By: Ashley Thompson
Continuing my coverage of the Alsace Wine Route, we now travel south near the village of Rouffach, population 4,500. Located south of Colmar, where many wine road tourists end their journeys, it’s a good example of a more authentic Alsatian village, as it’s been spared the dozens of postcard carts and souvenir shops. Highlights include its impressive 12th-century Notre Dame cathedral and the Chateau d’Isenbourg, which is now a premier hotel. Rouffach is one of the highest, sunniest, and driest areas in Alsace, protected by two Vosges mountains peaks. The consequentially unique soil makes for special wine grapes. And that brings me to one of the area’s true gem: Clos St. Landelin.
Clos St. Landelin is owned by the Muré family, whose wine-growing heritage dates back to 1648. Today, there’s a welcoming bright yellow and white building set in the middle of hilly rows of vines where you can sample to your heart’s content. Crémant d’Alsace, Gewurztramier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir. During your tasting experience, you get to try two different wines from each grape variety: one produced by the Murés from grapes all around the Rouffach region, and one produced by the Murés with only the grapes from Clos St. Landelin’s vines. Nearly every time, the homespun stuff won out.
Crowds are sparse (if not nonexistent), the family-run business greets you with layman’s wine terms and plenty of refills, and the staff is pleased to give you a private tour of the cellar itself. One of the best things about Clos St. Landelin? Its wines are organic.
“We could produce 60 hectoliters [6,000 liters] of wine per hectare,” the woman running the sunny, spacious tasting room told us. “We produce only 35 hectoliters [3,500 liters] per hectare. But we are convinced that the quality comes through because of that.” I have to say I wholeheartedly agree.
Because they produce organically, the wine-growing process requires a lot more people power. Still, the woman said, only about 15 people work at the vineyard today, “mostly in the fields, tending to the vines and picking grapes.”
After tasting (think eight half-glasses of wine before noon) and touring the cellar, I learned that Clos St. Landelin is home to one of the oldest wine presses in France, dating back to the 1300s. It sits on display at the corner of the parking lot today. The colossal wooden “machine” and its complex diagram made my head spin a bit (I blame the vino), but I certainly appreciated the deep history here. At Clos St.
Landelin, it isn’t so much about mass production, or excessive profit, or bringing in hordes of tourists. It’s about sticking to nature and tradition, a tradition that really can’t be improved upon.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Address: RN 83
F – 68250 ROUFFACH, France
Read More: Ashley has dabbled in vino before. Read about her visit to a Paris bistro that serves wine in baby bottles. Janelle spoke with the chief winemaker at the Domaine Carneros vineyard in Napa California, when they made the switch to organic.
Photo: Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr.