Alsace: an essential wine region

vignoble alsace

Alsace: an essential wine region. Alsace is a historic and cultural region located in eastern France, between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River. It is known for its picturesque beauty, unique culture, rich history, and delicious cuisine.

Alsace has a rich and complex history that dates back to ancient times. It was conquered by the Romans and then was the scene of conflicts between the French and Germans for centuries. It came under German control several times throughout history before finally returning to France after World War II.

An unforgettable invitation; a dream come true…

In the fall, I was invited to Petit Wettolsheim to stay at the estate and experience the grape harvest in the small village of Wettolsheim, in Alsace, France. Located between Colmar, the capital of Alsace wines, and Eguisheim, the birthplace of the vineyard.

Petit Wettolsheim is a small Alsatian village located in the wine region of Colmar, in Haut-Rhin. The village is surrounded by vineyards and is known for its quality wines produced by local winemakers.

The village has a rich history dating back to the Roman era. Over the centuries, Petit Wettolsheim has undergone several changes and has been marked by the influence of various cultures. Today, the village retains some of its historical and architectural heritage, with traditional Alsatian houses and an 18th-century church.

In addition to its cultural heritage, Petit Wettolsheim is also known for its Alsace wines, particularly the Gewurztraminer, an aromatic and fruity grape variety that grows well in the region’s soils. Local winemakers offer wine tastings and cellar tours, allowing visitors to discover the secrets of Alsace wine production and taste quality wines produced locally.

7 days in the vineyards of Alsace, France
The Petit Wettolsheim, 57 rue d’Eguisheim, France

Finally, Alsace is also famous for its wine production, especially white wines such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Alsatian wines are known for their purity, acidity, and ability to pair well with a wide variety of dishes.

The Bucher family is a family of Alsatian winemakers who have been producing wine for at least four generations. Their vineyard is located in Petit Wettolsheim, in the wine region of Colmar, in the Haut-Rhin department.

The estate covers an area of 15 hectares and is planted with traditional Alsatian grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. The grapes are hand-picked and vinified using traditional methods to produce fine and elegant wines that reflect the unique terroir of the region.

The Bucher family is known for their craftsmanship and commitment to quality. They have won numerous awards for their wines, including several gold and silver medals at the Alsace wine competition.

The estate is open to visitors for wine tastings and cellar tours, where visitors can discover the secrets of Alsatian wine production and taste locally produced wines. The Bucher family is also committed to environmental protection and uses sustainable farming practices to preserve biodiversity and soil quality.

It's me at 24 years old living a dream!
It’s me at 24 years old living a dream!

As a trained sommelier and Canadian-French origin, this trip was an incredible opportunity for me to visit vineyards and taste wines that I could never have imagined. Alsace is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with its gastronomic richness, history, and the kindness of its people, which will remain etched in my heart. I will forever be grateful for this unforgettable adventure.

7 days in the vineyards of Alsace, France
Alsace: an essential wine region.

The grape harvest at Petit Wettolsheim

The Alsace vineyard, which extends over a band of 15 km wide and 100 km long, stretches across one of the most formidable geological faults in Europe. This line of terraces, the sub-Vosges hills at the foot of the Vosges massif and above the Alsace plain, is both protected from oceanic influences and well-exposed to sunlight. Its location is much more favorable than that of the German vineyard, which faces it on the other side of the river.

I had the chance to experience the grape harvest at Petit Wettolsheim, and it was a memorable experience. The vineyard workers were busy picking grapes and transporting them to the pressing station. I got to taste the freshly pressed grape juice, which was sweet and aromatic, and had a deeper appreciation for the hard work that goes into making wine.”

“The wines of Alsace come from 7 grape varieties: Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir.”

In September, the grape harvesters are hard at work, and my hosts, Annick (standing on the left) and Jean-Marc Buecher, generously provide French-style catering service to all their grape pickers every day. It’s a well-appreciated meal!

The grape harvest season is a festivity that is prepared for every year. The Wine Club of Petit Wettolsheim gathered for a walk through the vineyard. After enjoying the grape picker’s breakfast together, Jean-Marc gave the signal to start the walk. The walk through the vineyard was punctuated by several tasting stops. After a few hours of hiking, the walkers were rewarded for their efforts with a country-style buffet waiting for them in the vineyards under a bright autumn sun.

The traditional Alsatian bread is called “pain d’épices” or “Lebkuchen” in German. It is a sweet and spicy bread made with flour, honey, spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and sometimes with dried fruits like almonds, walnuts or raisins.

