Who knew the Alsace region of France would look so…Bavarian? I probably shouldn’t say that, but still, it’s kind of hard to overlook: angled, exposed beams, heavy wood, and flowers that spill over from window boxes.
Alsace sits in an area molded by a frequently shifting French-German border, spending significant time under Germanic rule. It shares a similar dialect and gastronomy to the neighboring lands to the east. They also share the Rhine River and a love of winemaking.
So it all makes good sense. Except for one thing: To get from Bavaria to Alsace, you’ll cross through several German provinces whose architecture looks quite distinct (like Rheinland-Pfalz, where we live). There must be a logical explanation beyond the scope of this post . . . but then again, who really needs logic when in France?
We heard about a wine fair happening in the town of Ribeauvillé and decided to make that our first venture into French wine country. It’s just a couple hours away, so made a perfect weekend trip. The town is incredibly picturesque (see our photo gallery), as are the others nearby, with narrow, cobbled streets and buildings that share a Disney-like attention to color and cuteness. From what we heard, the trend intensifies further south. (We didn’t investigate because the Tour de France was passing through that very day, making traffic impossible.)
This particular one is set up in an auditorium with about six tables, which for a very measly entry fee gives access to hundreds and hundreds of wines. Each table represents a different varietal, namely Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Sparkling and dessert wines also show up for the occasion. Your only job is to choose which wineries and years to try, and then compare them to another, and then another. Keep an eye out for the ones most people seem to request, because there’s no skimping here on their fine reserves. Though overall too sweet for my taste (the driest Gewurztraminer available, served up by the son of one of the vineyard owners, still tasted semi-sweet), you can’t help but be impressed with how many wineries fit in to the tiny tri-town region, and how generously they pour.
And then the food: Some of the area’s best restaurants turn out to help you soak up the alcohol with perfectly grilled prawns, foie gras, chocolate truffles, and more. A few euro buy you a tapa-sized plate…paired with a full glass of wine!
So here’s our advice in a nutshell: For a fun time, skip lunch and then go to a regional French wine festival. With a little bit of luck, you’ll even find your way back to your ellusive B&B at the end of the night.