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Alsace Wine Road - A Little Dissappointing

After quite a bit of research (RS, other tourist books, and even the Plus Beaux Villages published in France), I looked forward to the Alsace wine road as the highlight of our trip.

I am a big fan of timbered buildings, but after a while there needs to be more than just that. There are plenty of hillsides covered in commercial vines, there are very few tasting rooms, and the wine industry is not commercialized like in Bordeaux or Beaune.

• Colmar was enchanting - with the buildings, the small canals, the covered market, the street market, the rowdy wine tasting pavillian, etc
• Kaysersberg was good but just a crowd of tourists and not much more than blocks and blocks of timbered buildings.

• Riquewihr - expecting more, got less. Its smaller than Kaysersberg, more expensive to park, and on a big hill. Its slightly classier than Kaysersberg, but really not that a great of place at all, and not particulary scenic for photos compared to the other places. Even more full of tourists.

• Hunawihr - Good free parking, and no traffic. No tourists. Almost everything seems closed. Other than the church on the hill, not really scenic at all. Huge dissapointment.

Koenigsbourg - (Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg) - This is totally different any of the villages. This is not timbered village at all. This is fully reconstructed castle on a hill (akin to Carcassone) - which great views down on the valley, hiking trails, etc ... unfortunatley closed at 6 pm even in summer. So we didn't get to see anything inside. But walk around outside was nice, and various other toursits around too.

Posted by
5910 posts

Sorry you were disappointed. We went in early spring, visited all the places you mention, but saw few tourists. We found the wine villages very charming, stayed in Riquewehr. We were pleased to find Moroccan food on menus in addition to the German items.
The only place we didn't care for was Colmar. We found the WWII history compelling and reactions to us as Americans was so supportive due to our participation in WWII. Also stayed in Strasbourg which was a beautiful city. Each to their own.

Posted by
785 posts

You complain about tourists, but without them, why would there be tasting rooms or other attractions which you must have been seeking? I wonder what you were expecting. It's an active wine-growing region, not Disney World. I was there in June and didn't find the tourist crowd to be very bad, and I'm usually one to complain about too many tourists, too. It's a fine line. I am sorry you were disappointed. I loved the area.

Posted by
416 posts

We loved the area too. We stayed at a Gasthaus/Gite in Ribeauville for a week during late April/early May. We took many walks through the vineyards and small nearby towns. Loved walking from Ribeauville to Hunawihr and then to Riquewihr and back. Arrived in Riquewihr from the back road at the top of the hill. Lovely view down through the small town and into the valley below. We also drove around the valley and Vosges Mnts a bit. Lots of history both current and ancient in the area. It's too bad you were disappointed because we would go back in a heart beat.

Posted by
11743 posts

Truthfully, they run together in my head. I know I liked a couple above the others but would have to go back to my pictures to be accurate which ones suited me best. I liked the castle, too bad you didn't have a chance to see the inside.

Posted by
82 posts

There are plenty of tourists in Bordeaux, Beaune, or even Napa Valley, CA. But I never felt thronged by crowds as much, and without anything particularly interesting to see or do. They are not bad places, but I thought I would relate my experiences. We could have visited more little towns but we agreed better to move on.

Posted by
14016 posts

I loved the area. I visited in late June and midweek, so maybe there were fewer tourists. Of course there were tourists, many of them French and German, not a few Brits, but not many Americans. In the larger villages, I stopped in at the local TI, which had lots of tips on seeing some more interesting parts of the towns, some had self-guided walks. Since I was driving I stuck to one glass of wine at lunch, then tried more local wines at dinner, after I'd parked the car for the day.

The castle was interesting (lots of climbing up and down) but even more I enjoyed seeing, learning about and interacting with the Barbary ape colony at the nature reserve a short distance away ("Monkey Mountain").

In Hunawihr, where indeed there were almost no people out at mid-morning, I visited the ancient church - bell tower with 15th century frescoes, a 13th century graveyard. I climbed up to the organ loft, since there was someone practicing there and had a good chat with the organist and his friend.

Posted by
340 posts

To each his own, I guess. We were just there in June and loved it. There were a couple of days where the towns were packed, but that's how the townspeople make their living, so I can't object to that. We based in Colmar and loved it. One of our best meals in the region was at the Moroccan restaurant in Colmar. We did a private tasting at a small domaine in Riquhwihr, and got to spend an hour with the winegrower and maker himself. Hard to beat that. We just called the day before and set up an appointment. Bought a case of his wine which we really liked. We had a great time exploring Koenigsbourg. We arrived mid-afternoon so that we could see all of it before closing. The views were amazing from so high. All in all, I think one's attitude largely determines what kind of time is had.

Posted by
1008 posts

My wife and I spent 3 weeks based in Alsace (spending a good portion of it visiting parts of the Black Forest) and liked it a lot. September, not overly run with tourists. Having said that, like some other places we have visited, and also liked, we would probably not return. Some of the Black Forest villages we visited were just as attractive, if not more so, than the Alsace wine villages.

Admittedly, Alsace is not loaded with popular "attractions." We take it very slow and easy and try to include at least a short hike each day. This region is great for nice, scenic, quiet, not overly demanding hikes. For example, twice we walked from Riquewihr to Kaysersberg,via different routes, for lunch. A full day hike for the six wine village route, including the three castles in Ribeauville. Attractive villages anywhere, as a rule, will be busy with tourists. Alsace is not stunning but pretty and bucolic. There are attractive, non touristy villages, such as Dambach, Zellenberg and especially Bergheim. Wissembourg is a fantastic place, though somewhat further north. Restaurant food is generally very good for the price.

The main drag of Riquewihr is on a slope, I would hardly call it a big hill. You say you like timbered buildings then complain about blocks and blocks of them: Kaysersberg is really not that big. Yes, Haut-Koenigsbourg is not a village but is a fantastic visit, a pity you could not see the interior and wander the paths around it and down. The same with Mont Sainte-Odile.

Posted by
2847 posts

You clearly went to the wrong place. I've been to Alsace many times, as well as every other wine region in France, and Alsace is beautiful. This kind of sums up your mistake:

There are plenty of hillsides covered in commercial vines, there are very few tasting rooms, and the wine industry is not commercialized like in Bordeaux or Beaune.

Why are these commercial vines, especially when compared to Bordeaux, which is probably the most "commercial" wine region in France? As to tasting rooms, I found that pretty much every winery in Alsace had a tasting room which was open to visitors w/o appointment, unlike Bordeaux and Burgundy. Your comments as to Riquewihr and Hunawihr are even more off base. Please don't return.

Posted by
2004 posts

France is not the US, and the French wine industry is not like Napa valley. Some years ago (1985), I went to Bordeaux, expecting Napa in France. Nothing like it. We drove around, no tasting rooms, no nothing. We finally went to La Maison de Vin in Bordeaux. All was done by arranged trips.