We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and some of us strolled round Colmar for one last time, before being ready to board the coach with our luggage at 11.30am.
Our destination, en route to the airport was Domaine Joseph Cattin. 12 generations of Cattins have made wine in Alsace, and the current generation, Jacques Junior, with his wife Anaïs lead the business. We arrived in the village of Voegtlinshoffen, about 20 minutes from Colmar, at the very impressive new building which was built only 6 years ago on the site of the old Theo Cattin winery, and as we were to discover, enjoys panoramic views across the Rhine valley.
Sylvie, one of the winemakers, escorted us through the village to the old winery, explaining that they own 90ha of vines, about half of which are farmed organically, and also buy in grapes from 100 families. She talked about the individual terroirs of their vineyards – the Hatschbourg and Eichberg Grand Crus are on limestone, whereas Rangen is on volcanic soil. Steinberg (not a grand cru) is on sandstone with iron and produces more full bodied wines, while the sandy gravel soils near the river are where grape for crémant are grown.
In the old winery (that didn’t look that old) we learnt about the winemaking, amongst the old barrels in which small parcels of terroir wines are fermented and aged. Sylvie explained they have modern technology to control temperature in these beautiful vessels, but they still need to get inside them to clean them out, not a good thing for the claustrophobic! A tablet of tartrate crystals demonstrated the amount of stuff that needs to be cleaned out!
Back at the new building we did indeed enjoy the panoramic views while we had a wonderful tasting of their wines. Cattin are the largest family owned winery in Alsace, but nothing about it was ‘corporate’. Anaïs was welcoming other customers who had come for a drink or something to eat, and chatted to us about the family history, and the other wineries such as Edouard Leiber, that they have acquired but still produce under the original name.
She talked about their experimentation with closures – they trial screw caps, along with natural and synthetic corks for wines they age, and will use different closures according to the country they are exporting to.
Sylvie gave us a quick summary of the process of making Crémant and our tasting commenced.
We started with the Brut Crémant, followed by the Rosé Crémant, both of which showed a lot of leesy character but plenty of fruit and were very nice with the Gugelhupf (a kind of alsacien brioche). A Riesling from the Elsbourg Lieu-dit, just down the hill from the winery was followed by their Muscat, at which point platters of cold meats and cheese arrived. The Pinot Gris Médaille d’Or (made each year from selected plots) and the Gewürztraminer from the Hatschbourg Grand Cru went brilliantly with the food, as did the Médaille d’Or Pinot Noir. We finished with the most delicious chocolate ice cream pudding with Marc de Gewürztrainer, accompanied by their Sélection des Grains Nobles Gewürztraminer. And to finish the Crémant Emotión – top of the range crémant, aged for 24 years on the lees.
It was a fantastic tasting – very high quality wines that once again demonstrated the huge range of styles of Alsacien wine, and the food was perfectly matched. Tim thanked Sylvie and Anaïs and the team, and then thanked us for coming! It was the final spring tour, and over three months Tim has taken nearly 200 people on eight wine tours covering five regions. There was general agreement he deserves a rest! But not too much because everyone is keen to know what the 2024 programme is….