No trip to the Alsace wine region would be complete without a visit to the Hugel winery in the village of Riquewihr. Perhaps no other wine family in the Alsace is responsible for the pre-eminence of this wine region. It all started for Hugel in 1639 and now 12 generations later the family members still run this winery from top to bottom. The winery and tasting room has been located in the same spot for the last 370 years in the center of Riquewihr.
Visitors can always drop in and taste, but if you want an appointment for a tour and tasting, you must call far in advance. Our tour takes us to tight underground quarters of various fermenting and aging tanks of concrete, stainless steel, and wooden barrels. We are shown one huge barrel that has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest wine barrel in continuous use.
The streets of Riquewihr are very narrow as all old villages are, and we watch as a truck approaches, laden with harvested grapes. Gingerly the driver backs his bounty up to a loading dock. Amazingly, he maneuvers these tight quarters with ease.
There are several wines to try on our tasting from the entry range to the top-of-the-line wines designated as Grand Cru. These wines are full flavored and elegant. We have tasted nothing like this back in California. We have had our fill of Alsatian wines both from Alsace, California, and elsewhere, but these special vineyard-designated wines are just out of this world. The Gewurztraminer Hugel 1988 Selection De Grains Nobles is memorable.
Above the town sit acres and acres of vineyards owned by Hugel. The views are spectacular, to say the least. You can walk above to the vineyards or take a touristy train ride for 30 minutes. Whatever you decide, do not miss out on the amazing views.
Back home in the San Francisco Bay Area, we can find many of the Hugel wines, but I guess that the series of beautiful handcrafted Gewurztraminer wines we tasted will be difficult to find and very expensive. Nonetheless, if you find some of the basic Hugel wines on the shelf, do not hesitate to try one. You will be tasting delicious wines in the Alsacian style: dry and balanced in acidity and just plain great wines that would go well with seafood and light dishes.