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Alsace Wine Trail France
In this issue:
The Alsace Wine Route!
France Vacation

An Exceptional Geographical Location
Alsace benefits from a microclimate, which makes it the driest wine area of France...

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The Barrels Become Works of Art
Personalized, carved with decorations often recalling Greco-Latin mythology, it was traditionally offered as a wedding gift...

The “Gourmetage”
Negotiations were conducted according to very strict rules and under the vigilant eye of the only skilled intermediary: “the gourmet”, a type of estimator-broker...
The Rebirth of the Wines of Alsace To claim that the greenish color of the strange beverage thus obtained came from the glass and not from the wine, they poured it into a green colored stemmed glass...
Seven Noble Types of Grape for a Thousand Flavors!
All these wines are to be served cold...And keep the name of the grapes from which they come...
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Alsace Wine Trail France

Alsace Wine Trail France onjour ! This month, we would like to help you discover a magnificent area of France located four hundred and fifty kilometers (280 miles) east of Paris. Not only will amateurs of wines and food be enthusiastic, but also those who enjoy France's picturesque flower-decked villages and its medieval castles: Alsace's Wine Route and the two millenniums of its agitated history.
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The Alsace Wine Route
Alsace Wine Trail France

The Region of the "Thousand Villages"

Probably less known than the vineyards of Bordeaux or Burgundy, the vineyards of Alsace are among the oldest in France. As for the name "Alsace Wine Route", it has existed for only the past fifty years. It was created by the region's wine growers in love with their vineyard and concerned, after centuries of suffering, with regaining its letters of nobility. Today, this road has become a real enchantment to the eye and the wines it offers are a treat to the palate. The experts are not mistaken and the visitors - immediately enticed by the beauty of the villages that border it, by the perfection of the wines born on its slopes, and by the kindness of Alsatians who live here – all understand that the area unquestionably deserves a visit of a few days. A long multicolored and picturesque ribbon, bordered by vines perched proudly on their supports the wine trail stretches between the mountains of the Vosges and the Rhine River, a distance of one hundred and seventy kilometers, from Thann (city North-West of Mulhouse) to Marlenheim (city North-West of Strasbourg). This route, very pleasant to travel, is strewn with villages that closely number one hundred, each seemingly more charming than the next... villages with such special appeal that they earn for this region of France the title of the "Thousand Villages".

A Painful History

The appearance of the vine in Alsace goes back to well before the birth of Julius Caesar even if it is the Romans who improved its cultivation during the third century thus offering prosperity to the region thanks to their wine expertise. Thereafter, the abbeys and the churches that received many vines in donation shared, with the lords, the right to practice vine growing until the French Revolution. During the Middle Ages, the wine of Alsace was regarded as the best in Europe. Of course, at the time, the tastes of the consumers were not necessarily very refined. Thus, one did not hesitate to mix various types of grape to obtain wines that nowadays would be rated as rather poor. Nevertheless, Alsatian wines exported very well and local consumption brought riches to the area. Unfortunately, the terrible Thirty Years War, the centuries of war that followed, the invasions and the diseases brought about much destruction and suffering. It would be necessary to await the beginning of the twentieth century for the Alsatian vineyards to be reborn from their ashes, and the end of the Second World War for them to reach the perfection they can proudly boast today.

Alsace Wine Road France
Recipe for September 2004
The Kugelhopf, an Alsatian Cake Alsace Wine Route France
Kugelhopf, The Alsatian Cake
The Famous Alsatian Cake
Preparation Time: 50 minutes
8 Servings
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An Exceptional Geographical Location
If the course of history was long and unfavorable to Alsace, its geographical location, has, right from the start, constituted a major asset: distant from any maritime influence and protected by the Vosges, Alsace benefits from a microclimate, which makes it the driest wine area of France. In the summer, there is sufficient heat to ensure a slow maturation of the grapes, and these same grapes are also able, without any problems, to resist the rigorous cold of winter. The vine in Alsace, in contrast with the vineyards of the south of France, is maintained at a certain height above the ground in order to capture more sun and to be protected from the hoar frosts. Moreover, the geology of the area offers a true mosaic of soils: volcanic rocks, limestone, remains of granites or schist. A multitude of soils that accept different types of vines, offering, thanks to the expertise of the wine growers, a variety of more or less fruity wines... all delicious and of an exceptional quality.

