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Santé! A toast to life in France



Explore hundreds of vineyards in a route through quaint medieval villages and rolling vineyards close to the border with Germany.

The big problem with the famously picturesque Alsace Wine Route in eastern France, said Jean-Louis Meyer as he put down his glass of white wine, is that there are so many vineyards where you can stop for a tasting.

In any village along its 170km length, “there’s at least 10 vineyards offering tastings”, said the Paris wine lover. With such head-spinning variety, “you have to choose. So we end up always going to the same places,” added the 69 year old.

The route through quaint medieval villages and rolling vineyards close to the border with Germany drew 7.7 million tourists last year, nearly half of them from abroad. It is the busiest in France after the storied wine trails that wind between the prestigious chateaux of Bordeaux and Champagne, but arguably the most scenic, particularly in autumn when the vines turn a blaze of gold and bronze.

A vintage journey through time and terroir

A full 70 years old this year, the “Route des vins d’Alsace”, as it is known in French, sprouted a parallel bike route a decade ago, and a walking trail is to follow next year. In the village of Goxwiller, Raymond Koenig, 84, proudly showed the giant wooden barrels – each of which hold 10 000l of wine – which his family has used since 1889.

He was 14 when the route was opened in 1953 and he remembers how it helped put the region on the tourist map. Meyer was sampling their pale nectar, now produced by Koenig’s son Christophe, and usually leaves with four or five cases. Being able to sell directly to their customers is hugely important for the winemakers. “It cuts out the middleman,” said Philippe Bouvet, of CIVA, which promotes Alsatian wine.

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