Given my lack of sleep on the lead up to the trip and the insanely hot temperatures during the night (it felt like I was on a sun-lounger with no pool to escape into) I awoke rather unrested and grumpy given it was 7.30a.m. The early start was necessary however, as we had a train to catch to Colmar at 09.06 so we scooted around getting ready and managed to grab some food from Paul’s just before boarding our train. Firstly I would like to say I opted for the local Alsatian option of basically a chicken hotdog with béchamel which was just far too heavy however, my iced tea made things a little better. Secondly, the train was absolutely packed. Colmar is a beautiful Alsatian town and one of the most popular stops on the Alsatian Wine Route. What I had failed to realise was that when I booked the wine tastings which were just outside Colmar I had actually booked them both in the same town and so it made sense just staying there rather than transferring back and forward. We arrived into the town very early and so rather than heading to the winery an hour early decided to grab a Tilleul des Beronnies (a French grand cru tea which wasn’t great but was all that seemed available. The hot waiter looked confused at the concept of green tea) and wait in the warmth. We left ourselves a good half an hour to get there, not bad considering it was only 15 minutes away but of course when we left the train station the taxi queue was completely empty. We waited for a few minutes but with no taxis in sight we had to accept that potentially they only wait at train arrival times and headed to the hotel across from the train station to ask them to order one for us. The staff were super friendly and let us wait in their beautifully decorated reception on the taxi which took an age to come.
We were finally on the way to Eguisheim, the location of our first vineyard. As we passed rolling countryside the stress of the taxi situation began to subside only to be taken over by it quickly approaching 10.30, the time our tasting was booked for. The driver seemed confused about where we were going and so decided to drop us off in the centre of town which resulted in a last minute dash to Jean-Louis et Fabienne Mann, thankfully the town itself was tiny so we weren’t as late as we might have been. Sebastian, our guide was very chilled and didn’t seem in the least concerned at our lateness. He introduced himself and we headed across the street to the winery, before a local friend caught him to buy some wine, everyone knows everyone in this tiny town. We started off in the courtyard where he showed us his electronic juicer and explained the grapes are transported whole ie. not broken to here in order to ensure that the best quality of juice is extracted for the wine. He was so passionate during the entire tour, it was really lovely and made us even more excited about the wines. The winery is organic and biodynamic and so they use the cosmic calendar to decide when to pick the grapes to result in the best wines. They also don’t use any chemicals and he told us that the grapes where happy when people were in the cellar and they showed this by releasing bubbles (who knew grapes had feelings). Despite the kooky nature of the biodynamic process it does ensure that you get really great quality wines.
Sebastian keeps the juice in both metal and ceramic containers before adding a natural fermentation ingredient (not yeast) and so as a result it takes at least a year for his wines to be ready, unlike most vineyards which take just a few months to produce a white wine. In order to keep the grapes happy you cannot rush them. The vineyard uses 7 grapes which are synonymous with the region; pinot blanc, pinot gris, gewurtztraminer, riesling, pinot noir, muscat and sylvaner. Other than pinot noir all of these are white grapes. Sebastian is in the process of making some pinot noirs, but generally the majority of produce is white. One of the highlights of the visit for me was getting the opportunity to taste some wine currently undergoing fermentation. I had never tasted unfermented wine and was surprised by its cloudy and grainy appearance and taste. After finishing up in the cellar we headed across to the wineries cute tasting house and shop to sample a total of 12 of the wineries products, including interestingly, some of the fermenting wines. The tasting was excellent and of course we purchased some of the best ones to bring home with us. For 10 Euros I thought it was fantastic value and even though I have visited quite a few wineries I also learn new things each time I go.
By this point we were ready for lunch but unfortunately given the tiny nature of Eguisheim everywhere that Sebastian had recommended to us was full. We ended up in this little café where I opted for a cheese and meet charcuterie board and wine which was actually perfectly light after my really heavy lunch. It was also nice to just sit and chill for a while after our slightly hectic morning. After our small lunch we headed out to explore Eguisheim. The best way I can think of explaining the town is straight out of a Disney film. The houses are beautiful with timber and bright colours and of course the decorations were just as elaborate as Strasbourg. It was an utter joy to wander around and was so tiny you could literally do a loop around the city with a mulled wine in hand – perfection!
Our second wine tasting was at Emile Beyer and rather than a full blown tour this was just a tasting in the wineries central tasting room. This was great given we had done the full tour in the morning and because I had pre-booked we were able to watch a short video about the family run vineyard and the location of the grand cru sections (high on the hillsides of the two mountains bounding the region). Afterwards our host, who was just an employee rather than a family member who is actually involved in making the wine, suggested we taste 3 whites and 3 reds. We actually ended up with another 10 or so wines by the time we had tried them all and while they were definitely not as good as the previous vineyard it allowed us to try some of the regions sparkling wines which I loved and some more pinot gris, potentially my favourite grapes of the weekend. The highlight here however, had to be making friends with the most friendly dog, I think I would seriously consider marrying someone if they had a dog. We purchased another few wines and on the recommendation of our host headed to check out the town church and neighbouring gallery which is only open to the public during the Christmas season. It was lovely and quaint and fitted in perfectly with the feel of the little town. We then did a final wander, picking up the most amazing coconut, muffin cakes warm before heading for the bus. We had checked with the tourist information and they had informed us there was a €3 bus that would take us back to Colmar rather than forking out for another taxi. We waited for the bus watching the sun go down behind the vineyards staining them pink, only to find out the bus was €17, more than the taxi had been!
We made it back in plenty of time for our train but this one was a slower one back to Strasbourg and so it was a bit of a dash to drop all of our purchases of at the hotel before dinner. Nicola had chosen La Vignette which at the time of writing was number one on Tripadvisor. We dropped our bottles and googled the location, only to realise that we had in fact booked somewhere an hour and 24 minutes walk from the hotel and in fact not the no.1 on tripadvisor restaurant but one by the same name. Alas, what can you do so we found a bus to take us and despite again being late we arrived to a beautifully lit gingerbread house creation which ended up being utterly spectacular. We had a dry muscat as an aperitif, this is typical of Alsace muscat but unusual for the generally sweet grape and set about translating the menu. Our free mini starter was a lovely vegetable soup which we drank while making those crucial decisions. Thankfully our waiter helped out and so we both went for the foie gras to start given our positive experience the night before and then I had fish (not sure what kind, we failed at that part of the translation) but it was done with a vegetable risotto and was quite honestly fabulous! We washed it down with our favourite pinot gris before taking the bus back to town for an early night. Not before altering the temperature dial in our room to make it slightly less boiling.