(March 2018) On my most recent trip to Alsace, my friend Coralee took me to visit Cattin Winery. Established in 1720, the winery is now operated by the 12th generation of the family – husband and wife team Jacques and Anais Cattin. What makes Cattin distinctive is their line-up of captivating cremants, as well as their unique wine tourism experiences.
Cattin’s Modern Tasting Room in the Village of Voegtlinshoffen
After a delicious lunch in Colmar at Restaurant Maison de Tetes, we drove about 20 minutes to Voegtlinshoffen – one of the many small enchanting wine villages that line the foothills of Alsace. There, in a town of ancient buildings, stood the modern tasting room of Cattin, just opened in late 2017. Anais Cattin came to greet us and then provided a very entertaining tour and tasting for the next two hours.
She escorted us upstairs to a magnificent tasting room with glass windows overlooking a panoramic view of the long valley that stretches through Alsace with the mountains of Germany and the Black Forest beyond. The tasting bar is designed to look like a silver wine bucket, and was handmade by an artist in Western France. We settled into some comfortable chairs to admire the view and learn more about Cattin.
We discovered that the new Cattin tasting room and cellars is just one of three wineries the family owns. The original old cellar is just a short walk down the road, and Anais has established a wine tourism option for €12 euros per person that includes a visit to the old cellar, and then a tasting on the top level of the new winery, so visitors can see their vineyards stretching out in the valley below. The third winery is a very large cremant production facility in southern Alsace.
Altogether Cattin produces around 3.6 million bottles of wine per year (300,000 cases), and owns 70 hectares of vineyards. Obviously in order to produce such a large quantity of wine, they also purchase grapes from many local vineyards
Cattin Cremants and Still Wines
Though they produce all types of wine from Alsace, Cattin is especially known for their Cremant d’Alsace, sparkling wines made in the same fashion as Champagne, with secondary fermentation in the bottle. They age all of their cremants on the lees for at least 12 months, but also have some higher end vintage wines that are aged as long as 4 years in the bottle before release. Anais told us that they are now exporting their wines to the East Coast of the US.
By law, Cremants d’Alsace can be made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay grapes. The wines are either white or rose. Due to their high quality and lower prices, Crémant d’Alsace is the top AOC sparkling wine consumed in France, according to Wines of Alsace.
We tasted through the line-up of cremants, and it was a very delicious experience:
- Cattin Cremant d’Alsace Brut = floral nose, fresh, fruity and very approachable. Made from Pinot Blanc & Auxerrois grapes; 7 grams per liter sugar
- Cattin Cremant d’Alsace Rose = made from 100% pinot, this sparkling rose had a nose of strawberry, with bright red fruit and citrus on the palate; 9 grams per liter sugar
- Cattin Cremant d’Alsace Emotion – a more complex sparkling made with 20% Pinot Blanc and 80% Chardonnay, this wine had the more classic notes of citrus, pear and minerality. 24 months aging in the bottles; 6 grams per liter sugar.
- Cattin Cremant d’Alsace Grand Cuvee 2010 – this was my favorite sparkling with a mouthwatering high acidity, notes of nuts, toast, mineral, and green apple, and a creamy mouthfeel. Made with 80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Chardonnay, this wine was aged for 4 years in the bottle. 5 grams per liter sugar.
Still Wines of Cattin
We also tasted some delicious still wines, including the Cattin 2013 Riesling Sec Pur de Roche, a single vineyard Riesling oozing with complex mineral notes and a touch of salt. Their Cattin 2015 Rouge d’Alsace Steinbach is made with 100% pinot noir and exhibits black cherries, earth, truffle and structured tannins – quite unique, compared to most Alsatian pinot noirs, which are usually light colored, silky, and rather simple. My favorite was the Cattin 2015 Gewürztraminer Vendages Tardives, which jumped out of the glass with classic notes of honeysuckle, litchi and apricot. On the palate it was smooth and delicious, filled with a hint of spice, honey, and dried mango.
It’s Now Cool to Add Ice to Champagne, Cremant, and Provence Rose
Probably the most unusual and fun wine we tried was their new product release of Cattin Cremant d’Alsace ICE. This sparkling wine, made from 100% Pinot Auxerrois, is purposely made in a sweeter more fruity style, with 40 grams per liter sugar (4% RS). It is designed to be drunk with ice as an aperitif, and is targeted at younger wine drinkers in France and abroad. The packaging on the bottle is also unique, with the design created by a French street artist who specializes in painting large outdoor murals.
The trend of adding ice to sparkling wine was introduced several years ago by Moët & Chandon, and is now very popular in France. Other Champagne and Cremant houses have followed suit, but, interestingly, have created separate blends and new products. Anais explained that because these wines are usually consumed in the summer with the ice melting in the wine, that the blend must be fruiter and sweeter. I was amazed at the number of advertisements I saw in France for Champagne Ice, Cremant Ice, and even Rose Ice from Provence. Finally it’s cool to add ice to wine – something my mother has been doing for years – adding ice to her white zinfandel.
Unique Wine Tourism Experiences at Cattin Winery
In addition to the beautiful new tasting room, Cattin has added another unique wine tourism experience – Segways in the Vineyard. For only € 57 per person you can book a 3 hour tour, which includes the tasting described above, as well as a tour through the vineyards with a guide. Although I didn’t have time to do this during my recent visit to Cattin, I definitely hope to do so the next time I return to Alsace!
Finally, just like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, Cattin has begun to build a huge list of private clients who want to buy wine and return to the winery for special events (similar to a wine club in the US). Anais told us they now have a list of over 10,000 people, and have created wine dinners that attract many of their local fans. For example, they recently hosted a Foie Gras dinner which sold out in one hour. They have also organized a New Year’s Eve dinner party, and brought in a Michelen star chef to pair their wines with his cuisine. Cattin is truly a trailblazer in creating unique wine tourism experiences in France!