Hotel Le Mandelberg in Mittelwihr in Alsace, France

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The Barrels Become Works of Art
If the Romans improved the culture of the vine, the Gauls can be proud to be the originators of its methods of transport and of its good conservation: skillful artisans, they were allotted the manufacture of the barrels, which very quickly replaced the Roman amphorae. Round in shape, they were much easier to roll and therefore easier to move. If the harvest of the grape requires very particular care, the storage of the wine is just as important. The cellar becomes the other home of the wine grower and the barrel is transformed into a jewel-box for the fine and noble wine. Made of oak – a resistant and green wood - the barrel favors the maturing and the development of the wine protected from air and light. In the Middle Ages, the barrel was the trademark of the wine grower. Personalized, carved with decorations often recalling Greco-Latin mythology, it was traditionally offered as a wedding gift. The styles vary with the times but one often finds marine themes with dolphins, whales, mermaids and even sea monsters. The bolt which closes the small door permitting the cleaning of the barrel often represents a mermaid, the symbol of seduction and fertility. The barrel becomes a work of art as much by its appearance as by the treasure it contains. The barrels stored in the cellars of the wine growers along the Alsace Wine Road are among the finest in France. If you go to Eguisheim, be sure to make a stop at Emile Beyer's cellar to see its impressive barrels and taste their wonderful wine.
Barrel at restaurant Le Fer Rouge in Colmar

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Alsace Wine Trail France The “Gourmetage”
Eguisheim Alsace Wine Trail France
During the Middle Ages, the sale of wines was very different from what it is today. Only the owners of the vineyards could sell their wine because there were no commercial intermediaries. From November to January, the owners traveled to the customers, or the client came to the vineyard in order to taste, buy the wine and then set off with his chosen cargo. Nevertheless, these negotiations were conducted according to very strict rules and under the vigilant eye of the only skilled intermediary: “the gourmet”, a type of estimator-broker. This person, under oath, was to sell the wine in the best possible interests of the wine growers and the owners but above all of the municipality, which of course levied a tax on the sale of the wines. The gourmet had the wines tasted and expertly commented on them. Respected yet feared, he made certain the wines were not adulterated or mixed and allotted fines to the offenders who did not comply with the rules.

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The Rebirth of the Wines of Alsace
It is impossible to speak about the wines of Alsace without evoking the vicissitudes of its history and of the wars that tore this area apart years ago. The rebirth of the wines of Alsace and the excellence of its nectar as we know it today are closely linked to the last four centuries of suffering and destruction. Between 1870 and 1945, torn apart and partitioned between France and Germany, Alsace saw its borders redrawn four different times. Even if, as early as the fifteenth century, the term "noble wine" makes its appearance, the wine growers cultivated primarily a very ordinary grape to obtain rather poor wines. Financially needy, they often settled for quantity rather than quality and often ineptly mixed various types of grape. In addition, so as to claim that the greenish color of the strange beverage thus obtained came from the glass and not from the wine, they poured it into a green colored stemmed glass - that same green that is still today the traditional color of the very beautiful wine glasses of Alsace...! At the beginning of the twentieth century, facing competition from the wines of other areas and from beer, the Alsatian wine growers decided to react. They banded together to modernize the Alsatian vineyards, to reduce their surface in order to cultivate only noble types of grape and from then on gave preference above all to quality.
Seven Noble Types of Grape for a Thousand Flavors!
Ribeauville Alsace Wine Trail France Thanks to their tenacity, their efforts and the love of their land, the Alsatian wine growers enjoyed a sweet revenge on the past. With just cause, they are today proud of their wines, separated into seven types of grape. The Muscat grape is the oldest and gives a fruity white wine with a dry character that distinguishes it from the sweeter wines of the south. The Riesling, a white, dry wine, delicately fruity wonderfully accompanies fish and true Alsatian sauerkraut. The Pinot Blanc is tender and delicate; Tokay, an Alsatian wine and not the one brought back from remote Hungary as the legend claims, is to be tasted with foie gras; the fresh and light Sylvaner marvellously accompanies fish and pork meats; the Gewurztraminer, vigorous and robust, is perfect as an aperitif or to accompany a dessert. Finally, the Black Pinot, the only grape in Alsace to produce a red or rosy wine, is particularly indicated to underline the savor of red meat or goat's cheese. All these wines are to be served cold. Caution! Contrary to the other French wines which bear the name of the place or the castle where they are cultivated, the wines of Alsace keep the name of the grapes from which they come (following the example of Californian wines, for example).
Invitation to Travel
To travel the "Alsace Wine Route", an astonishing region, rich and generous, will be a rewarding one hundred and seventy kilometers of true happiness. You will skirt hillside vineyards, perched high on their props and promising the best nectar; you will pass through picturesque and welcoming villages nestled at the foot of the Vosges inviting one to stroll; you will cross the ruins of proud castles of the Middle Ages, peacefully guarding the surrounding countryside; you will visit the cellars of the wine growers passioned by their trade and you will taste the best vintages... in moderation. Two to three days are a necessity to travel the Alsace Wine Route by car and to bring back unforgettable memories of your holidays there.



 
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