Alsace’s Route du Vin, and “Grandmas Are Awesome”

This is not the first time I’ve said this, nor is it by any means the last. Despite living in a backwoods Bermuda triangle that seems to hold onto locals, I’ve met a number of amazing older women. Women who have lived in Zaïre. Women who moved to London without housing and spent two months hiding under a friend’s bed at night. Women who have bathed in a hot stream with Bjork (really!) and hiked the Camino de Santiago post-retirement.

And last weekend, women in their 80s who speak four languages and can tell you everything on earth about the history of wine, Alsace, and France.

Ribeauvillé

Alsace is the region next to my home in Lorraine. It borders Germany and Switzerland, was Germany multiple times in the past few hundred years, and is a little bit confused about where it belongs.

On a sunny March weekend the little towns that polka dot the Alsatian vineyard landscape were so achingly cute that I can’t imagine what they look like in full spring bloom or in September, when the vines are loaded and everyone is harvesting for fall.

The area also happens to be just on the sunny side of the Vosges mountains (I was misled when I moved to the rainy side), which makes for perfect shelter, temperature and rainfall for growing wine grapes. The area has hundreds of wineries and gobs of small towns that you could easily ride your bike between, or you can visit by foot via vineyard trails easy enough for kiddies.

We had limited time, but as we traipsed from one town to another, six of us packed into a rental car, we stopped for a couple free tasting glasses at least five times a day.

I hardly ever drank white wine before moving to Lorraine, and only now am starting to really get a feel for it. In Alsace, most of the wines correspond truly to their own grape. Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and the amazing Gewurztraminer, which is usually sweet but you can also find as a fresh, dry, AWESOME wine. No, I don’t know any better description words.

The people are friendly, so if you taste wine be sure to ask if you can see the ancient wine cellar. Ask questions about wine and the area, buy wine (or don’t buy wine if you don’t feel like it) and don’t go to some less-heralded towns! We spent the end of our trip walking around Kaysersberg in a downpour, and I still think it was one of the best.

Just don’t tell them you live in the Vosges; unless you want to get razzed.

For my next trip, and for anyone who ever feels like joining me: I am totally going to do it by bike. And I am going to rent some tiny little apartment in a four-boulangerie town and use it like the hub of a wagon wheel. I took pictures of apartments for rent while in the street, but there are also sites like Homelidays and A-gites to help you find a little country pocket for the week.

Hugel and Sons in Riquewihr.

Munster Valley.

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