Wine Regions: Germany & FranceWords by Victoria Abbott Riccardi
Photos courtesy of Victoria Abbott Riccardi
Awash in sun-dappled vineyards, storybook villages and crumbling castles, the enchanting wine regions of Southern Germany and French Alsace are perfect for honeymooners eager to chill out in a romantic European region known for its sumptuous food, crisp white wines and luxurious palace hotels. While each region makes a dreamy destination on its own, couples with more time on their hands can easily combine the two.
The German Wine Route is one of the oldest wine routes in Europe. Approximately 50 miles long, it begins in the town of Bockenheim and meanders south past ancient Roman settlements, lush vineyards, castles, canals and picturesque towns, ending in Schweigen-Rechtenbach on the French border. The area, known as the Palatinate region, produces some red wines, but mainly aromatic whites and toast-worthy sparklers.
After flying into Frankfurt, catch your breath at Villa Rothschild Kempinski, a majestic country retreat dating back to 1894 and only 30-minutes by car from the airport. The hotel has 22 individually designed rooms and suites filled with antiques and an elegant outdoor terrace overlooking landscaped gardens. In addition to a cozy, crimson bar and brasserie, the hotel has an exquisite Michelin two-star restaurant serving innovative German fare, like foie gras with green apples and coriander.
When it comes to honeymooners, “The hotel can arrange pretty much anything a couple would want,” says Wedding Planner, Josefine Winkler. “We can arrange for a limo to take them into Frankfurt for shopping or a meal at a popular restaurant like The Ivory Club for high-class steak. We also can arrange a horse-drawn carriage ride or a couples massage in the double treatment room at our sister property [the Falkenstein Grand Kempinski, just minutes down the road.]”
While it’s hard to pick favorite wine route towns, don’t miss Bad Dürkheim, if only to see the largest wooden wine barrel in the World. Deidesheim is another gem with a gorgeous town square, half-timbered homes adorned with geranium-filled flower boxes and a myriad of tasting rooms, such as Dr. Kern winery and Reichstrat v. Buhl winery, proffering tastes of chilled Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Scheurebe wines. If hunger strikes, head to Turm Stübl for juicy sausages – the house specialty.
Also worth visiting is Annweiler, site of the glorious Burg Trifels (castle), where Richard the Lionhearted was captured in 1193 (and later released). It houses a breath-taking collection of imperial regalia, such as jeweled crowns. For a sumptuous nearby retreat, head to Erbprinz Hotel Restaurant & Spa dating back to 1788 and located in Ettingen near the French border.
Like its German counterpart, the Alsace Wine Route offers inviting wine cellars, welcoming restaurants and medieval villages harboring ancient churches, fountains and flower-decked homes. The 106-mile drive snakes south through the foothills of the Vosges Mountains from Marlenheim near the German border to Thann. Local wines available to sample along the route include sparkling Crémant d’Alsace, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sylvaner, perfect partners for the region’s juicy hams, quiche Lorraine and choucroute garnie (sauerkraut and meats).
Begin your Alsace journey in Strasbourg, a bucolic city only two and a half hours by fast train from the Paris airport and filled with gorgeous historic buildings like the Notre Dame cathedral. A wonderful place to stay is Cour du Corbeau, a hip hotel with 57 stylish rooms and suites set in a former 16th century inn which once welcomed such luminaries as the King of Poland and Frederic the Great. At nearby Restaurant La Casserole, owned by a husband and wife team, you’ll find modern Alsace dishes like game hens with asparagus, morels and white wine.
Another don’t-miss town is Obernai with its medieval homes, cobbled lanes and gift shops selling traditional gingerbread cake and red and white embroidered table linens. Ribeauville also shines with three crumbling castles and a bounty of tasting rooms like F. E. Trimbach, which imports its wines to the United States. Hugel et Fils (and Sons) Winery in the darling town of Riquewihr also imports its wines to the U.S. and has a fabulous tasting room. Just to name a few, Turkheim, Colmar and Eguisheim also warrant visits due to their historic town squares, friendly tasting rooms and lively cafés.
Finally, if time allows, cap off your trip at Château d’Isenbourg in Roufflach (near the end of the wine route). The epitome of French country elegance, this 12th century castle has 41 posh rooms and suites, a spa, pool and two restaurants.
Whether you visit one or both wine regions, the journey will feel like a fairytale starring you and your prince charming off on a romantic adventure to wine, dine and bond as a couple before heading home to live happily ever after.
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