The Channel crossing was smooth. The ferry docked in Zeebrugge at nine in the morning. I ate poached eggs and smoked salmon and drank black tea for breakfast and bought a litre of Star of Bombay in the ‘tax free’ shop in case we ran out of things to drink on the coach! The gin features two additional botanicals – Bergamot orange peel from Calabria in southern Italy and Ambrette seed from Ecuador – on top of the 10 that feature in the core Bombay Sapphire expression.
We disembarked, walked to the coach park, bordered our coach and sped across Belgium down the E403. Soon we passed Bruges on our left and joined the E40 going east at Oostkamp. Past Ghent, we stopped for biscuits and coffee and then, crawled past Brussels airport in thick traffic.
Past Luxembourg, we pulled in at a motorway station for a picnic lunch. Luxembourg is a nice city to visit with its imposing cathedral. They sell great coffee there too. Once on our way back to Zeebrugge from Alsace, I bought a fancy coffee machine there. It is still working perfectly.
We drank Pierre-Gimonnet Cuis Premier Cru NV, the fashionable Provencal rose from Chateau Miraval which is owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc, two vintages of Hunter’s Pinot Noir (2008 and 2011 – the second was fine but the first was past its best) and Ken Forrester’s excellent Petit Pinotage 2014 – light and fruity without the palate busting tannins found in many expressions of the varietal. There was also an Oz Shiraz blended with – of all things, Riesling! Les sliced Chorizo and Spanish cheese with a massive chopper (both excellent – I mean the ham and cheese) which he sources from a Spaniard in Wetherby. I made a mental note to get some for myself when we return. Mandy arranged slices on a square of slate and passed it round. Smoked salmon and cooked meats were brought out and bread was broken. I ate my first burger and chips in twenty years and loved it!
Already in Alsace, we by-passed Strasbourg (but not the evening traffic) and travelled south along the A35 towards Colmar. The Rhine and the Black Forest were on our left and to the right, vineyards stretched up the foothills of the mist shrouded Vosges mountains. The vines on the flat land would produce AOC Alsace wines and those on the slopes, Grand Crus. Ruined castles sit on mountain ridges. We passed the 12th century Haut-Koenigsbourg dominating the plain and then, the pretty little village of Andlau dating from Gallo-Roman times. Andlau was our base during an earlier visit to Alsace. There are three Grand Crus in Andlau. Wiebelsberg is the largest Grand Cru, and its sandstone gives relatively light and lively Rieslings. Moenchberg, on granite, gives succulent wines. Here Pinot Gris performs very well. From Kastelberg, a unique terroir on schist, a handful of growers produce some of the most exciting wines of Alsace, loaded with minerality. Mark Kreydenweiss is the top producer here.
It was already pass six in the evening and it has been a long day. Thoughts were of showers, drinks and good hot dinners. We turned right off the A35 before Colmar and drove through the vineyards to Riquewhir.