Gourmet trip in Alsace
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
When travelling in Alsace one could think that Alsatians mainly focus on food and drinks. Without being completely true this is not completely inaccurate either… It seems that they have a great talent for turning what Mother Nature gives them into typically Alsatian delights. They brew some of the best beers in the world, make worldwide renowned wines and have a natural instinct to cook tasty recipes with the most simple ingredients. Let’s go and meet some of these talented people.
The “Domaine du Bollenberg”, the very best of Alsatian products in one place
If you are in Alsace for a short period of time going to the Bollenberg Estate will be a smart choice. A one-hour drive from Strasbourg Airport on the Alsace Wine Road will take you to this typical farm owned by the same family since 1945. All in the same time farm, wine-growing estate, distillery, jam factory, hotel and restaurant the Bollenberg will give you a fine overview of Alsatian tastes. All of the estate has been turned into organic farming in 2010, the grapes are hand harvested and the wines are aged in oak barrels. The estate enjoys a Mediterranean microclimate giving the wines a unique bouquet.
Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Blanc are all organic wines and have received many awards both in Alsace and in other French contests. “Le Vieux Pressoir” (The Old Press) is the estate’s restaurant and the best place to discover these quality wines paired with a delicious Alsatian cuisine. Everything is homemade with the farm’s products or with local produce. You will dine in one of the beautiful rooms of the former farm all nicely decorated in typical Alsatian style or if weather allows on the outside terrace from where you’ll get a great view over the estate.
Made with fresh ingredients the menus change with the seasons. All menus propose “amuse bouche”, little appetizers to nibble, then you can have foie gras with fruit chutney or homemade pâtés, next choose a royal sauerkraut or a sweet and sour duck breast, continue with an Alsace cheese plate and if you still have some room for dessert end this terrific meal with a strawberry and rhubarb charlotte or a surprising nettle crème brulée with vanilla ice cream… Finally a good schnaps from the house will help you digest this memorable meal.
After lunch don’t miss to visit the distillery. All brandies are made in the old copper stills. After a slow fermentation come two distillations then the “eau de vie” ages in big demijohns in complete darkness. Pear, Mirabelle or Quetsch plum, wild strawberry, wild rose, holly berry, green tea, liquorice, ginger, blackberry… it seems to be an endless list of all the flavours used to make liqueurs and brandies at Domaine de Bollenberg. Sold in beautiful bottles they will be both nice to look at and delicious to sip and share with friends. They also make all kind of tinned food, from a wide range of jams to several kinds of pâtés and foie gras. All of them as well as the estate wines are sold in their local shop and on their website. https://bollenberg.com/en/
Traditional “eau de vie” and unexpected whisky and gin
In Alsace sunny hillsides are planted with vineyards since the Roman period but down in the valleys where vines wouldn’t grow properly you will see many orchards of pear, plum, cherry, peach or quince trees as well as red berries bushes. In springtime their blossoming offers wonderful sceneries as a promise of a generous future harvest. In order to make the most tasty and fruity liqueurs the fruits are picked up only when they reach perfect ripeness. They are now ready to go to the distillery.
To discover the eau de vie making process you can go to the “Meyer Distillery”. This distillery is a family business created in 1958. It is the N°1 award-winner in France for the quality and diversity of its brandies and liqueurs with over 180 awards! They make traditional pear, cherry or Mirabelle plum brandy as well as surprising rowan berry, quince, ginger bread or violet liqueurs. In 2007 the Meyer family made the craziest bet and decided to make an Alsatian whisky. This bet turned out to be a great idea and they now produce award-wining whiskies, a Blend Alsatian Whisky and a Single Malt Whisky aged in barrels previously used to make Sauternes Bordeaux wine. Following this success they now also make a great Alsatian gin. http://distilleriemeyer.fr/en/