Wine & Dine in Alsace
Alsace may be off the main French tourism trail but visitors who enjoy great food and wine while they are on vacation should think seriously about visiting the region. Alsace is smaller than all other French regions, and prettier than most, and it can lay claim to being the country's leading area for food and wine as the region boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in France other than Paris, and produces world-famous wines.
Jean-Yves Schillinger operates restaurant JYS (one Michelin star) in his hometown of Colmar. There he serves what he calls "la cuisine du monde," or global cuisine, such as caramelized sweetbreads in carrot jus with lotus root and bok choi; skate with ginger confit, lemon grass foam and warm caper-olive vinaigrette; and his own version of a hamburger that's made with French beef and served with pommes soufflés. For the story, before the opening of his restaurant in Alsace, he first worked in New-York...
One restaurant that glitters brightly amongst all the many Alsatian Michelin stars is the famous Auberge de I'lll in Illhaueser), which has held its trio of stars since 1967. Here Chef Marc Haeberlin offers his customers his signature chicken and duck's liver pate in a goat's cheese crust with truffles and nut and grape jelly from a classic menu of mouthwatering dishes.
But visitors in the beautiful region of Alsace do not necessarily have to head to one of these gourmet restaurants to enjoy great food. Winstubs are a type of bistro, unique to the region, where visitors and locals alike can enjoy many specialities including choucroute, baekeoffe and tarte flambee. There are more than one hundred winstubs to be found throughout Alsace and the very name guarantees their authenticity.
All this good food needs to be washed down with fine wine - a perfect pairing with the world-famous dry, aromatic AOC Alsace and AOC Alsace Grand Cru wines, 91% of which are white.
As far as wine-producing is concerned, Alsace is small and perfectly laid out. Within the region's 8283 square kilometres there are over 15,000 hectares of AOC vineyards producing around 160 million bottles of wine per year.
Touring the vineyards of Alsace during early autumn is an experience not to be missed, when there are many opportunities for motorists, cyclists and walkers alike along the official 170 kilometre Route des Vins. It runs from Marlenheim, northwest of the regional capital Strasbourg, to Thann, south of Colmar, through the Alsace plain and the foothills of the Vosges mountains.
All along the route, as it winds through pretty villages and past medieval castles, there are countless opportunities to stop for tastings and pick up bottles of wines at vineyards. Well-marked trails lead off the main route, up through the vineyards, providing ideal opportunities for walking. Annual wine festivals take place in Eguisheim, Molsheim and Obernai during the October harvest.
Most of the villages along the route have small family-run hotels (or auberges) with plenty of vacancies at the end of the main holiday season, offering a warm welcome and fine food.