|Alsace is a region both blessed and cursed by tourism, and no more so than along the so-called Route du Vin, which stretches from Marlenheim, west of Strasbourg, to Thann, near Mulhouse. Although, when left to its own devices, Alsace stays on the right side of Disneyland, under the impact of tourism and out of the desire to make money, it comes painfully close to caricaturing itself. That said the winegrowers themselves certainly do not rely on tourists to earn a living, most of the wine being sold to restaurants and merchants or exported to major markets such as Switzerland, Japan and Britain.|
Set against the "blue line of the Vosges", the route winds northsouth through endless terraced vineyards which produce the region's famous white wines. Opportunities for tasting the local produce are plentiful, with free dégustations along the roadside and in the caveaux of most villages (though you're expected to buy at least a couple of bottles), and also at the region's countless wine festivals mostly coinciding with the October harvest. For a closer look at the vines themselves you can follow various sentiers vinicoles (vineyard paths); Strasbourg and local tourist offices have details. In the midst of this sea of vines are dozens of typically picturesque Alsatian villages, outdoing each other to have the biggest display of window-box geraniums and dominated from the nearby craggy heights by an extraordinary number of ancient ruined castles, testimony to the province's turbulent past.
The Route du Vin is deceptively hilly work on a bike, but getting around is definitely easier with your own transport. Otherwise you're dependent either on the train, which narrowly misses some of the best villages, or the region's so-so bus service. In summer and autumn there's a food or wine festival each weekend in a different town or village, with wine tastings, tarte flambée and other local delicacies, arts and crafts and, if you're unlucky, traditional Alsatian music.
Pages in section ‘Route du Vin’: Obernai, Barr, Alsace and Hitler, Struthof concentration camp, Sélestat, Castles around Sélestat, Ribeauvillé, Bergheim, Kayserberg.