One of the finest wine routes in Europe - Alsace, France: Two Cultures in one
Of all the French wine-growing areas, Alsace, close to the German border, stands apart. Its differences from the rest of France are obvious: The landscapes, the architecture, even the food, seem to have more connections with central Europe than with the rest of France. Place names and the local dialect are clearly more German than French.
Thanks to its rich architecture and cultural heritage, this wine-growing region attracts enthusiasts with a combination of wine and other pleasures. Today wine-tastings and visits are organized around innovative or more traditional local cuisine. Against the backdrop of magnificent landscapes and historical treasures, vineyards are the ideal setting for stays ranging from a long weekend to a weeks vacation with wine as the main theme.
Planning your visit:
Hugel et Fils, 3 Rue de la Premier Armee, 68340 Riquewihr, www.hugel.com One of the best established wine companies in Alsace, their base is an old building in the very touristic village of Riquewihr. A wider range of very good wines is produced.
Domaine Weinbach, Clos des Capucins, 68340 Kaysersberg, www.domainweinbach.com Unusual for the region, the premises lie outside the town in a former monastery, surrounded by walls. Run by three ladies, this is a model of a top-quality, small volume producer. One must book ahead, but tasting here can be a memorable experience. I have met the three ladies at an evening at the Vignerons at the Ritz in Paris, and their wines were truly outstanding.
Sleeping and eating
Alsace is a gastronomic paradise with good restaurants and may different price levels. Here are a couple of its up-market stars:
Au Crocodile, 10 Route de lOutre, Strasbourg, Alsace, France
The heart of this special Crocodile beats in the midst of the old town of Strasbourg. This tasteful setting is dedicated to the art of living under the watchful eye of Monique Jung in the dining room and Emile, her husband, in the kitchen. Devoted to bon vivants and lovers of rare emotions, the cuisine at the Crocodile sits very well with the cultural ambience and admirably marries the seasons past, present and future - in delicious, original dishes adorned with a pinch of soul.
Restaurant Burehiesel, 4 Parc de lOrangerie, Strasbourg, Alsace, France
This Molsheim farm was rebuilt in the Parc de lOrangerie for an exhibition in 1895. It has since become a luxurious dwelling whose extensive conservatory is housed in a glass prism. There you can savor the cuisine of Antoine and Eric Westermann, imbued with the richness of the Alsatian region, which the chef metamorphoses into astonishing creations like poularde de Bresse cuite comme un Baeckeoffe.
Relais & Chateaux in France
Hostellerie Abbaye de la Pommeraie, 8, avenue du Marchal-Foch , Selestat, Alsace, France
The Abbaye de la Pommeraie, once part of a Cistercian abbey, awaits you in the heart of one of the finest vineyards, in Slestat, the humanist centre of Alsace. You can be sure of a warm Alsatian welcome and will be thrilled with the attentive service of your hosts, by the elegant, spacious rooms looking onto the old town or garden. The cuisine in both the Prieur and the Apfelstuebel does full justice to the flavors and products of the region.
Chateau dAdomnil, 54300 Lunville (Meurthe-et-Moselle)
When the Duke of Lorraine created his own "petit Versailles" he built it in Lunville. Standing close by in a spacious park, the Chteau dAdomnil possesses the same architectural elegance. As the Lorraine light glints on the wood paneling and antique furniture of the chteaus interior, mallards glide around the moat outside. Refined cuisine is enhanced by a rare Ctes-de-Toul or a fruity Gewurztraminer.
Hostellerie La Chenaudire, Colroy-la-Roche, Alsace, France
Nestling between Alsace and the Vosges mountains, this picturesque residence features calm, comfortable rooms with breathtaking views of the mountains and forests. After relaxing in the sauna, whirlpool or indoor-pool, guests can choose between two restaurants, one offering gourmet cuisine, and the other regional specialties. The Hostellerie La Chenaudiere also offers their prestigious wines.
Any one of the three properties mentioned here would make a welcome and worthy addition to the Luxury Link portfolio.
A bit of History of Strasbourg, Obernai, Slestat and Haut-Koenigsbourg
Strasbourg, Capital of Europe, has 2000 years of history behind it but still resolutely looks towards the future.From the sublime Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Petite France district, not forgetting the Kammerzell House, Orangery Park or the Rohan Palace, the city has one of Europes most beautiful urban landscapes.
If, in addition, we take a proven culinary tradition and splendid Christmas market into account, it is clear why people persistently return to Strasbourg.
Obernai, birthplace of Ste-Odile, the patron saint of Alsace, combines a rich historical heritage (Six Seaux well, Church of St-Peter and Paul, cornhall) and high-class culinary tradition.
A few miles away, MountSte-Odile offers a superb panoramic view of the Alsatian plain. Further south, Haut-Koenigsbourg, a magnificent 12th century castle towers majestically more than 800 meters above the ground. Truly a must-see place.
Not far away, Slestat, the capital of humanism in the Renaissance, has one of the rare libraries still in existence devoted to this movement, as well as a very appealing old quarter (around the Churches of Ste-Foi and St-George).
What else to see and do
Unterlinden, Colmar, www.musee-underlinden.com
This privately owned museum is not to be missed. In the center of Colmar, it contains one of the masterpieces of medieval painting, the Rectable of Issenheim by Gruenwald, as well as a wonderful collection of gothic sculpture and much more.