While I was away in Alsace it was my birthday and my gift from the OH (the other half!) was a wine tasting tour – the perfect present for me! Gorgeous vineyards, amazing ancient wine cellars, talking to people with such knowledge and passion for their subject and of course – getting to taste the wonderful wines of Alsace…
I’m not by any means a connoisseur of wines but I know what I like – red wine, not too dry. I also love the Cremants d’Alsace – sparkling wines which you can buy all over France, they make a pretty good champagne substitute. That’s about the extent of my knowledge generally but I learned quite a bit on this trip. I like Pinot Noir and I like Pinot Gris! I tried wines I’ve never had before – like Gewürztraminer, and wines I thought I’d grown out of like Riesling and liked all over again and came back with enough “souvenirs” to keep me going all year!
You can do a tour on a wine route through the country or even in a town! In the tiny town of Riquewihr for instance there are more than a dozen venues where local wine producers have a shop and wine tasting area and if you time it right you might be able to get a visit to the cellar! I’d recommend both – the town for a walking trip so that you don’t have to drive and taste and the wine route through the country because it is so beautiful and you’ll see some fabulous sights and meet some wonderful people.
I have to say, one of my favourites on the tour was the Henri Bleger premises in pretty St Hippolyte at the base of Chateau Koenigsbourg. Monsieur Bleger is a jolly man who looks like he enjoys his wine very much. Madame Bleger is kindness personified and encouraged me to try wines I wouldn’t normally go for – resulting in a renewed love of white wine!
After my wine tasting I was taken to one of the best restaurants in Alsace – Au Trotthus in Riquewihr. It was without doubt one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The restaurant is in an ancient 16th century wine makers house next to the famous “Thieves Tower”, although part of the walls are also the ramparts of the town and were built in 1291 – it is quite beautiful. The Michelin-starred chef Philippe Aubron came out and introduced himself to clients and was utterly charming. Pascal the Maitre d’ explained all the dishes and was such a good host we could have sat there all night!
I usually go for the regional specialities when I’m away – I like to try all the different things but I’ve got be honest – I’d had enough of chou croute and boiled sausages. I was so glad to see that Chef Aubron’s menu had some really fabulous haut cuisine dishes and I couldn’t resist the lamb with fresh peas and mint oil – he told us it had a slightly British influence! I didn’t think I’d manage desert but changed my mind when I saw my husband’s amazing apple tart with cinnamon ice cream. As the Chef makes everything from scratch I had to wait a while but it was worth every minute. It is the best apple tart and ice cream in the world – if you ever get to Au Trotthus and don’t order it – don’t blame me for missing out!
Finding Au Trotthus on the last night of my trip was a real coup. Monsieur Aubron is a famous chef and has worked all over France and indeed the world including long stints in Australia and Japan where he is extremely well known. He was the only foreigner to have operated a business in the secretive and very exclusive Geisha district in Gion where he had a restaurant – Philippe Aubron Gion, and was a TV Chef after appearing on the infamous TV Show Iron Chef. In fact he is possibly the most famous French chef in Japan.
And so ended our Alsace food and wine Road Trip. I loved the region for the mountains, beautiful chateaux, amazing architecture, ancient buildings, fabulous food, wonderful wine, friendly people, gorgeous old towns like Colmar, Riquewirh, Ribeauvillé, Bergheim and so many more, wine routes and vineyards…A bientôt Janine