An Alsace vineyard after the harvest
Alsace - golf and gastronomy
Go to the Alsace and you might not feel as though you are in France
when you see the German-sounding name of a village, hear a person's
name or people speaking. This region has changed hands many times
between Germany and France over the centuries, until the last war
returned it to France.
Click here for a map of the Alsace
Think of the Alsace and golf might not be the first thing that
comes to mind. You might perhaps think of medieval villages, its
wines or the European Parliament in Strasburg. But this eastern
region of France, between the Rhine Valley and the Vosges mountains
on the border with Germany and Switzerland, has in fact eleven courses
and is now actively promoting itself as a golf tourism destination.
In October 2005, we were invited to sample some of the many pleasures
- golfing or otherwise - that the Alsace has to offer over a three
day period. This coincided with the end of the grape harvest when
the vines are magnificent in their autumnal colours before the first
frost kills the leaves, and when you get sudden heady whiffs of
fermentation as you pass through a village.
The Clubhouse & 18th green at Kempferhof
A late-morning arrival at Strasburg Airport from London's Gatwick
allowed time to have a round of golf at the outstanding Golf Le
Kempferhof in Plobsheim, 20 kms south of Strasburg.
But first we checked into its luxurious hotel and enjoyed an excellent
lunch in its restaurant overlooking the 18th hole and one of many
lakes on the course. The hotel occupies an 18th
century stately home with 29 rooms and 5 suites, each of the latter
being dedicated to a movie legend. "La Luna", situated
at the top of a tower, offers a stunning panoramic view of the course.
As you would expect, it's very golfer-friendly; far more useful
and much better for the waist line, instead of a chocolate on your
pillow at night, you get a golf ball!
The golf course, designed by Bob van Hagge, was built in 1989 and
covers an 85 hectare nature reserve. It was ranked second in the
Peugeot Golf Guide in 2001 and has its own David Leadbetter Golf
Academy. This carefully groomed, flattish course is very challenging
and delightfully scenic, with large, contoured greens. Although
the rough isn't especially tough, it doesn't need to be when there
are numerous daunting water hazards and huge bunkers waiting for
you. Accuracy is a must here and we recommend you bring plenty of
balls, but it was as much a joy to play as to look at. Sunset over
the lakes was unforgettable, and although the course clearly owes
a lot to the work of bulldozers, there is a feeling that nature
is taking the land back, helped by an almost total lack of building
around the course.
The par 3 7th at Kempferhof
The seventh hole, a par 3, offers a magnificent view over an 18th
century mill which is now the clubhouse.
For the evening meal, the Chef uses seasonal produce to create
his menus and selects the best wines to go with his food, and our
only slight disappointment was that the bar closed at 11pm, when
we might have liked a little longer to mull over the day.
After breakfast (included in the room price), we headed for the
Wantzenau Golf Course just outside Strasburg, a flat but technically
demanding course designed by Jean Garaïalde and Jeremy Pern,
which will appeal to players of all levels. The style is somewhat
American with plenty of water and interesting par 5s, but is it
nevertheless an easier proposition than Le Kemperhof, not overly
long and not overwhelming for a woman. The clubhouse is cosy and
in typical Alsatian style and the staff are very helpful.
The clubhouse and an aerial view of Golf Club de la Wantzenau
At the Becker Winery
In the afternoon we visited the Becker Winery in Zellenberg on the
Route d'Ostheim, which has existed since 1610. Its vines all had
to be replanted after the war, as the Americans had built a fuel
dump in the midst of the Froehn "grand cru", causing the
vines to be crushed under their trucks and tanks, but all is normal
The very enthusiastic Martine (right), who speaks seven languages
including Japanese, made us extremely welcome and showed us around
the 200 year-old vats. We were then given a generous tasting of
their organic wines. First the young wines, just fermented, (her
brother Jean-Philippe's "newly-borns" as Martine called
them), then each one of the seven grape varieties (see the section
on Alsatian wines below). The family also produces liqueurs, fruit
brandies and Crémants d'Alsace. After this alcoholic interlude,
Martine walked us through the vines to our home for the night -
The Kanzel Hotel & Suite Residence.
