A vast majority of our visitors staying in one of our vacation rental apartments in Riquewihr, Alsace are interested in wine. Some of them are winemakers from other countries, sommeliers or just winelovers but all of them are curious to learn more about the wines of Alsace. Some of them also know that on the other side of the Rhine, barely an hour drive away from Riquewihr, the German winemakers of Baden and Kaiserstuhl deserve a visit. To make it short: the Upper Rhine valley is a wonderful travel destination for winelovers.
The Alsace wine region
Some years ago, the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel had picked Alsace as one of the greatest regions in the world to visit. It is very true that Alsace is one of the most beautiful and distinctive regions of France. Alsace is famous for its wine, gastronomy and wine tourism facilities.
Alsace has been a pioneer in wine tourism in France with the development of the Wine Route which has, over the past 60 years, contributed to the success of Alsace wines. Famous for its exceptional natural beauty, the Wine Route leads visitors across rows of undulating, vine-covered hills, and through delightful quaint villages with narrow streets and charming flower-decked houses.
The Alsace region is located in the North East corner of France, on the border with Germany and Switzerland. Situated on the Vosgian foothills, at an altitude of 200 to 400m the vineyards take great advantage of their exposure to the sun, particularly as the vines are conducted along high wires.
The Alsace Wine Route has become famous all over the world for its exceptional natural beauty and for the instant connection its visitors feel with the region and its growers. The Alsace Wine Route winds its way from north to south, for more than 170 kilometres (106 miles) along the eastern foothills of the Vosges.
Riquewihr is in the very heart of the Alsace vineyards, a major milestone on the Alsace wine route.
The Alsace region is famous for its production of aromatic white wines but more and more for excellent pinot noir red wines. Sheltered from western oceanic influences by the Vosges mountains, Alsace enjoys some of the lowest rainfall in France and Riquewihr is right in the middle of the driest area. It is blessed with a semi-continental climate – sunny, warm and dry, which while offering a fantastic advantage to tourists, also provides the perfect conditions for winemaking as it encourages the slow, extended ripening of the grapes, resulting in elegant, complex aromas and flavors.
Within a very short radius from Riquewihr there are other famous villages with excellent wines: Zellenberg, Beblenheim and Mittelwihr are just outside Riquewihr; Ribeauvillé, Bergheim, Rodern, Saint-Hippolyte and Scherwiller are on the wine route towards the north. Sigolsheim, Kintzheim, Kaysersberg, Ammerschwihr, Niedermorschwihr, Turkheim and Eguisheim are located on a short distance south.
Kaiserstuhl wine area in nearby Germany
The Kaiserstuhl (literally: “Emperor’s Chair”) is a range of hills in the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. It is of volcanic origin and located in the southwest of the state in the counties of Emmendingen and Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald. In terms of natural regions it is considered to be a part of the Upper Rhine Plain.
The Kaiserstuhl is about 15 km long. Its maximum width is about 12.5 km. When looking out of the window of our White Stork or Alsatian Hart holiday apartments in Riquewihr you have a good chance to see that hills half way to the Black Forest mountains in the background.
The volcanic rocks making up a large part of the central and western Kaiserstuhl were the result of numerous volcanic eruptions about 19 to 16 million years ago. The Kaiserstuhl is today largely covered by a Quaternary loess layer, a loosely cemented sediment. It is derived from other rocks through erosion and is then transported by the wind.
The Kaiserstuhl loess soils are used for intensive farming, as they offer good areation, high water storage capacities and good mechanical qualities. The Kaiserstuhl is one of the warmest regions in Germany. Because of its loess covered volcanic soils it is also a very good wine-producing region. The Kaiserstuhl and its surrounding area is a region of intense wine growing. Wines from the Kaiserstuhl have achieved an excellent reputation which has by now become international. The bigger part of the available area is covered with vineyards. They are either run as parts of winemaking cooperatives or property of private wineries.
It would be very time consuming to reach the wineries in the Kaiserstuhl by public transportation. Although it is not far away at all, believe it or not, there is still no direct train connection between Colmar (France) and Freiburg (Germany) 70 years after the end of WWII. A private car remains the best option. Once again, if you do not wish to drive (it is understandable and wise) when on a wine tasting excursion, the best option is to hire the services of a VTC (véhicule de tourisme avec chauffeur) for the day.
Hints & tips, addresses of good wine estates
I am very pleased to share with you my prefered addresses for good wines. In Alsace alone there is a thousand of winemakers. The ones I will share with you are not the only good ones. But at least I know them personnally and was able to taste and like their wines. Do not expect any classification among them or any list of any kind of “TOP xx wineries”.
Each wine estate is different. Different history, different terroir, different ways of making wine, different people. Different wines. How can it be possible to come out with a ranking of any kind? I am not interested in judging and evaluating wines and vintages. There are a lot of specialists out there who do that much better than I would do. I am not that much interested in a clinical type of wine tasting. Good wine is not enough. It must be made by good people. The places I will share with you are picked among my personal experiences in a very subjective way. I hope you will like them.