End of May 2013 the Alsace Wine Route will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Between Alsace and wine, it is a very old love story. The beginnings of viticulture in Alsace are dated back to the Roman period. On May 30, 1953, the Alsace Wine Route was officially launched by the tourist office on the occasion of a car rally. This makes it the eldest wine route in France. Two thousand years after the romans grew the first vineyards the Alsace Wine Route is more popular and successful than ever.

Vineyards near Zellenberg and Riquewihr on the Alsace Wine Route
Vineyards near Zellenberg and Riquewihr. Rhine valley and Black Forest in the background.

Some short thoughts about a long history

The beginnings of viticulture in Alsace are dated back to the Roman period. A few centuries later, the Alsatian wine is experiencing a revival under the influence of the monks and the monasteries. The earliest literary source mentioning viticulture in Alsace is from the early ninth century, attesting to the existence of wine production in more than 160 locations.

Historical wine cellar in Riquewihr - Maison Zimmer - 16th Century
Historical wine cellar in Riquewihr today – Maison Zimmer – The 16th Century was a golden age for wine in Alsace. In the Middle Ages, Alsace wines were famous. They were exported to the norther neighbour countries by the Ill and the Rhine but also a lot to Switzerland.

In the sixteenth century, the production area extended over two times larger than the current vineyard surface. Many buildings still preserved today, dating from the early Renaissance, attest to this flourishing period. From this period also dates the first attempt to establish a kind of AOC. An association of winemakers in Riquewihr then decided about the official start date of harvest, and defined the grape varieties to plant.
The old winery which is now our newest vacation rental property in Riquewihr dates back to that golden age (1580).

Unfortunately, the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) puts an end to this period of prosperity. The vineyard went through ups and downs until the end of WWII. In the second half of the 20th Century Alsatian wine began to focus on quality performance. The creation of the Alsace Wine Route dates back to that time.

May 30, 1953 – the Alsace Wine Route is officially launched

Medieval village Eguisheim
Medieval village Eguisheim, one of the most beautiful villages on the Alsace Wine Route

On May 30, 1953, the Alsace Wine Route was officially launched by the tourist office on the occasion of a car rally: two convoys took the road at the same time, one from the north end of the Alsatian vineyard in Marlenheim, and the other from the south end, Thann, and rolled out to meet one another. Several tastings and tours took place on the road. Despite the bad weather, the regional press has echoed this event as a starting signal for the successful Alsace Wine Route.

During the second half of the twentieth century, thanks to better infrastructure, the Alsace Wine Route welcomed an increasing number of visitors and benefited from an ever increasing popularity. The concept of the Alsace Wine Route combines the pleasures of wine, typical Alsatian cuisine and accommodation in the picturesque towns, visiting castles overlooking the vineyards and numerous art and cultural museums (without forgetting the wine museum in Kientzheim near Riquewihr).

Beautiful scenery and warm welcome

Alsace Wine Route - Vineyards near Colmar
Vineyards near Colmar, Riquewihr and Zellenberg. Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in the background. Even if only 67 of the 119 Alsatian wine producing towns are on the path of the Alsace Wine Rout as defined in May 1953 the scenic route passes close to more than 300 wineries and 48 of the 51 Grands Crus, on the way from Marlenheim to Thann from north to south.

From spring to autumn, the Alsace Wine Route is particularly beautiful. The months of July and August are conducive to wine festivals. Many villages and towns organize festivities. The best known is the Colmar Alsace Wines Fair every year in August for ten days. Autumn is the culmination of the growing season in Alsace with the beginning of the harvest and taste the new wine (vin nouveau). But most of the wineries are open all year round and invite fans to stop by for a wine tasting.

Riquewihr, a gem along the Alsace Wine Route

Main street in Riquewihr, a gem out of the wine golden age in the 16th Century.
Main street in Riquewihr, a gem out of the wine golden age in the 16th Century.
Many buildings still preserved today, dating from the early Renaissance, attest to this flourishing period. From this period also dates the first attempt to establish a kind of AOC. An association of winemakers in Riquewihr then decided about the official start date of harvest, and defined the grape varieties to plant.

Many good and even very famous winemakers are in our village Riquewihr and in the villages around Riquewihr. There are some important wineries but most of them are small family run estates. The bigger estates are running wine shops in the village where you may step in at any time during the day. In the small family estates, the winemaker himself or wife will let you taste their wines. Unless you are a very big buyer / client, there is no need to book a long time in advance. Just phone the day before. The weather and the work in the vineyard come first anyway. This means that even if you had an appointment a long time ahead, it might not work anyway.

Riquewihr seen from the famous Schoenenbourg vineyard
Riquewihr seen from the famous Schoenenbourg vineyard.
In the center of the picture: the old winery which is now our newest vacation rental property in Riquewihr dates back to that golden age (1580).

For well established wineries, you may contact HUGEL, DOPFF au MOULIN and DOPFF IRION (Chateau de Riquewihr).
For high quality family wineries, see Charles Sparr, Maison Zimmer, Frédéric Engel, Laurence and Philippe Greiner. All of them speak English and German.
The local tourist office in Riquewihr carries a set of hiking trails through the vineyards.

More info and pictures about wine and wine tasting in Riquewihr on our dedicated page of our personal website.

June 2, 2013 – “Slow Up” on the Alsace Wine Route!

The basic idea of the Slow Up (“slow down – pleasure up”) is to select around 30km of road in a remarkable landscape, close it to all motorised traffic for a day and plan a programme of various activities along its track, including cultural or musical entertainment, food stops, leisure activities and fun events for children.

Saint-Hippolyte on the Alsace Wine Route
Saint-Hippolyte on the Alsace Wine Route. Just nearby the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, Saint-Hippolyte is right in the middle of the track chosen for the “Slow-Up” event of June 2, 2013 and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Alsace Wine Route.

The event is held on the nearest weekend to the anniversary of the Alsace Wine Route (May 30, 1953). On the agenda is a day of celebration in a joyful, dynamic and attractive environment: the Wine Route between Chatenois and Bergheim will be reserved for visitors and participants riding bicycles, roller-skates, scooters, skateboards, roller-skis or just walking. Dress code is simple: just “all in white”, in honour of the local white wines! Whether you are interested in action or in relaxation, you will find something for you. Alsace has signed up to this utterly modern and courageous movement for the first time, by adopting the “slow attitude” on a section of its legendary Wine Route.

Useful links

Alsace Wine Route official website

Les Remparts de Riquewihr – new luxury holiday apartments created in an old historical winery facing the vineyards in Riquewihr.

6 Comments »

  1. Jean-Paul.

    This is a very interesting and informative post. The links are very helpful. We look forward to our two week stay with you in September, 2014, and traveling on the Alsace Wine Route.

    Paul

  2. Thank you! I am happy to learn you like it. It is all about being at the right place at the right time 🙂 But Alsace is definitely a region full of history and culture.