Alsace is a wine region in France, known for its charming villages, stunning countryside, and delicious, affordable white varietals. This guide shares tips for wine tasting on Alsace wine route, recommendations on where to stay, and the best wineries and restaurants to visit along the way.
About 300 miles east of Paris, the Alsace wine route, also known as the "Route des Vin," runs north to south along the eastern side of the Vosges mountains. For as long as I've known Mike, he's talked fondly about his weekend wine tasting getaways to this French region. So when Annie and I started planning our spring trip to France and Switzerland, I added a little stop between Paris and Zurich.
During our spring visit, we drove past sun-soaked vineyards and through lush green hills between the ~100 idyllic, pastel-painted medieval villages.
At every turn was another photo opp: Alsatian’s distinct half-timbered houses, overflowing flower boxes, and the occasional stork, perched on a chimney top. It’s said that Belle’s village in Beauty and the Beast is based on Colmar, the largest and most bustling village of Alsace. It's so picturesque that American and British military avoided bombing the historic city during WWII.
If you're a wine lover—it's a wonderful, unpretentious place to go wine tasting for a day or two. And even if you're not, visiting the brightly colored, fairytale villages is still magical.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE
1. Know that wine—and wine tasting—in Alsace is very affordable!
The Route des Vin feels like a far cry from say, Napa Valley: they're mostly unassuming, family owned wineries. Tastings are typically free, though it's customary to make a purchase afterwards. Relative to bottle prices in regions like Napa or Tuscany, wines are very reasonably priced in Alsace—most bottles we purchased ended up being no more than $20-30 USD.
2. You typically don't need appointments to stop in for tastings.
Most wine regions that we've visited around the world require appointments for wine tasting—even in areas that aren't *super* touristy, like Rioja and Portugal's Douro Valley. However, in the Alsace wine region, we found that visiting wineries was a casual affair. For the most part, you could pay a visit to any winery you stopped at along the route without an appointment. More often than not, it was one of the winemakers or family members who poured us tastings. If you do have any must-visit wineries you'd be crushed to miss though, I'd still call ahead of time to make sure they’ll be open and able to accommodate you.
3. Drive the Alsace wine route by car for the most flexibility.
Once you're in Alsace, I’d recommend having a car for the greatest flexibility around your itinerary. You'll find that GPS can be spotty, so it's best to rely on a paper map and a strong navigator sitting shotgun (hint: not me). As you're leaving a village, look for the burnt red signs that say "Route des Vins d'Alsace" which will indicate where to go. If for some reason you can't drive, you can also hike, catch taxis, or take minibus tours from village to village.
3. Don't leave without trying the riesling, gewurztraminer, and the cremant d'Alsace.
Unlike most French wines, Alsatian wines are labeled according to their grape varieties instead of where the grapes grow. The most highly regarded of the region are riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, and muscat. In the past I’ve incorrectly assumed that all rieslings are sweet, but the ones from this region are dry and wonderful. And I found that I loved the beautifully aromatic gewurztraminer, a wine that you don’t see that often in the states. All of the sparkling wine in Alsace is called cremant d’Alsace—it’s generally a high quality, affordable bubbly.
THE BEST ALSACE WINERIES TO VISIT
One of my go-to resources for wine trips is The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. Here are several other wineries she recommends—some of the most well-known winemakers in the region:
Lucien Albrecht (Orschwir)
Domaine Marcel Deiss (Bergheim)
Domaine Ostertag (Epfig)
Domaine Weinbach (Kientzheim)
Domaine Trimbach (Ribeauville)
Domaine Zind Humbrecht (Turckheim)
Domaines Schlumberger (Guebwiller)
During our visit, many of the region's bigger wineries were closed because it was the week of Easter. But instead of planning our stops, we'd park and poke our heads in when we stumbled on a place that looked interesting. Two of the stops we loved were:
Address : 33 Rue de la Montagne, 67140 Mittelbergheim, France
Phone : +33 3 88 08 95 80
Location : 19 Rue Basse du Rempart, 68240 Kaysersberg-Vineyard, France
Phone : +33 3 89 27 33 31
We absolutely loved the hospitality of the sweet couple that ran Stoll François. The green glass stems pictured are typical to Alsace. (And because we're suckers for glassware, we're now the proud owners of a set of delicate Alsatian wine glasses.)