It is often decorated with frosting or a thin layer of chocolate and can be enjoyed as a dessert or with a glass of mulled wine during the Alsatian Christmas markets.

However, there are also other types of traditional bread in Alsace, such as “Kougelhopf”, a brioche bread with raisins and almonds, or “pain de seigle”, a dense and rustic rye bread often served with charcuterie or cheese.

The Bretzel bread

The Bretzel bread is an Alsatian specialty that is also very popular in Germany and Austria. It is a salted bread in the shape of a twisted knot, which is usually sprinkled with coarse salt before being baked. The dough is traditionally made with flour, water, yeast, salt and sometimes malt.

The Bretzel bread is often consumed as a snack or with beer in biergartens or breweries. It is also often sold in Alsatian bakeries and markets.

There are several legends about the origin of the Bretzel bread, but it is often said to have been invented by monks in the 7th century who wanted to create a bread in the shape of crossed arms to symbolize prayer. Today, Bretzel bread is a symbol of Alsatian culture and is enjoyed worldwide for its unique taste and characteristic shape.

During my stay in Alsace, I had the opportunity to have a unique experience by having a huge picnic in the vineyards. It was a sunny day and we decided to venture into the vineyards with friends and food for a picnic.

A unique experience was having a massive country-style buffet in the vineyards.

We found a perfect spot with stunning views of the vineyards, set up large tables, and pulled out baskets filled with cheese, charcuterie, fresh fruit, and local wine. We spent a peaceful afternoon, enjoying the scenery and each other’s company.

It was an unforgettable experience that allowed me to discover Alsace from a different angle, while appreciating the wonders of Alsatian nature and gastronomy.

At every street corner, there’s a wine cellar

The Alsace Wine Route, known throughout the world, has undoubtedly contributed to the fame of Alsace wines. Everywhere you look, there are impeccable vineyards, villages surrounded by old ramparts, half-timbered houses, Romanesque or Gothic churches, and welcoming wine cellars.

The Wine Route winds through the hills of the vineyard from north to south for over 170 kilometers. It is an enchanting route, passing through picturesque towns, flowered villages with narrow streets, and unique houses clustered around their church steeples. It is the best way to meet winemakers and to taste their wines at the leisurely pace of a walker. There are so many options to choose from.

Paul Schneider: a renowned Alsatian winemaker

Paul Schneider is a renowned Alsatian winemaker, whose family has been cultivating vines for over 200 years. Located in Beblenheim, in the Haut-Rhin department, the Paul Schneider estate produces high-quality Alsace wines using traditional cultivation and winemaking techniques.

The estate mainly cultivates classic Alsatian grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir, as well as rarer grape varieties such as Klevener de Heiligenstein, a white grape variety that only grows in a few plots around the village of Heiligenstein.

Paul Schneider’s wines are often described as elegant, complex, and aromatic, reflecting the Alsatian terroir and the Schneider family’s expertise. The estate also welcomes visitors for tastings and cellar tours, allowing wine enthusiasts to discover the secrets of producing high-quality Alsace wines.

The Freudenreich brothers are a family of Alsatian winemakers

The Freudenreich brothers are a family of Alsatian winemakers

The Freudenreich brothers are a family of Alsatian winemakers, whose vineyards are located in the Munster Valley, in the Haut-Rhin region. The family has been cultivating grapes since 1630, and since then, they have specialized in producing high-quality organic wines using traditional and environmentally friendly viticulture methods.

The Freudenreich brothers primarily produce Alsatian white wines such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat, as well as red wines such as Pinot Noir. Their wines are often described as being refined, elegant, and complex, reflecting the unique terroir of the Munster Valley.

The Freudenreich brothers’ estate is open to visitors for wine tastings and cellar tours, allowing wine enthusiasts to discover the secrets of producing high-quality organic Alsatian wines. They are also committed to promoting organic farming and environmental protection in Alsace, using sustainable agricultural practices to preserve biodiversity and soil quality.

The ramparts of Eghuisem

The ramparts of Eguisheim

Eguisheim is one of the most typical villages in Haut-Rhin. With its numerous alleyways surrounded by ramparts, colorful half-timbered houses blend in with old Romanesque churches. Built around its castle, this medieval city unfolds in concentric circles, making it stunning! Fountains, courtyards, and the church located in the center of the village offer visitors beautiful discoveries. In 2013, Eguisheim was even voted “Favorite Village of the French”!