We can heartily recommend this upmarket resort and haven of peace
situated on the Amandiers Hill, along the Wine Route, and we guarantee
you won't be disappointed. For anyone who has ever dreamed of drinking
a cellar dry, Hotel Kanzel finally offers you
that possibility - and it's already included in your room price!
With your room key comes access to a personal cellar from which
you are positively encouraged to indulge. Given the number of bottles
inside, drinking it dry might be a challenge... But while you're
at it, to ensure you really do end up with the mother of all hangovers,
your personal minibar is also included in the price of the room,
as is the half bottle of wine provided in the kitchen area - a delicate
touch. And that's before we mention the complimentary access to
the sauna (to sweat out the booze) and the free internet access
(to boast to all your friends). Oh, and - as if you needed it -
they offer you a free welcome drink too.
That said, the hotel does not have a restaurant, so if you're planning
to take solid as well as liquid nourishment, you'll have to go out.
A chauffeur is on hand, however (best you don't drive!) and we can
recommend Winstub Caveau Gambrinus in Blebenheim where we were served
a typical set menu consisting of Gratinée (thin pastry with
a grilled cheese topping) with a choice of local beers, followed
by an enormous rib of beef and chips, a salad and a Calvados-flambéed
apple tart.. This meal prompted one of our group to comment delicately
"It feels like we've eaten a cow each".
After dinner, Mein Host brought us a glass of flaming Friesengeist
- a sort of very strong herbal spirit. Fearing the worst we downed
it and - to our considerable surprise - some of us woke up with
a totally clear head the next morning. Why can't we find this miracle
drink anywhere else?
Some of us in better condition than others, we visited two more
fine golf clubs.
Rouffach Golf Club is flat, long and challenging with plenty of
water hazards, sandwiched between forest and vineyards. It offers
a panoramic view over the Vosges mountains and wine villages.
Rouffach Golf Club with the Vosges in the background (left)
and Ammerschwihr/Trois Epis
Ammerschwihr/Trois-Epis Golf Club is situated in the heart of the
wine-growing area. We were given a very cordial welcome to this
stunning mountain course. The course is not long, which makes it
ideal for beginners or high handicappers, yet it has some spectacular
holes. The 12th, for example, has a 50 m drop from tee to green
and affords a superb view of the Alsatian vineyards.
ALSACE - THE HOME OF GASTRONOMY
Alsace may be the smallest region of France, but it holds the record
for possessing the largest number of five-star chefs per inhabitant.
Some twenty highly talented Alsatian chefs have built up the region's
reputation over the last two decades and have turned it into one
of France's leading gastronomic areas.
These chefs have resurrected Alsace's traditional and varied local
cuisine, a heritage of its lively political and cultural past, and
which is closely linked to the region's friendly "art de vivre".
The following are some of the great traditional dishes from Alsace:
- Sauerkraut or "choucroute": a great classic dish made
up of sour cabbage & smoked meats.
- Baeckeoffe: a dish made up of 3 different types of marinated
meats that used to be baked in the baker's oven.
- Flammekueche or flambéed tart (right): a very thinly-laid
bread dough tart garnished with cream, bacon & chopped onions,
best enjoyed with friends and a glass of beer or wine in a "winstub".
- Matelote du Rhin: a delicious river fish stew enhanced with
some local Alsatian wine of course.
- Munster cheese: Delicious hot or cold, it's often eaten with
cumin and a glass of wine.
- Kougelhof: a sweet or savoury brioche cooked in a special very
high brioche tin made in the potters' village of Soufflenheim.
- Not forgetting foie gras (something you don't normally associate
with the Alsace but rather with the south-west region of France),
onion tart, Alsatian snails, coq au Riesling, fried carp, pretzels,
heart shaped gingerbread traditionally produced in Gertwiller,
plum tarts and much, much more.
