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Alsace Wine Route - what to expect, a few questions

My wife and I are spending 4 nights along the Alsace routes des vins in mid-August. We've already booked lodging, and I just have a few questions I would love some help with.

  1. We'd love to visit, and I suppose tour, some wineries throughout the region. Do you typically need appointments, or do we just show up?
  2. What should we expect from the wineries itself - a guided tour (in English) plus tasting, ending with bottle sales?
  3. We will have a rental car, but I've read that France is very strict on drinking and driving, and it's best to avoid even after only 1-2 glasses of wine. Is it easy enough to navigate between wineries and the nearby towns via bicycle?
  4. Any particular wineries you recommend, perhaps ones that are especially scenic or friendly?
  5. I understand the regional food can be heavy on the German sausage/potato influence, but that can also be easily avoided in favor of traditional French fare. Any thoughts on this, or restaurant recommendations? (Casual & upscale is fine, but we're not chasing after Michelin stars).
  6. I've read about walking paths through vineyards that are self-guided. This sounds lovely... are there any that stand out? Do we find them in the villages themselves?

Thanks so much for your help!

Posted by
785 posts

We will be there in two weeks and I was just doing research on these same questions myself. I am very interested in the responses as all my searching hasn't come up with much in the way of specifics. I'm especially interested in any first-hand accounts of the full-day small group wine tasting tours originating in Colmar, because we, too, would like to avoid driving. Thanks for reading my mind and posting the questions. :)

Posted by
103 posts

The old custom house on Place Schwendi in Colmar hosts different vintners for a week or two dispensing their wines at a fair price, by various volumes, including the bottle. You can bring your own food and have a very nice time at picnic tables provided both outside and under cover. If you stay in Colmar, this saves you the drinking and driving issue. Bicycling between wineries is an option, distances can be substantial--put your itinerary in google maps to get a sense of distance. It depends on your alcohol tolerance and biking fitness, I suppose. Larger wineries have staff and can handle drop ins, smaller ones do not. If you have interest in a specific winery, call ahead. Posted menus will provide you with an idea if the fare is to your liking. Alsatian cuisine is unique and should be explored rather than avoided. Alsace is a delight, you will have a very enjoyable experience.

Posted by
1003 posts

I stepped into three or four wineries on my hikes close to where I was staying, this chap was friendly:
I had three baeckeofe dishes during my time there, this one was the best: I'm not a sausage man, I do like my meat and potatoes.
I very much enjoyed my meals at Grappe d'Or in Riquewihr, and Winstub l'Altenberg in Bergheim. Bergheim itself is a great little place, few tourists and shops. Dambach is a nice, non-touristy village with a beautiful church. Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg worth going out of the way for.

Posted by
2847 posts

Depending on where you stay, you can easily visit a number of wineries w/o driving. For example, we spent a week at a house in Riquewihr w/o a car, and visited many wineries pretty much daily. Most of them by walking, and some as part of a walking and bus route. Some were right in Riquewihr, and some were in nearby villages that we could reach by walks through the vineyards. In no cases did we book an appointment ahead of time. But few wineries give elaborate tours; mostly the bigger ones.

Posted by
11743 posts
  1. Some places are open for "degustation". You can drop in. Some places want reservations. I tried to get reservations at a Chateau in Burgundy on a Sunday at the TI. They didn't get an answer but said I could knock on the door and maybe get lucky. I didn't try it, so can't report how well that works.

  2. The chateau would have been more like a guided tour with a tasting. Most commonly it's just a little place where you can try and buy some of their wine. Other times, it's a large establishment that sells multiple producers. I would expect anything that approaches a tour will require a reservation but others here may know of some that don't.

  3. You could probably do a town, maybe two, by bicycle in a day. You won't cover as much as by car but might enjoy it more. When you're driving you don't notice the hills so I can't tell you how hard the riding is. If you aren't used to riding, it might not be enjoyable at all.

I drank very little because I didn't want to get close to being above their legal limit. That said, my French girlfriend asked me to drive her car home from a party because, "You aren't from here, so they can't take away your license." As soon as I knew I was driving, I drank mostly water for several hours.

  1. 5. & 6. Sorry, nothing stood out that I'd personally recommend. The area is lovely. My girlfriend suggested Gewurtztraminer as the best wine in Alsace. I stuck with that. I didn't pick any myself but what I had was excellent.
Posted by
2847 posts

I didn't mention anything about #6 in my prior comment, but I guess you could call a lot of what we did in Alsace walking on paths through the vineyards. In many cases, there is pretty much nothing between villages except for vineyards. So when we left the center of a village on foot, we'd basically commence walking through vineyards until we came to the next village. I recall one day when we did this through 4 or 5 villages, then caught a bus back to our house.

Posted by
106 posts

I biked around the Alsace wine region for three days, all based out of Colmar. It was utterly fabulous.

Here are a few tips maybe not covered by others.

1) Rental bikes in Colmar were surprisingly scant. A few places listed as rental shops were really just small independent bike shops with just a few randoms to rent and short business hours. I checked with a few of these and they'd rented their entire (small) fleets already. So I rented a somewhat leaden and clunky but solidly operational city bike at the place in the train station for something like 10 or 12 euro a day for my whole trip. I rode 30-60km a day on it and was fine, but a better bike would have been fine too. Folks working there nice but not proactive about offering extras. I asked after a pannier and they instead were happy to put a basket on for me. I asked after an extra tube and the guy opened a cupboard full of repair kits and handed me one.

I've read that there's more bigger rental outfits in some of the bigger villages - search that up. I stopped by Cycles Wagner in Turckheim too - bigger US style bike shop that had a decent rental fleet.

The issue then is getting out to the villages if you are staying in the city. I love to rent a bike as soon as we get to a city, ride it out of the city in various loops, use it to tour the city during during quiet hours - so magical! Maybe asking your hotel would be a good move?

2) Some of the best villages, and the finest wineries, are separated by some hills. It is because of these hills that these are great villages with great wines - the sloping terroir of the four grand cru vineyards produces the best fruit. And it's also the most beautiful landscape in the area. You are going to want to ride from Ribeauville to Kayserberg for sure, and in the process you'll ride up some moderate hills, maybe 1k feet of climbing in the day, nothing super steep but a can be hot. Take your time, pack some water, and take a break or two. But do it.

3) Mind the traffic even in the country - there's a lot of easy, safe riding on country lanes, but occasionally you're on road, and occasionally a local man (always a man) will come flying through in a 25 year old Peugeot with shot suspension like he's racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans, caroming out of his lane as his car bounces and rifts around blind turns. Rare but I saw it a few times, and all it takes is once. Don't be afraid, but do remember to always stay well to your side of the road as you gawp at the gorgeous scene.

4) as for tasting, it's like most anywhere else, from giant COME ON IN signs, to find us around the place and we're happy to pour for you, to by appt. only, to by appt. only and YOU will never get one, to you can taste our wine when you pay $80 for a bottle somewhere else.

5) Picnicking on a well-place bench way out in a serene vineyard on top of a scenic hill is sublime. The bigger villages are chock-a-block with gourmet/artisnal take-away food outlets, so shopping as you go is a fun way to build your lunch. As is sitting at a restaurant out there- tough to go wrong!