The Alsace Wine Region.

A selection of Alsace's finest.Following on from a successful mini adventure along the River Moselle, we embarked on stage two of our early summer outing. Which was to visit the age old wine villages of the Alsace Wine Route.

This is actually referred to as the Ribeauville and Riquewihr Region. Imagine a diamond shape area on the map with the four villages of Saint-Hippplyte in the north, Bennwihr in the south, Illhaeusern in the east and Aubure in the west. Within their visual geographic outer boundaries are another twelve towns or villages that make up The Ribeauville-Riquewihr Region. Here they grow the seven varieties of grape, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer that produce their excellent mostly dry wines.


                     The first gem of a village, lovely Equisheim.

Side street, EquisheimThe old church and fountain in Equisheim.

 The medieval village just overflows with character and charm. Only a few minutes stroll from the campsite it has one main street straight through the centre then an inner narrow circular street encompassing the village. Every dwelling, shop and    eating place seems half-timbered and decked in colourful Geraniums and other flowers. There are ancient fountains and a yellow sandstone church complete with 13th century statue. The street map leaflet supplied by the helpful Tourist Office contained a rather informative list of eighteen points of interest all numbered on the map, encouraging one to explore the village. Surrounded by vineyards with their beckoning trails and with huge White Storks flying and nesting on specially constructed rooftop platforms it was easy to linger for several days.

Our corner Bretzellerie.

Which we did, enabling us to enjoy the delicious Bretsels from the corner shop in the village centre.

..Street sign.

As this is a famous wine growing part of France the weather generally tends to be dry and hot during the summer months. This we found to be generally so, so were surprised to have a tremendous thunder-storm one evening whilst enjoying a wine-tasting session on the campsite laid on by a local wine producer, Paul and Philippe Zinck. The wines on offer were a typical sample of Alsace wines, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. Sampled and bought by us as o.k.

High on a hill overlooking our campsite stands the remains of Three Castles; a leaflet from the site reception describes a circular walk up to them, this was our next challenge. On a hot afternoon we set off along little lanes, through vineyards (where small tractors were spraying the vines) and zigzagged up through steep woodland. Eventually we reached the old ruins and the views out, down and around the valley floor were spectacular. You could see over to Colmar and the mountains of Germany beyond. The walk down was a lot easier with more paths through the trees, vineyards and the pretty little village of Hussern. After a total of six miles of mixed terrain we were relieved to reach our home on wheels and renew our acquaintance with Mr Zinck’s grapes.

Thanks mum.

Where's our dinner.

Outside the campsite entrance there was a small breeding centre including a viewing area for the White Storks to maintain the village’s numbers. No admission charge only donations. On our visit we were fortunate to see the adult birds feeding their young.

Busy Ribeauville main street.

All too soon it was time to carry on along the Vin de Rue to our next ancient village, Ribeauville just sixteen miles away. The leaflet on Ribeauville was a splendid piece of information, on its map and following pages it listed 36 places of interest to be seen on a circular walk within the town’s outer streets.After settling in on our spacious pitch we strolled the pleasant ten minute walk into the small town. The thing that one notices is the amount of wine shops and caves (to be expected I suppose). Once again the shops and dwellings either side of the narrow main street were mostly half-timbered and decorative.

The bubble blowing bear in shop window Ribeauville.

If you ever visit look out for the bubble blowing bear above the toy shop doorway. Half way up the street is a large square, which on the Saturday was filled with colourful market stalls selling all sorts of farm produce. The smells and aromas of the local cheeses, garlic and exotic herbs all added to the delight of the place.

Our campsite visitor.


Back at base-camp we were greeted by a lone White Stork casually strutting around.


Bergheim's impressive gateway.


As the weather was now quite hot again we thought a gentle cycle-ride to the next village, Bergheim, only a couple of miles away was in order.


As with most of the lanes, tracks and trails in the region it was well marked and easy going. Bergheim, The Town of the Witches as it’s advertised is really only a small village.

Bergheim's rampart.

Although it does have a rather impressive gateway and unique rampart that allows you to walk all round the upper perimeter. Again another leaflet had a map and details of an interesting discovery trail of 25 places to find and view. These include a 14th century church, clog makers house, German military cemetery and the strangely named Witches House, now a museum of Bergheim’s sorcery trials during the 16th and 17th centuries. Number one on the map is in the public gardens and is a Lime tree, reputed to date back to 1300 making it the oldest tree in the Alsace and it still flowers annually.

Riquewihr's Porte Haute.

Although the temperature was now in the mid thirties we decided another leisurely cycle ride would be in order. As the old walled town of Riquewihr was only about four miles away it seemed an ideal destination.Arriving at our chosen town we sought shade for a picnic lunch opposite the magnificent town gateway, La Porte Haute (Upper Gate).

Riquewihr's old Portcullis.

This really is impressive, built in the late 13th century it houses a huge heavy two leaf door and one of the oldest portcullis in Europe. Being similar to some of the other wine producing towns and villages of the region this one was surrounded by ramparts, first built in the 13th century and later strengthened in the 16th century.

Entering the ancient town through the gateway was like stepping back in time, like a time capsule of old France, even some trades people were in tradition dress. The buildings were as we had come to expect within these walled towns, half timbered, mostly large, a lot having carved beams and bedecked with bright flowers and very pleasing on the eye. It is easy to see why this town is in France’s “Plus Beaux Villages de France “(Most Beautiful Villages in France) category. A lovely ride back, past and through the vineyards that surround this town and the village of Zellenberg. Cycling by the Stork and Otter reserve we saw what seemed like dozens of these huge birds in the trees and in the air. Like prehistoric birds circling their prey.

Even though neither of us can lay claim to be wine buffs of any sort we did find the whole experience, from the surprise campsite wine tasting evening to the huge variety of wine caves and shops displaying their various wares outside, a very enjoyable one. The walking amongst the vines along the marked vineyard trails was also a lovely way to spend an afternoon prior to chilling out with a glass or two of the local alcoholic beverage.

We’ll probably return.

This entry was posted in France. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.