Alsatian houses are one of the most iconic features of the region. They are easily recognizable thanks to their unique architecture that reflects both French and German influences.

Alsatian houses are usually built of stone or wood, with steeply pitched roofs covered in terracotta or slate tiles. They are often adorned with half-timbering, which are carved and interlaced wooden elements that create a structural support for the walls. The half-timbering is often painted white and the walls are typically painted in shades of red or ochre.

The windows are often large and symmetrical on either side of the front door. Shutters are also a common feature of Alsatian houses and can be painted in a variety of colors. Alsatian houses are often adorned with flower pots and garlands of green leaves, adding a touch of color and life to these picturesque buildings.

Alsacian houses are often built with an inner courtyard, which can be used for storing gardening tools, bicycles, or creating a garden. Traditional Alsacian houses are also equipped with a tiled stove, which serves to heat the rooms of the house during winter. These stoves often have intricate designs and are true works of art.

Overall, Alsatian houses are a key element of the architecture and cultural identity of the region. Their unique design, rustic charm, and history make them a fascinating subject for tourists and architecture enthusiasts.

Eguisheim and Pope Leo IX

A day in Colmar

Colmar is a town located in the historic region of Alsace in eastern France. It is situated in the heart of the Alsace wine route and is considered one of the most beautiful towns in the region.

Colmar is famous for its well-preserved historic center, which boasts numerous picturesque buildings dating back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. The town is also known for its canals, which run through the old town and are reminiscent of the canals in Venice.

Located in the center of Alsace, Colmar is a city of great cultural richness, first mentioned in 823. The city has many monuments and typical neighborhoods, including the Unterlinden and Auguste Bartholdi museums. It also hosts one of the most enchanting Christmas markets in Alsace every year!

Colmar is located in northeastern France, in close proximity to the German border. This has resulted in a unique blend of Franco-German architecture, in playful colors that really come alive in the spring/summer with fresh flowers.

The city is also known for its cultural heritage, with several interesting museums, including the Unterlinden Museum which houses the famous Isenheim Altarpiece, a religious artwork from the Renaissance. There is also a museum of contemporary art, a fine arts museum, and a toy museum.

As Colmar was the last city to be liberated after World War II, German influence is very noticeable in most buildings in the oldest part of the city, many of which are incredibly well-preserved and painted in bright colors. The entire region of Alsace has changed nationalities between French and German throughout history, so the unique mix of architecture is the biggest draw for many visitors coming to see this colorful and idyllic city.

The Saint-Martin Cathedral of Colmar” is the most important religious building in the city of Colmar, in Alsace, and one of the largest Gothic churches in Haut-Rhin.
The Colmar Town Hall is located on the Place de l’Ancienne Douane (Old Customs Square).

The region is famous for its picturesque cities, such as Strasbourg, Colmar, and Mulhouse, all of which are rich in historical architecture and Alsatian charm. Strasbourg is also the seat of the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights.

Colmar has excellent restaurants and an abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants. So be sure to choose your preference and make a reservation in advance to secure a table.
Le Fer Rouge is a restaurant that serves Alsatian specialties in a dining room with checkered tablecloths and numerous paintings.

Alsace is also known for its delicious cuisine, which combines French and German influences. Traditional Alsatian dishes such as choucroute, baeckeoffe, and flammekueche are enjoyed worldwide.

A historical and architectural heritage and a district of “Little Venice”

The Little Venice neighborhood is one of the main tourist attractions in Colmar. It is a picturesque area of colorful houses lining the canals, with many restaurants, cafes, and local craft shops.

A boat tour on the canals in the “Little Venice” is one of the most iconic things to do in Colmar. The short boat ride is a great way to see the city from the water and is really popular in the summer. It’s best to do it early in the day to avoid crowds. If you have more than one day in Colmar, another great activity is renting a bike and cycling part of the Alsace Wine Route. It’s a great way to see the countryside as well as the beautiful neighboring village of Eguisheim.

In summary, Colmar is a charming and picturesque town that offers a unique combination of history, culture, gastronomy, and wine. It is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world, who come to discover its Alsatian charm and picturesque beauty.

Overall, Alsace is a beautiful and culturally rich region that deserves to be explored. Its picturesque beauty, fascinating history, and delicious cuisine make it a popular destination for travelers from all over the world.

Thank you to Le Petit Wettolsheim for welcoming me to discover Alsace!

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