Literally translated as "wine room", the winstub is a
perfect example of the "art de vivre" of Alsace, and of
Strasburg in particular. The winstub is an inexpensive restaurant
with large wooden tables where you eat and
drink in a warm
friendly atmosphere. It serves traditional Alsatian dishes such
as "Baekeoffe" or "Sauerkraut", and is very
much like an old-fashioned pub.
THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE
The Alsace Wine Route winds its way for more than 170 kms from
north to south through pretty villages along the eastern foothills
of the Vosges mountains.
Along the way, visitors are invited to explore the heart of the
vineyards; they are welcome to taste the local produce in the winstubs,
tasting cellars and, in a fun and festive atmosphere, at the numerous
wine fairs taking place from April to October.
The Alsatian wine-producing villages never fail to seduce their
visitors with their outer walls, picturesque houses and friendly
Vines have always thrived on the Alsatian slopes, taking maximum
advantage of their exposure to the sun. This region is the only
one in France to produce primarily varietal wines.
The seven Alsatian grape varieties used here are:
The Riesling Grape
- Sylvaner: gives a light, fresh and fruity dry wine. It can be
served as an aperitif.
- Pinot Blanc: well-balanced, supple and racy. It produces the
lightest wine in the region.
- Riesling: the most elegant grape of the Alsace region (right).
It gives dry, graceful and well-balanced wine. Riesling is known
to be the finest Alsace wine.
- Muscat d'Alsace: a dry, inimitable fresh grape taste.
- Tokay Pinot Gris: opulent and robust.
- Gewurztraminer: robust and full-bodied, with marvellous flavour
and bouquet. Can be drunk as a dessert wine.
- Pinot Noir: gives dry red or rosé wine, very fruity.
Reminiscent of cherries.
PAIRING ALSACE WINE WITH FOOD
Alsace wines should be served chilled but not too cold (6°
to 10°). They are generally best enjoyed when young, one to
five years after harvest, and go especially well with Indian, Chinese
or Thai cooking.
- With fish and seafood dishes- try Riesling, Sylvaner, Pinot
- With foie gras, spicy dishes and strong cheeses - try a Gewurztraminer
- With poultry - Riesling
- With sauerkraut - Riesling or Sylvaner
- With a Flammekueche - Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling
- With a coq au Riesling - Riesling (obviously?)
- With an onion tart - Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc
- With a fine Munster cheese - try Gewurztraminer
TO BE VISITED
Located on the Wine Route, between vines & mountains, half-way
between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, Ribeauvillé is a
very attractive picturesque town which is well worth a visit. The
town and neighbouring hills are dominated by the majestic ruins
of the Three Castles of the Lords of Ribeaupierre. The Grand-Rue
and its picturesque neighbouring streets, lined with handsome 15th
to 18th century buildings with pretty geranium-filled window boxes,
are scattered with squares decorated with Renaissance fountains.
Riquewihr is also on the Wine Route, 4 km from Ribeauvillé
and 13 from Colmar. It is an admirably preserved mediaeval town
and an ideal tourist resort, famous for the quality of its wines
which thrive on its sunny slopes. A member of the Association of
the Most Beautiful Villages in France, it is now deservedly one
of the most visited tourist attractions in Alsace, thanks to its
unique rampart walls and its extraordinary number of picturesque
houses, some dating back to the 13th century, either half-timbered
or made out of carved stone and sporting courtyards, galleries,
old wells and fountains. Not to be missed.
For further information on these villages, visit www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/
Golf aside, the Alsace is well worth exploring year round, but
especially in the months of May to October. So, instead of heading
directly south when you next drive to France, why not head east
instead or take the 90 minute flight from Gatwick to Strasburg if
you're pressed for time? Sample the various pleasures this very
different, picturesque and welcoming region of France is only too
happy to offer. When you do finally head on, we guarantee you will
be thinking about when you can make it back.