WHERE TO WALK IN THE ALSACE VINEYARDS
While we didn't do any vineyard tours, along the drive, we found a little walking path up to the Point de Vue du Zotzenberg (Google map for the parking lot), where a short stroll through the vineyards brought us to a clearing with sweeping views of the nearby villages.
HOW TO DRIVE THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE BY CAR
This map of Alsace, France showing the main wine villages of the region. We took a 2.5 hour train ride from Paris to Strasbourg, stayed one night in Strasbourg. To drive the Alsace wine route by car, we rented a vehicle at the Strasbourg airport Hertz (about $150 USD for a 24-hour rental) and then went south on the wine route before dropping it in Colmar the following morning. You can also fly into one of Alsace’s two major international airports: Basel-Mulhouse (south end) and Strasbourg (north end).
WHERE TO STAY IN ALSACE
The wine route is dotted with dozens of charming villages where you can find a place to stay. You’ll find all types of accommodations, like Airbnbs, boutique hotels, homestays in the countryside, and bed and breakfasts in town.
Colmar is considered the capital of the Alsatian wine route and has the most going on—but of the villages, it’s also the most packed with tourists. Riquewihr, Ribeauville, or Kaysersberg (voted favorite town by the French in 2017) are a few of the best Alsace wine route villages, where you’ll be able to find shops, restaurants, and accommodations. If you’re interested in staying somewhere that's slightly more off the beaten path, the villages of Turckheim, Bergheim, Eguisheim, and Guebwiller also came highly recommended.
Because we were traveling from north to south, we spent one night in Strasbourg before our wine tasting day, and then ended the day Kaysersberg, which was toward the southern end of the route and close to Colmar.
WHERE TO EAT IN ALSACE
1. 1741 (Strasbourg)
We spent one night in Strasbourg before embarking on the wine route, and decided this would be our *special* meal of the trip. Bobby booked a spectacular tasting course with wine pairing at the Michelin-starred 1741. Opened in 2012, the restaurant is set in an early 19th-century mansion with four levels, tastefully decorated in Baroque boudoir style.
The lower floors feel like you're in the sitting room of a very chic French aunt. We sat on the top floor, which had a less formal feel and a view into the kitchen. We loved the course after course of elegant dishes, the pairings of local Alsatian rieslings and gewurztraminers, and the BUTTER—when a restaurant has the perfect butter, I know we're in a for a beautiful meal.
2. Restaurant du Chateau (Kaysersberg)
During our one night in Kaysersberg, we had dinner here on the recommendation of the hotel staff. The cozy restaurant sits across from a pretty fountain and church. The dishes were elegant, modern takes on traditional Alsatian food, and you'll love the cute decor, complete with whimsical heart-cutout chairs.
3. Auberge Le Brochet (Barr)
For lunch along the Route des Vin, we stopped at one of the oldest inns in Barr that was founded in 1514. Nestled in a cozy town square, the winstub (wine lounge) is a typical Alsatian restaurant that serves carafes of wine and many of their traditional foods, like tart flambé and sauerkraut. We also enjoyed the pike filet with Riesling sauce. They have a lovely patio with outdoor seating that would have been glorious for warmer weather.
Foods to Try in Alsace
Flammekueche is a must-try, especially for thin-crust pizza lovers. Also called tart flambé, it's a crispy, extra-thin flatbread smeared with fromage blanc (fresh white cheese) and heavy cream, then topped with smoked bacon and onions.
Choucroute garnie is essentially pork and sauerkraut (sauerkraut not pictured). This may have prevented us from getting too tipsy in the afternoon, but also made us a little sleepy.
White asparagus is also a regional specialty, produced by covering the shoots with soil to prevent photosynthesis. During asparagus season from April to June or so, you'll often see restaurants offering asparagus specials.
One last tip: Don't forget to look up! Above the half-timbered houses, you might spot a white stork—the official bird of Alsace.
I have such warm, fond memories of our <48 hours in Alsace and can't wait to experience it a second time. It'd make a great romantic getaway or quick weekend add-on to your visit to a major European city. And the next time, I might try to time a trip to indulge in Alsace's famous Christmas markets.
Almost a year later, my bottle of cremant d'Alsace—painstakingly schlepped from France and through Switzerland before making it home in my checked luggage—still sits in our wine fridge, waiting for a special occasion—or for the first time Bobby and Annie visit me together in Colorado!