century fortified church, a center for the reintroduction of storks and otters (Parc des cigognes et des loutres), and the garden of exotic butterflies (Jardin des papillons exotiques). The small village of Kientzheim, on the outskirts of Colmar, is home to the Alsace Wine Museum (Musée Régional du Vignoble et des Vins d’Alsace), a very interesting museum dedicated to wine and Alsace viticulture.
The fulcrum of the route is the city of Colmar, a historic city which brings together all the typical features of Alsace, full of valuable buildings of typical Alsatian architecture (half-timbered houses), of the German Renaissance and numerous Gothic churches. Colmar is also home to interesting museums, among which the most visited is the musée d’Unterlinden which houses the famous Issenheim retable, a famous painting by Matthias Grünewald from the early 16th century.
After Colmar you come across other characteristic towns, such as Niedermorschwihr, Turckheim, and Eguisheim, the latter a small medieval center of great charm, with flowered balconies, narrow cobbled streets and beautiful half-timbered houses. Husseren-les-châteaux, is a village located at an altitude of 387 meters and dominated by three castles, located at an altitude of almost 600 metres, from which there are wonderful views over the vineyards, the plain of the Rhine and part of Alsace.
Along the road that leads to Thann and at the end of the itinerary, it will be possible to admire the terraced hills with vineyards. To see another peculiarity of Alsace, the itinerary can be continued by taking the Route des Crêtes, a tourist road which runs along the Vosges ridge.
This article is also available in: Italian