Here is some useful information for your visit to Alsace:
HOW TO GET THERE
- 1h30 from Gatwick Airport to Strasbourg (Air France)
- 4h30 from Calais
- Eurostar TGV: 5h00
THINGS TO DO
- Wildlife Parks (there's even a Stork reintroduction Centre
- Leisure Parks
- Sports & Adventure Parks (hiking, rambling, paragliding,
WHAT TO SEE
- Discover its numerous local crafts (pottery, fabrics etc
- Explore its museums (Alsace has over 250), and discover its
- Go on the many fun trails available from beer to sauerkraut
- Make sure you visit at least one vineyard
- Beaucour-Baumann Romantik
5 rue des Bouchers, Strasbourg
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 76 72 00 Fax : +33 (0)3 88 76 72 60
- Hostellerie du Château ***
2 rue du Château, Eguisheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 23 72 00 Fax : +33 (0)389 41 63 93
- The Kanzel Hotel & Suite Residence
Chemin des Amandiers, Beblenheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 49 08 00 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89
- Golf Le Kempferhof
351 rue du Moulin, Plobsheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 98 72 72 - Fax : +33 (0)3 88 98 74 76
- Le Colombier
7 rue Turenne, Colmar
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 23 96 00 Fax : +33 (0)3 89 23 97 27
- La Cour d'Alsace
3 rue de Gail, Obernai
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 95 07 00 Fax : +33 (0)3 88 95 19 21
- Le Colmombier ***
6 rue Dietrich, Obernai
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 47 63 33 Fax : +33 (0)3 88 47 63 39
- La Cour du Bailli ***
57 GrandRue à Bergheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 73 73 446 Fax : +33 (0)3 89 73 38 81
- Hôtel Les Remparts
4 rue de la Flieh à Kaysersberg
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 47 12 12 Fax : +33 (0)3 89 47 37 24
- Chez Norbert
9 Grand-Rue, Bergheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 73 31 15 fax : +33 (0)3 89 73 60 65
Category "Winstub" - very reasonable prices:
- Caveau Morakopf
7 rue des trois Epis, Niedermorschwihr
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 27 05 10 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89 27 08 63
- Le Caveau Saint Pierre
24 rue de la Herse, Colmar
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 41 99 33 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89 23 94 33
8 place du Marché-aux-Cochons-de-Lait, Strasburg
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 32 17 63 - fax : +33 (0)3 88 21 96 02
- La Dime
5 rue des Pèlerins, Obernai
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 95 54 02
- Caveau Gambinus
4 rue des Raisins, Beblenheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 49 02 82
Category "Gastronomie" - from expensive to very expensive!
- Le Rosenmeer (2 restaurants : 1 with a Michelin star
and 1 winstub),
45 avenue de la gare à Rosheim
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 50 43 29 - Fax: +33 (0)3 88 49 20 57
- Abbaye de la Pommeraie (2 restaurants : 1 with a Michelin
star and 1 winstub),
8 avenue Foch à Sélestat
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 92 07 84 - Fax: +33 (0)3 88 92 08 71
- Au Crocodile
10 rue de l'Outre, Strasburg
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 32 13 02 - Fax : +33 (0)3 88 75 72 01
- Le Chambard
9-13 rue du Général de Gaulle, Kaysersberg
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 47 10 17 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89 47 35 03
- La Grangelière
59, rue du Rempart-Sud, Eguisheim
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 23 00 30 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89 23 61 62
17 rue de la Poissonnerie, Colmar
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 21 53 60 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89 21 53 65
- La Maison des Têtes
19, rue des Têtes, Colmar
Tel : +33 (0)3 89 24 43 43 - Fax : +33 (0)3 89 24 58 34
For further information, visit these official French tourist office
Photo credits: © CRTA/Hampé
- CIVA - CIVA/Moya - CIVA/Journou