A land forgotten by time, Alsace enchants of fairy tales and days gone by. My June visit exposed me to quaint villages filled with houses lined with window boxes and storks nesting atop buildings. A colorful blend of German and French culture, Alsace delights all who visit. Imagine how this magical place awakens at Christmas.
The Capital of Christmas
Claiming to be home to the first Christmas market in 1570, Strasbourg, as decreed by Deputy Mayor Jean-Jacques Gsell, became the Capital of Christmas in 1992. Millions of tourists make the annual pilgrimage to Strasbourg to visit one of the region’s greatest Christmas markets, Christkindelsmärik, or Marché de Noël in French. According to the Strasbourg web site, “The markets are about reconnecting the festive period with spiritual beliefs and culture. Christmas traditions are deeply rooted in Alsatian culture, especially in the countryside.” Imagining the story-book villages decked out in the Christmas spirit is almost more than I can stand!
Lying quietly between Strasbourg and Colmar, Sélestat is recognized as home to the first Sapin de Noël, also known as a Christmas tree. According to documents housed in the Bibliothèque Humaniste of Sélestat, the first Christmas tree was mentioned in 1521. A “tree of life” was decorated with fruit symbolizing temptation and redemption.
Alsatian gastronomical traditions come alive during the holiday season. Vin Chaud, mulled wine, is a spicy, citrus Christmas tradition that originated in France, and served in abundance in Christmas markets.
An array of baked goods are celebrated in Alsace during the holidays. The Christolle, a Christmas brioche filled with cream and candied fruits, Mannele, buttered brioche shaped as a man eaten on December 6 – St. Nicholas Day, and Gingerbread cookies decorated with Alsatian motifs are timeless traditions.
Beloved by Alsatians year-round, Kugelhopf is synonymous with Alsatian Christmas. A spongy brioche-style cake containing candied fruit, orange zest, almonds, and dusted with confectioner’s sugar- whether morning, mid-day, or after-dinner dessert, it is a treat. I enjoyed a slice of Kugelhopf on a late afternoon in June, with a glass of Selection de Grains Nobles Riesling, a high-quality wine sweet wine made from noble rot.
Alsatians celebrate the holidays with lots of food. Foie gras, cooked goose stuffed with apples and chestnuts, Choucroute Garni, and Spätzle, which pairs seamlessly with Riesling, one of Alsace’s prominent wines.
Domaine Paul Blanck has been crafting high quality Alsatian wines for over four generations. Best known for their terroir-driven Grand Cru wines, Blanck pays the same attention to all wines in their portfolio.
“Wines find their expression in three origins: the soil that gives it its style, the climate that gives it its shape and man who through his work in the vineyard, in the cellar and in the bottle give it spirit and balance.” ~ Jacques Puisais, famous oenologist.
2017 Domaine Paul Blanck Riesling Rosenbourg Alsace France ($24): bright citrus, stone fruit, minerality, salinity, dry, mouth-watering acidity, refreshing and elegant, and a perfect pairing with traditional Alsatian cuisine.
Explore More French Holiday Traditions by reading my fellow #Winophile articles:
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares how to “Give a Little Touche Française to Your Holiday #Winophiles“.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up “A French #Winophiles Fête: Foie Gras, Pain d’Épices & Champagne Drappier”
- Jill shares from L’OCCASION shares “How To Bring French Holiday Traditions Home”
- Gwen at WinePredator has “Season’s Greetings French-Style”
- Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm gives us “A Holiday Gathering with French Foods and Wines”
- Martin at ENOFLYZ Wine Blog shares “A Taste of French Inspired Holiday Food and Wine”
- Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells writes about “Ants Climb a Tree with French Wine”
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish tells us about “Parisian Holiday: A Few of My Favorite Things”
- Kat from Bacchus Travel and Tours writes about “Noel en Provence“
- Jeff from foodwineclick discusses “What is French-Style Season?”
- Payal writes at Keep The Peas shares “Bonnes Fêtes à la #winophiles”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles entices us with “Un repas de Noël pour les fêtes de fin d’année (A Christmas Dinner for the end of the year celebrations)…with wine #Winophiles”
- David Crowley from CookingChat shares “Festive Pairings for Pouilly-Fumé and Other Special French Wine #winophiles“
- Lyn writes at L.M. Archer tells us about “The Hedonistic Taster: French-Style Season Edition”
- Jane cooks things up at Always Ravenous shares “A French Inspired Winter Dinner”
- Nicole from Somms Table shares “Crocus l’Atelier Malbec de Cahors with Château Mercuès Saffron Chicken Soup“
- Liz from What’s In That Bottle tells us how to “Frenchify Your Festivities with Fun Wines“
- Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah Queen shares “French Inspired Holiday Wines”
Please join our chat tomorrow on Twitter at 10am CST to discuss French holiday styles and tradition. Have a joy-filled and blessed holiday season. Cheers!
*I wrote this article on Tuesday, December 11. At the end of my work day, I turned on the news to learn of the terrible shooting at the Christmas Market in Strasbourg. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the heinous act of terrorism.