Alsace - Part II

Having escaped Strasbourg with a little less drama than when we/I tried to drive out of Paris we headed straight for Cave de Ribeauville. Honestly, we were a little confused when we got there, all I can say is that we were out of practice tasting wine in France. We arrived, we weren’t too sure what is happening, we tasted some sparkling wine and then we bought a bottle, not knowing what else to do, and then we left. The sparkling was a good introduction to Crémant d'Alsace, which apparently is the most popular sparkling wine in France after champagne.

As an aside Ribeauvillé, one of the small towns on the wine route, is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. It’s a very traditional little town, surrounded by walls and with a good selection of lunch options, mostly based around potatoes, sausages, and cheese.

We stayed in an Airbnb and would recommend this approach a million times over the hotels that we flitted between the previous year. It was so much more relaxing, and so much less stress. Added to which we arrived on a Sunday, usually a day when EVERYTHING is closed, but luckily a pizza truck was pulling into the town carpark of the tiny village we were staying in just after we got there, and we were saved!

The next day we were up early to head up the hills to Husseren-les-Châteaux. And with this comes the most important piece of advice that I can offer you on wine tasting in Alsace, you should email ahead and book. These aren’t the big vineyards and tasting experiences that you might have had in the US. They are incredibly small places, and often you are tasting the wine with the winemaker, or at least someone who has been working at the vineyard for 20 years. They appreciate knowing you are coming and it will help avoid disappointment!

Domaine Kuentz-Bas has been producing wine since 1795. It’s up in the hills of the Vosges and is surrounded by its vines. Probably the least complex wines that we tasted, but it was the first stop. The wines were good, we particularly liked the Sylvaner and the Gewurztraminer and took a couple of bottles with us. The staff were also really helpful to two girls who probably looked a little lost, and one girl who was just throwing French verbs around like they were confetti!

We had finished with that tasting and had a couple of  hours to kill until the next appointment, so we headed to the local town to get some lunch. What I had imaged to be a charcuterie board or a small sandwich, turned into Rachel ordering a dish listed on the menu as ‘5 Meats.’ To this day we haven’t worked out what all 5 were, and that’s probably for the best.   

Domaine Barmès Buecher stole my heart and our tastebuds. The domain was created in 1985 with the marriage of Geneviève Buecher and François Barmès, the respective vineyards had been in their families since the 17th Century. The vineyard is biodynamic, based on the cycles of the moon and the planets. Or as Rachel will tell you, it involves obtaining a dead rabbit, burning it and then spraying the ashes throughout the vineyard to deter other rabbits. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the wine, but it was really good.

Geneviève helped us, and we tried most of their 31 wine inventory, which may account for the 6 bottles that we took with us and definitely couldn't fit in our suitcases. The wines were complex, delicate and yet full, and incredibly well-balanced. This was my first taste of the amazing wines that Alsace can, and does, produce.

IMG_0004.JPG

Geneviève helped us, and we tried most of their 31 wine inventory, which may account for the 6 bottles that we took with us and definitely couldn't fit in our suitcases. The wines were complex, delicate and yet full, and incredibly well-balanced. This was my first taste of the amazing wines that Alsace can, and does, produce.

When you hear that a wine was served at the dinner following the Obama Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and you are in the area, it’s worth stopping by. Trimbach is probably the name that many people know, if they know any wines from Alsace. The tasting room is a little more commercial than any other place that we went, you still have to go through the grape storage area and a working courtyard. The wines are really good, and very classically Alsacian, if you read this blog and want to try some wine from the region, you can’t go wrong with a Trimbach (and you will probably find it quite easily.)