Dulwich Wine Society

Alsace Visit - Easter 2002

Once again members of the Dulwich Wine Society ventured abroad, this time to Alsace. Fewer members formed the party his year – mainly because it was in term time and our educationalists were unable to come, but 19 people, including the Chairman on his first venture on a DWS trip, arrived at the base hotel, the quiet and comfortable Hotel Kastelberg in Andlau on time and unscathed. 

Andlau is an attractive village towards the north of Alsace and boasts three grand Cru vineyards, the best among them the Kastelberg, at whose foot stands our eponymous hotel. After a reception with Cremant d’Alsace the Family Wach served us a traditional Alsatian dinner, with local wines.

Day 2 by coach first to Domaine Albert Mann in Wettolsheim . We were met in the winery by one of the proprietors, Jacky Barthelmé who gave a splendid introduction, not only to his own wines but to Alsace as a whole. By coach again to his offices and tasting rooms in the village where a comprehensive tasting of Albert Mann wines took up the morning, with the Grand Cru Rieslings being exceptional, only to be overshadowed by what must be the best Pinot Noir in Alsace.

After loading the coach with innumerable purchases lunch was in Kaysersberg. The more abstemious ate a snack by the river, but the chairman led the Dulwich trenchermen in sampling the charcuterie of the region.
The afternoon saw a visit to another prestigious house – Josmeyer in Wintzenheim . Here the cellars and the philosophy were different again, and the delightful Arlette guided us with enthusiasm and refreshing frankness. Josmeyer has a splendid tasting room and it was there that the proprietor, Jean Meyer (the fourth generation of the Meyer family to run the firm) gave a spirited introduction to his opulent grand crus, brilliantly conveying the subtleties of the wines and indicating with just what foods they would go.
The hotel provided some very good trout for supper and people experimented with wine matches.
Day three provided contrasts. The first visit was to Jean-Luc Meckert in Heiligenstein, home of the little known but expressive wine “Klevener de Heiligenstein” (not to be confused with Klevner, which is another name for Pinot Blanc.) This is a small Domaine, run by Jean-Luc and his wife with the help of a wine student. This year it is a young lady from China, whom we found preparing the dosage for this year’s Crémant. While wanting to use modern methods they are unable to afford top of the range stainless tanks, so utilise “seconds” of double walled tanks from the dairy industry. They collect rainwater, which is stored in a large cistern for cooling purposes. This saves on metered water. If there is a need to heat the tanks they are connected to the domestic central heating! After a visit to the vines and an excellent alfresco tasting (and more purchases) it was off to Obernai for lunch – the chairman again setting a fine example.
In the afternoon Hubert, our efficient and amiable driver took us to La Cave du Roi Dagobert – an enormous co-operative at Traenheim making 5% of all the wine in Alsace. What a contrast to the morning with arrays of enormous tanks and presses, turning out some five million bottles per year – many of them for other co-ops in the region. The tasting was just a little disappointing, being the one given to general tourists. The organisers sampled much better wines there on their reconnaissance visit in February.

 

It was during this “recce” that John Howard met Claude Moritz in a local restaurant. M. Moritz is proprietor of Alsace Moritz , a winery almost next to the hotel. Late on the Friday afternoon (and well into he evening) M. Moritz and his wife hosted a memorable vertical tasting of his Grand Cru Kasteleberg (plus a sample of his other two Grand Crus). Sunday morning saw a queue of cars collecting cases of wine.
The last visit was on Saturday to Domaine Klur in Katzenthal,  a wonderful small family concern run by Clément and Francine Klur. It is only four years ago that the unique round cellar was built when Clément parted company with a cousin and set up on his own. His excellent wines are now on the list at the Ritz and the Cinnamon Club in London, as well as a luxury hotel in Dubai. Clément gave us a fascinating exposition of a year’s work in the vineyard before leading a lengthy and enjoyable tasting of his wide range of wines. More purchases, more jokes and promises to stay in the apartments on the site.
Lunch and the afternoon in Riquewihr, followed by a drive along the “Route des Vins” was followed by a truly excellent farewell dinner at the hotel, with the wines presented by the grower, Raphael Wach of Andlau.