Monday, July 27, 2009
As you drive along the Route des Vins from Strassbourg in the north to Colmar about midway south, there is a lot to see and taste. Winetastings (degustations) are free and plentiful, so don’t be shy. My experience has been that the vintners are happy to see you. If you’re driving, you might want to wait until you’ve parked the car for the day. In Alsace, with its over 37,000 acres of vineyards, there’s a tasting waiting behind almost every door.
The region is not only known for its extremely conservative politicians; Alsace is also famous for producing world-class Gewurztraminer, a spicy, honey-gold wine with a dry finish. Don’t call it sweet; you might get a slap in the face. Bad Gewurztraminer is sweet; the good stuff has been fully fermented to be dry. It’s much more complex—like a voluptuous woman with a dry sense of humor.
In a town like Riquewihr, you’ll have dozens of chances to stop and taste the grapes, but the best place is at the top of the village near the tower. On the way up the main street, make sure you take the freshly baked macaroon being proffered to you (read shoved into your hand like a free sample of cocaine). The addictive coconut aroma in the village is coming from this bakery. Once you reach the tower at the top of the village, you’ll see a wine shop. The woman at Bernard Schwach who conducts the tastings—a voluptuous sweetheart herself in traditional Alsatian dress—must be the nicest person in Alsace. The tasting room is intimate—OK, cramped—but it’s worth it. This radiant woman will lead you through an enjoyable, informative tasting.
Hotels in Alsace are surprisingly affordable compared to hotels in larger cities. I’ve stayed in several of the villages—Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Ammerschwihr, and my favorite, Eguisheim. As you drive into this wheel-like Roman village from the south, you’ll end up on the main street quickly. The Hostellerie Du Pape, immediately on your right, offers comfortable rooms and the best sauerkraut garnished with potatoes and pork in its many varieties (choucroute garni) in town. A few years ago, in Eguisheim with a friend, we stayed in this hotel. Our friend’s room was just a few feet from the beautiful terrace where we dined (and wined) that evening—which was very fortunate for him.
A trip to Alsace is like a trip into a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. If you plan to make Alsace part of your European trip, I’ll be here to offer help. I’m crazy about the place. Truly...
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Fiction, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.