Stepping into the very modern tasting room at Maison Joseph Cattin, you’d likely never guess that the winery has been around for more than 300 years. But from the first sip of their Crémant d’Alsace, you’ll quickly understand that no further proof is required to convince you of their legacy as one of Alsace’s best known producers.
Born in the late 17th century, François Cattin moved from Switzerland and settled in the small Alsatian village of Voegtlinshoffen, located 10km south of the city of Colmar. Although François’ primary vocation was as a Mason, he established the family winery in 1720 in what today the world would call his ‘side hustle’.
It wasn’t until 1850 when his descendant Antoine made winemaking the primary family business. The winery today is named after Antoine’s son Joseph who was a leading figure in the region’s fight against the dreaded phylloxera louse that swept across Europe in the late 1800s destroying many of the continent’s vineyards.
Between Joseph’s work with grafting, which helped saved many of the most renowned vineyards in Alsace, and his brother Théodore’s very successful Alsatian restaurant in Paris, Cattin became a respected, household name throughout France.
After Joseph’s death, his son Antoine took over the family wine business which consisted of 17 acres of vineyards at the time.
He devoted himself to continuing his father’s legacy of ensuring quality wine production, with a particular focus on viticulture practices.
The modern era of the winery was cemented when Joseph’s grandsons Jacques and Jean-Marie assumed their positions as the next generation at the helm. Over the ensuing 25 years, the brothers introduced modern equipment to support centuries of traditional techniques and increased the winery’s vineyard holdings to a whopping 160 acres, making it one of the largest family-owned estates in Alsace.
Today, Jacques continues to be involved in the family business, but his son (also named Jacques) is now the winemaker since 2007, while his daughter-in-law Anaïs is in charge of international sales.
Anaïs greeted us at the winery which is beautifully situated at the base of the Vosges Mountain range sitting 300m high and providing unobstructed panoramic views of vineyards, the Black Forest, and the Swiss Alps in the distance.
She immediately explained that the aim at Cattin is two-fold, “…to share our passion for wine of course, but also of our culture.”
For the Cattin family, providing a cultural experience to showcase not just the wine but also the local Alsatian heritage is a true source of pride. As an example, the charcuterie boards on offer at the Belvedere wine bar above the tasting room feature meats and cheeses all of which are locally produced within 15km of the winery.
The vineyard plots that make up the 160 acres of Cattin holdings extend throughout 3 areas: in their home village of Voegtlinshoffen, in Steinbach, and near Colmar. Each are under different AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée): Grand Cru, AOC Crémant d’Alsace, and AOC Alsace.
The majority of their vines are more than 60 years old and are southeast facing to maximize ripening given they are planted at varying altitudes between 200m-400m.
Anaïs explains that the Grand Cru Hatschbourg vineyard is a truly historical site with references to its existence that date back to 1188. It is on this renowned plot made up of limestone, clay, and marl where they grow the 4 Alsatian ‘cépages nobles’ or ‘noble’ grape varieties—Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat.
30km south of the tasting room, is their plot within the Steinbach vineyard where they grow Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Here, Anaïs tells us, “…there is sandstone soil with lots of iron in it, which is particularly good for these two varieties because it brings more concentration through the grapes to the wine.”
Finally, there is Le Clos Madelon. At 20 acres, it’s one of the largest Clos (a vineyard enclosed by a wall) in Alsace planted to just one grape variety: Pinot Gris. It sits at an altitude of 425m and has a fascinating history all its own.
During the First World War, the vineyard ended up as a battlefield and was destroyed. After the Great War ended, the vineyard sat untouched until 2000, when Cattin re-planted it hoping to restore it to its former glory. This highly coveted vineyard is made up of a unique ferruginous soil not found anywhere else in Alsace.
Domaine Joseph Cattin provides both an impressive and expansive collection of wines, mostly whites along with Pinot Noir as their only red wine offering (as is typical in this cool climate region).
But where Maison Cattin really shines is with their contribution to Crémant d’Alsace, the name given to sparkling wines made in Alsace. Made using Champagne’s ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’, this sparkling wine represents 45% of Cattin’s total production and they have cemented themselves as one of the very best in Alsace to produce it.
While many wineries in Alsace make a Crémant, Cattin has 4 in their collection including 2 prestige cuvées. The house Brut is made up of Pinot Blanc & Auxerrois while the house Brut Rosé is 100% Pinot Noir. The Cattin Crémant Grande Cuvée is their vintage sparkling wine made up of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay (typically 80%/20%), which was aged for more than 4 years prior to release. And finally, their Crémant Brut Emotion is an exclusive sparkling wine also made with Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay but this time the ratios are reversed with Chardonnay typically making up 80% of the blend and Pinot Blanc at approximately 20%.
A stop at Maison Joseph Cattin is one we would recommend to anyone visiting Alsace.
The quality of the wines combined with the overall visitor experience has successfully carried on the legacy of Joseph & Théodore in terms of gastronomy and conviviality. 12 generations later, it’s abundantly clear that the same passion and drive that made the Cattin name so respected centuries ago,, is alive and well with Jacques and Anaïs. Upon hearing the news that their first child recently turned 1, we’re already optimistic about the next generation in waiting.
2021 Pinot Gris
This off-dry Pinot Gris has a light 8 grams/litre of residual sugar. We get notes of golden delicious apple and lemon curd and slightly rounder texture. The medium acidity is well judged and creates a good counterpoint to the residual sugar.
Joseph Cattin NV Brut
Cremant d’Alsace is the region’s sparkling and makes for a delicious and very affordable aperitif, using the same methods as in the much more expensive Champagne, but of course with different grapes. Still, the difference in price is quite substantial. This non-vintage brut we tasted at the winery showed apple and spice and was very effervescent. This is an aperitif wine, better with a simple appetizer than as an accompaniment to a meal. Made from 100% Pinot Blanc and dosage at 8 grams/litre.
2021 Joseph Cattin Riesling Lieu-dit Alsbourg
A tart, mineral-driven Riesling, the high acidity of the wine might be a bit jarring to some. Still, its green apple and citrus flavours were attractive and presented with good freshness.
18,19 rue Roger Frémeaux
68420 Voegtlinshoffen, France
T: +33 3 89 49 30 21
F: +33 3 89 49 26 02
Tasting Room : Open *daily 10am-7pm
Winery & Vineyard visits available by appointment
*Annual closure: December 24 to April 1