Cycle the French Wine Regions
With their lush greenery, slower pace of life and medieval villages nestled in the countryside, these French wine regions are not to be missed. In...Read more
The Alsace tour is one of our favourite Softies cycling holidays, the Verdant Alsace hugs the border between France and Germany, and its complex, full-bodied wines reflect a unique blend of the two European traditions. As well as viticulture, the region is renowned for its natural beauty. The Rhine meanders through the region, and you may be lucky enough to spot graceful storks or rare butterflies. Alsace wineries are generally family run and tend to be small operations, so you'll find plenty of opportunities to discuss techniques and favourite vintages with the winemakers themselves. Here are five delectable wines to get you started.
This French sparkling wine is often drunk to celebrate special occasions. The cool growing climate in Alsace is similar to Champagne, and Crémant d'Alsace is the second most popular bubbly in France. You can choose between a crisp white with citrus notes or a refreshing rosé with berry flavours. Bottles spend at least nine months maturing, giving the wine deep, nutty undertones.
As you may be able to guess from its name, this wine is the white version of Pinot Noir, and it's also known as Klevner. It's light and fragrantly fruity taste makes it an ideal pairing for fish, chicken or soft cheeses. While you're in the region, visit a traditional wood-panelled tavern or winstub, where you can enjoy Pinot Blanc with Alsatian speciality flammkuchen (or tarte flambée on the French side) – like a thin pizza, but which switches a tomato base for crème fraîche, onions and lardons.
One of the most famous German whites, Gewürztraminer is a deep golden colour with a heady perfume reminiscent of roses. The pink-skinned grape thrives in the soil of the Vosges foothills. The area's gentle slopes and warm, dry microclimate also make it ideal cycling country, with charming villages and vineyards to visit en route. Incredibly, the region's winemaking dates back to the Romans, and it has been made here ever since, with the wealth that the wine industry brought in funding the ancient stone churches and fortified towns you can still see today.
A strong, aromatic wine, Riesling is perfectly paired with strong cheeses like Munster, originally made in French Alsace by medieval monks. The soft, washed-rind, tangy cheese sometimes has cumin added to it. Another local cheese that Riesling is an excellent accompaniment for is Tomme d'Alsace, a semi-soft cow's milk cheese that's washed with wine as it ages, infusing the finished product with a delicious fruity flavour. Although generally considered a sweet wine, you'll also find some exceptional dry Rieslings produced in Alsace, and perhaps surprisingly the grape can age longer than any other, so a great Riesling can be an investment for a special occasion many years into the future.
The French version of the better known Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris has faint honey flavours as well as the crisp citrus and honeysuckle notes of the Italian wine. Usually a very dry wine, the Alsace Pinot is slightly sweet and renowned for its complex taste, with hints of ginger and cinnamon followed by a long aftertaste. Because of the richness of this variety, you can try it with stronger dishes, such as slow-cooked meat casseroles.
Discover the wines of the Alsace with Cycling for Softies.
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