The Alsace Wine Route is a 106 mile driving tour which winds through the vineyards and villages of this region of eastern France, and has been in existence since 1953. Also popular with bicyclists, the roads became too congested to be shared safely with cars and bikes, so in 2013 the Wine Bike Route was opened. This route is primarily composed of country farm roads and bike paths, although a few segments are on busier roads. Some segments are along the valley floor which keeps the route flat, or you can venture up into the foothills of the Vosges Mountains to make for a more challenging ride. Either way, vineyard views, charming towns, and historical architecture reward your efforts.
Wine is a big part of this region’s history and also current economy. Due to the Germanic influence (see our previous post: Alsace From the Ground Up), this is the only region in France where the variety of the grape is on the front label of the wine bottle. White wines comprise 90% of the harvest, with the remaining 10% being red wine, almost exclusively Pinot Noir. A sparkling wine is also made here, labeled Cremant since the name Champagne is reserved for sparking wines originating only in the Champagne region east of Paris.
The fabulous Issenheim Altarpiece by Mattias Grunewald is on display in the Unterlinden Museum in the Alsacian town of Colmar. This epic Renaissance piece was completed between 1512 and 1516. Composed of multiple hinged panels, it can be opened in multiple configurations. Our favorite panels, due to the colors still vivid after 500 years, show St. Anthony besieged by demons on the left panel and conferring with St. Paul on the right panel.
Art also can be found outdoors, such as this WWI and WWII memorial statue of a mother holding her two dead sons, both soldiers but with no uniforms, one looking west toward France and one looking east toward Germany, poignantly highlighting the cultural mixture in this region and the universality of human grief.
One last look at those beautiful half-timber houses which are so typical of this region, this time viewed from one of the canals in the Petit France neighborhood of Strasbourg.
With that, we say Au Revior to France and head back home. See you again soon.