I didn’t expect much for the next 24 hours, I simply wanted to enjoy the last golden days of October and especially along Route des Vins d’Alsace (The Alsace Wine Route). Of all the wine regions in the world, it has got to be my favorite. I thought I knew the region well from my numerous stays in the larger cities such as Strasbourg and Colmar, but this time unlike the Kings that once ruled the area, I was ready to experience something on a much less grandiose scale. Even a small town experience would be too much, I simply wanted a rustic back to the roots experience so opted for an overnight in St. Hippolyte along the Alsace Wine Route.
The weather was perfect for absorbing the last few days of intense sun, inhaling the fresh air billowing from the Vosges Mountains as the golden transparent Riesling grape leaves danced through the skies. The next few hours would be as perfect as the wine villages whose colorful half-timbered homes display an array of colorful boxes dripping with flowers and leafy green leaves.
St. Hippolyte along the Alsace Wine Route is not a bustling metropolis, it’ not a large town, in fact, I wouldn’t even consider it a village, but what it lacks in city size and conveniences it makes up for in it’s pure simplistic surroundings and the infamous Rouge de Saint Hippolyte (Pinot Noir) wine.
We spent 24 hours (not nearly enough time) poking around St. Hippolyte noted to be the birthplace of the 8th-century saint and abbot, Fulrad who built a monastery there.
From the village you look up the mountain toward the enormous castle Haut-Koenigsbourg, but the village does have its own monuments. There’s the fortified city wall (built in 1316), The Tour des Cigognes (Stork’s tower) covered by a pitched roof which defends the south-east of the town, and the 14th century parish church shrine dating back to 1766 containing the remains of Saint Hippolyte.
Walking around the hamlet, there’s a refreshing sense of laissez-faire feeling in this little-known wine village. The mature French woman meticulously sweeps the front stairs of her colorful Alsatian home and I greet her with my best pronunciation of ‘Good Day’ in French which sounds embarrassing like ‘Bonejuur’. She returns a huge smile and returns the greeting, maybe even in Alsatian French.
There was no witch hunt for me for not speaking perfect French, even though in 1600s witch hunts were common in many Alsatian towns. I wasn’t even scolded for not speaking perfect German, since the region with its Germanic influence, due to the changing of hands from France to Germany and vice-versa, is a common vacation area for Germans.
I feel very comfortable in the little village full of winding roads which connect one wine village to the next—it’s as refreshing as the wines produced in the area. Speaking of wine, before venturing out for a stroll in the vineyards, we checked into our B&B at Francois Bleger which offers large simple clean rooms, a good French breakfast to start your day, and at an affordable price point. Those are deals I love, giving me an opportunity to invest in local wines, even from the B&Bs own wine and Cremant (sparkling wine) selection.
There’s no better place to embrace the wine you’ll drink than with a walk through the stunning countryside and its impressive vineyards. I attempted to identify the seven Alsatian six white grape varieties, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d’Alsace, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and the seventh, the red Pinot Noir, and found nearly all of them.
After a bit of Oenology schooling from my husband, a resident of the German wine region, it was time to go to one of the best spots for watching the sunset along Rue du Vins at Aux Ducs de Lorraine hotel and restaurant. The last few moments of the day was spent watching the sun prepare to set in a beautiful atmosphere as we awaited a glass of local Riesling which is as elegant, delicate and distinguished, as the village of St. Hippolyte.
With great wine comes great food, the little village has a handful of great Alsatian-style restaurants, so you can easily select one that suits you. Perhaps the one with the cute name, Hupsa Pfannala, the former vault, hospital and soup kitchen to the poor. The decor is typical Alsatian style with hits of red, large family style wooden tables, and a pure homey feel, as well as hearty meals best enjoyed with locals wines of course.
After a delicious meal and walk back to the B&B, it was time for a good night’s sleep. The clean country vineyard air prepped me for a deep slumber in my little French bed. You are virtually guaranteed peace and quiet in the little village, so experience the simple life in the sleepy town of St. Hippolyte where you’ll surely dream sweet dreams.
For more information on St. Hippolyte and the surrounding area, visit the official Alsace Wine Route tourism website.