Our tour to these fabulous regions in 2023 enabled us to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Rhine Valle, with its backdrop of the Vosges Mountains to the west and the Black Forest to the east.
Based in Colmar, we enjoyed four visits in Alsace and three in Baden. We tasted some fabulous wines, of very high quality, along with delicious cuisine. While Riesling was of course a key variety, we explored many others, with a wonderful array of styles, including some wonderful Pinot Noirs. And of course we met some brilliant winemakers whose passion and desire to share their wines with us was truly humbling.
Our Alsacien visits were to
La Maison Zeyssolff in Gertwiller, where we were introduced to the Sylvaner grape variety including from the Grand Cru Zotzenberg vineyard. Klevener de Heiligenstein can only lbe made in five towns in Alsace and its delicate subtle flavour reminiscent of Gewürztraminer was a revelation.
At Philippe Blanck in Kientzheim we met Philippe Blanck, who with his cousin Frédérick now runs the business their grandfather founded. This was a return visit, following our tour in 2009 and it did not disappoint. Our tasting was amazing – Philippe encouraged us to use all of our senses in our appreciation of the wines, and our tasting in included Auxerrois at different quality levels, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer, some from the Grand Cru and Lieux-Dits vineyards Philippe had shown us during our short walk up to the edge of town.
At Rolly Gassman we had an absolute wine marathon, tasting 18 wines in their splendid modern winery overlooking the village of Rorschwihr (and the entire river valley). Highlights included a complex, rich 2011 Sylvaner from the Weingarten de Rorschwihr terroir, a 2015 SGN Riesling from Silberberg de Rorschwihr, a 1996 Pinot Gris from Rotliebel de Rorschwihr and a 1994 SGN Gewürztraminer from Oberer Weingarten de Rorschwihr. A wonderful selection of Lieux Dits and Grand Cru wines complemented a wonderful lunch, and the views towards both west and east were spectacular.
In the village of Voegtlinschoffen we visited Domaine Joseph Cattin, and had a wonderful visit and lunch under the guidance of Sylvie, one of the winemakers and Anaïs Cattin, who explained the history of this, the largest family owned winery in Alsace. Our final visit allowed us to enjoy top class Crémant, and the gamut of Alsacien grape varieties and styles.
In Baden we spent a day with Robert Schätzle at Schloss Neueweier in the Ortenau, near Baden Baden. This was a wonderful experience, Robert, who has pioneered quality winemaking here, was so generous with his time and knowledge and of course his wines. Included in our tasting were four rieslings which took us from a VDP Ortswein (village wine) through the VDP Erste Lage Neuweier Schlossberg, the VDP Grosses Gewächs Mauerwein and finally the Neuweier Mauerberg Auslese from 2015. And our lunch, created by Jan Hoffman, the executive chef who Robert lured from his Michelin starred restaurant in Munich was stunning.
In Kaiserstuhl, just across the river from Colmar, we visited St Remegius, and were hosted by Philipp Isele, the son of one of the founders. We learnt about the volcanic soils, and their focus on the Burgundian varieties, but also their new experiments with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, in an effort to respond to with climate change.
In the village of Bischoffingen we enjoyed a series of local speciality flammekeuchen at Bianca’s Gastro, owned by the daughter of Irene and Karl Heinz Johner, very accomplished and experienced winemakers who in the 1970s developed the Lamberhurst vineyard in Kent! They also have a winery in Martinborough, New Zealand, which I’m sure will feature on a future tour down under.
Another variety – Rivaner (a different name for Müller Thurgau, and actually very good), some contrasting Pinot noirs, and a Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend demonstrated Baden definitely has a climate warm enough to ripen these varieties. A Spätlese effortlessly complemented the flambéed apple Flammekeuche.
Our gastronomic adventures culimated at the Maison des Têtes in Colmar, with a typical Alsacien meal: rabbit terrine, pike or chicken, and an unctuous chocolate mousse, with guess what some Crémant, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noir! It was a great evening, and we celebrated our final night with some kind words and a lot of laughter.
Read more about this tour in the blogs we wrote.