The History of France’s Alsace Region
Alsace is a significant wine region in France and produces some of the finest wines in the world. Many famous French grape varietals are grown in this region, including Riesling, Sylvaner, and Gewürztraminer. Alsace is situated in the northeastern part of France at the base of the Vosges Mountains. It is best known for its wine, beautiful half-timbered houses, and castles. The area is home to the Alsace Wine Route which winds its way through numerous beautiful villages and picturesque vineyards. The Alsace region is noted for its unique cuisine, a blend of both French and German influences, including specialties such as choucroute (sausage and sauerkraut), tarte flambée (a flatbread with cream and bacon), and Kugelhopf (regional sweet bread).
Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat are the four “Noble Grapes of Alsace” and believed to make the best wines of the region.
History of the Alsace region
Part of the allure of visiting Alsace is its rich history. Julius Caesar first conquered the area and introduced Roman technology including winemaking and infrastructure. However, after many battles with the local Germanic tribe, called the Alemanni, Rome was pushed out in the 5th century CE. The Alemanni people briefly controlled the area until Clovis I, king of the Franks, conquered the area in 496 CE.
The region stayed under Frankish control but was divided into smaller regions. Each small region operated under the control of lords. Eventually, the area became part of the Holy Roman Empire and stayed linked with the empire until the Thirty Years’ War. With the help of the emperors, Alsace was able to overthrow many of the lords ruling the area.
During the reformation Alsace found itself divided between the Catholics and Protestants. Caught in the middle of the fighting, Alsace turned to France for aid. France helped Alsace overthrow the Holy Roman Empire and the ruling Habsburg family, in the process making Alsace part of France.
Alsace remained under French control and developed a lucrative trade economy. During the French Revolution, Alsace was separated into two departments that still exist today, the Bas-Rhin toward the north, and the Haut-Rhin toward the south. Through this time Alsace began to integrate more and more into French culture and society. The next major war, The Franco-Prussian War from 1870 – 1871 had a large impact on Alsace. France lost the war and was forced to hand Alsace and Lorraine (another French region next to Alsace) to Germany. Alsace remained under German control until the end of World War I. After Germany’s loss, Alsace and Lorraine were handed back to France.
After France’s defeat in the middle of World War II, Alsace once again became part of Germany. The Germans went about restoring German culture to the area, enforcing German as the official language, and changing the French names of places to their German names. Towards the end of the war, many Alsatian villages were destroyed by the fighting between the allies and axis powers. But at the end of the war, France was liberated and Alsace was again converted back to France.
The Alsace area is 8,280 km2, representing 1.5 percent of France. Alsace stretches from north to south between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains. Germany lies to the north and east of Alsace, and Switzerland to the south. To the west are the French regions of Lorraine and Franche-Comté.
Alsace is considered to have a mild climate, with four pleasant seasons. Temperature limits of 40°C and – 30°C are conceivable, albeit yearly limits of 25/30°C and – 5°/ – 10°C are undeniably more normal.
Did you know: Under the influence of monastic orders, viticulture experienced a new boom. The earliest literary source mentioning viticulture in Alsace dates from the early ninth century, attesting to the existence of wine production in over 160 locations. The wines of Alsace, also known as “Aussey wine,” were famous in the Middle Ages. They were transported by the Ill River and then by the Rhine River to the Nordic countries.
On This Day
- 1618: The Thirty Years’ War broke out due to intense rivalry between the Catholic Emperor and powerful protestant lords.
- 1648: The Treaty of Westphalia was signed by the Habsburgs.
- 1789: Alsace was divided into two departments administratively.
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