France: Bas-Rhin & Haut-Rhin

Alsace, in current history, is a province of France

Alsace, FranceIt is divided into two sections Bas-Rhin numerically referred to as (67) and Haut-Rhin numerically referred to as (68). Located in the northeastern corner of the country, Alsace borders on Germany, along the Rhine River to the east, and with Switzerland to the southeast. Along with Lorraine (its neighboring province to the northwest), Alsace has been an area of considerable contention throughout the last many centuries. Always closely tied to the Rhine River which forms its eastern boundary, Alsace has found itself a border region for most of its history. It was first conquered by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC and remained a part of the Roman province of Prima Germania for the next six centuries.

Extra Reading:
History of Alsace 1st century BC -- 1900's
Alsace-Lorraine an Enclave of Ethnic Germans in France
France: Timeline, History in brief, The institutions.

Geographically, the region is home to the Vosges range of mountains which run along the western edge of the Rhine River Valley. Many Rhine tributaries run through the region, creating a series of valleys, each with their unique attributes. The mountains, valleys and foothills teem with an abundance of lakes and trees, and are home to many game animals, such as deer and wild boar. Fishing and hunting are important to the local economy and also to the quality of life in the area. Naturally, timber is a vital local resource, as well as the mining of potash, coal, iron ore and salt. Alsace has long been recognized as an important center for the manufacture of textiles. Along with these varied products the area also grows wheat, rye, barley, oats and hops. 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Alsace is the unique blend of French and German influences, which has shaped the development of an extensive wine making industry. Extra Reading: Alsace political, religious, regional, genealogical and historical details

Europe TodayNeither fully French or German in style, it draws on the best elements of both, resulting in dessert wines of great character and delicacy, both dry and sweet, as well as table wines of both German and French varietals. The most famous of the many varieties of Alsatian wines is the incredibly dry and fruity Muscat. It far surpasses other wines from this grape, which can be much too heavy and sweet, burying the rich fruit qualities of this well known dessert wine. Alsatian Reislings are also substantially drier and more delicate than their German counterparts, perhaps because of the unique growing conditions of the area. The Pinot Blanc is excellent with Hors d'oeuvres and the Tokay is full bodied and strong. The wine that is perhaps most closely associated with Alsace is Gewurtztraminer (Gaverts trameener). As the name hints this wine is the result of the hybridization of a French grape and a German. It yields a spicy, light bodied yet slightly sweet and fruity wine that is a delight with salads and desserts. 

The wine industry of Alsace is centered along the well known Route du Vin (wine road) which runs for 75 miles through the foothills of the Vosges. It runs past the ruins of medieval castles, through vineyards shot with autumn colors, and picturesque flower decked towns and villages. Traveling along the Route du Vin affords one many excellent vistas over Alsatian plains stretching to the Black Forest on the horizon. All of these wonders combine to attract many visitors from the world over, who come to sample the wide variety of Alsatian wines and gastronomic specialties while drinking in the abject beauty with which God has bestowed this magical land. 

Because of the presence of Swiss, Austrian, German, and French cuisines, the food of Alsace is every bit as varied and interesting as the wine. Primarily influenced by classic French cuisine the food of Alsace is prepared with the utmost care. Specialties of the region include Tourte de la Valle'e de Meunster, a rich, oven baked, puff pastry stuffed with meunster cheese. There is also Tarte Flambe'e/Flammekuedie or onion tart, which is a crisp tasty crust topped with onion, bits of pork belly (thick bacon) and cheese. The game of the region dominates local dishes. Local fish, such as pike, perch, trout and fresh water salmon from the Rhine are prepared in Reisling sauces ie. Truite au bleu made with butter and almonds. Ham with spring asparagus, chicken in Reisling, pheasant with sauerkraut, saddle of venison, suckling pig and liver dumplings, as well as a variety of pates and homemade royal sauerkraut use the abundant local resources in a special and delicious way. Munster/Meunster cheese, with its soft and delicate flavor is a local tradition. Many Alsatians enjoy a Kugelkopf cake, flavored with dark red plums (quetsch) or a cherry (kirsch) souffle as the perfect finish for the perfect meal. 

In Alsace there is a law which allows its senior citizens the right to make their own schnapps and liquors. They are distilled using traditional rural and familial methods, utilizing the fruits, berries and herbs which are grown locally, many coming wild from the pastures and mountain slopes. There are over twenty common varieties of the Eaux de vie (water of life) in Alsace, the most well know of which are: Framboise (raspberry), Kirsch (cherry), Duetsch (dark red plum), Mirabelle (small yellow plum), Marc (grape), and Poire d'Alsace (pear). 

It is said by seasoned travelers throughout the world that the Alsatian people truly know the harmony of good food, wine and liqueur. They are admired for their ability to enjoy life to its fullest. This love of life in the face of constant political turmoil makes Alsace and its people a symbol of hope and fortitude. It is a country where good living is more important than just about anything. Behind Alsaces invitation lies promise, so many reasons for accepting, so much that commands surrender.