It’s time to revisit Alsace outside of a Christmas context.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, Alsace is only on everyone’s list when it comes to Christmas vacation. And while I’m sure that the markets are magical, December is not a great time of year to visit vineyards. Not much going on in the vines at that time! At the very least, it sounds like the region merits at least two visits: one of the markets, and one for the wines. And indeed, the wines merit their own trip.
REASON #1 : GREAT VIEWS, AMAZING WEATHER
Like most all wine regions of the world, Alsace is stunning. But it is also known as France’s driest region, which means you’re likely to have excellent weather from spring all the way to early winter. I was there for a full week and I didn’t see a drop of rain or a cloud in the sky until the last day! While this was worrisome for my allergies (if you go in the spring don’t forget your meds!), it was fantastic for driving, taking photos, and exploring the vineyards.
REASON #2: RICH HISTORY
The history of Alsace is a long, winding road of invasion, possession, freedom, and victory. Today, Alsatians see themselves as their own ethnicity – neither French, nor German, but both: Alsatian. They celebrate the good and mourn the losses with a few fantastic museums scattered across Strasbourg and Colmar, which I highly recommend. Even if you’re not into museums, there are a lot of walking tours throughout the old towns and villages that are worth looking up. You’ll be amazed at the resiliency of the people of Alsace and their unwillingness to leave their homeland – I know I was!
REASON #3: FRIENDLY PEOPLE, TOURISM AT ITS BEST
French people are not known for being super hospitable to English-speaking tourists, let’s be honest, but Alsace is a different story. Its location puts it at the center of Europe, which means people from all across the continent come to visit. I’ve never seen so many retired Germans in my life than in Alsace, and I heard a lot of spoken Dutch, too! Hospitality staff are very friendly and will often ask you which language you prefer to speak in – English, German, or French. They all know enough to get by in all three, which makes it very easy to get around as an American.
REASON #4: INCREDIBLE WINES
Alsace wines are massively underrated. I’m not sure whether it’s because the “all Rieslings are cheap and sickly sweet” stereotype still exists to this day, or whether it’s something else entirely, but whatever the reason, it’s unfounded. Unlike Burgundy, for example, which really only focuses on two grape varieties (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Alsatian wines are incredibly diverse in style. From Riesling and Pinot Gris to Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, you’d be hard-pressed to go to this region without finding at least one wine you love. They also make stunning crémants and yes, a few dazzling Vendanges Tardives that will make you re-think your aversion to sweet wines.
REASON #5: EASY TO GET TO AND EASY TO GET AROUND
Like Champagne, Strasbourg is only two hours from Paris on the TGV. It’s also a very walkable city and has a great tram system. Renting a bike is a breeze (and a great way to fit in with the locals, too! They all bike.), and it’s just as easy to rent a car, find parking, and drive between villages, too. I’m a bit of a nervous driver stateside, but I found driving in Alsace to actually be relaxing! Rush hour in the evening can be tricky, but as long as you’re comfortable with roundabouts, you won’t have any trouble.
Overall, Alsace is a magnificent region with something to offer everyone. As one winemaker told me, “If you don’t find something you like in Alsace… you might not be able to find something you like anywhere.” I certainly found this to be true. From the views to the hospitality to the quality of the wines, this is a wine region that should be next on everyone’s hit list.