Alsace villages to visit: Ammerschwihr, Haut-Rhin



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4 km north-west of Colmar.
452 ha
Grand cru
Vineyard walk Thursdays at 5 P.M. Two very good restaurants: Aux Armes de France and L'Arbre Vert.
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Ammerschwihr is, at first glance, a pretty dull village. On the large road that runs through the village, from Colmar through Kaysersberg, over the Col de Bonhomme towards Epinal, heavy trucks roars constantly. The road also splits the village into two parts; the new section on the plain is a residential area with lots of small producers, while the older section at the foot of the slopes have a more traditional layout and traditional buildings.

The village hosts - lo and behold - nearly 50 wineries. The reason is that Ammerschwihr has never had its’ own cooperatives. Some producers are large, notably Henri Ehrhart, Kuehn and J. B. Adam who are important trading houses.

Ammerschwihr owes, of course, its reputation to the most recent Alsace Grand Cru, Kaefferkopf. This land was actually the first in Alsace who received official protected status. It was delimited already in 1932, yet it took until 2006 before this mythical terroir was recognised as a Grand Cru within the AOC system. As much as 70% of the area is used for Gewurztraminer, which is often very fresh with obvious citrus aromas. The law allows Kaefferkopf to be sold as variatal wines (not Muscat), or as a traditional mixture of mainly Gewurztraminer and Riesling.

Producers in Ammerschwihr has often land on the Grands Crus of neighbouring villages; Wineck-Schlossberg (Katzenthal), Schlossberg (Kaysersberg/Kientzheim), Furstentum (Kientzheim) and Mambourg (Sigolsheim). Prices of the wines from the village are generally very reasonable. But while Kaefferkopf provides wonderful fresh wines, the more basic wines from Ammerschwihr can be rather uninspiring and dull. These grapes come from the plain which is not capable of giving grapes with the qualities nor the character of the vineyards on the slopes. So be very selective!

Ammerschwihr was sadly levelled to the ground in December 1944 after intense shelling by U.S. artillery. Remaining of the former medieval are the southern city gate and the ruin of the Hôtel de Ville, built in Renaissance style in 1552 (see picture on the left).

Martin Schaetzel, rue de la 5meDB, +33 (0) 389 47 11 39
Producer among the very best in Alsace, offering biodynamic Grands Crus Kaefferkopf, Rangen, Marckrain and Schlossberg, from a total of 14 ha. Expresses the variation in the terroir of Kaefferkopf by means of two different Riesling cuvées, Granite and Nicolas. Pinot Blanc Vielles Vignes is always very good and affordable. The owner Jean Schaetzel is also teacher at the wine college in Rouffach.
René Simonis, 2, rue des Moulins, +33 (0) 389 47 30 79
Etienne Simonis is a young, organically oriented producer with a very promising development since the take-over in 1996. Offers Grands Crus Kaefferkopf and Marckrain and Lieu-dit Vogelgarten in Kientzheim. Simonis harvests late and makes full wines with fruit and minerality, as well as a daring element of volatile acids.
Christian and Audrey Binner, 2 rue des Romain, +33 (0) 389 78 23 20
Progressive and interesting, organic producers that make wine without sulphur additive. Although the production is a little inconsistent, the most successful half of the wines are simply stunning and well worth a journey. Has always older vintage for sale.
Maurice Schoech, 4 route de Kientzheim, +33 (0) 389 80 62 00
Quality Producers who succeeds in everything, especially their Grands Crus Kaefferkopf and Mambourg, where the latter gives legendary Muscat. The wine is well balanced and smooth but also very interesting.
Frederick Geschicht, 1 place de la Sinne, +33 (0) 389 47 12 54
Stable, organic producers with Grands Crus Kaefferkopf and Wineck-Schlossberg. The wine is fresh, spicy and combine power and finesse.
Marcel Freyburger, 13 Grand’rue, +33 (0) 389 78 25 72
Christophe Freyburger is a young producer who took over the responsibility of 7 hectares in 2002. The wines are aromatic, fruity, and inviting, and the prices are still very low.