A brotherhood of wine with an old friend
David Ling with Jo Locke at the château in Kientzheim
An appointment with the Confrérie Saint-Etienne d'Alsace (a wine brotherhood), particularly one held in a castle, sounded intriguing. I was half-wondering whether we'd be asked for a secret password when we got there, but we had been invited by old friend of The Wine Society, David Ling. David worked with the Hugel family for many years and was a frequent supporter of our tastings and well-known to the many members who have visited Hugel's premises in Riquewihr.
Since retiring from Hugel, David has become increasingly active in the Confrérie whose role it is to promote the wines of Alsace at home and abroad. David was the outgoing 'grand master' and now holds the position of international relations.
David explains what the different coloured ribbons of the chevaliers signify
It was fascinating to hear a bit more about how these organisations work, get a guided tour of the castle (and its amazing wine museum and archive of old bottles) and learn about the work they do on the educational front. They are really proactive in organising events for youngsters in the region to come along and taste older wines, for example.
The confrérie has an impressive library of old bottles in its cellars
One of the reasons the Confrérie was keen to talk to us was because they have lost, quite literally, what they call their UK delegation and they thought that we might be able to help in some way. It seems that they had a very strong group working here in the UK with them back in the 1960s but when the man running it all died suddenly, his widow sold up and gave everything away, including all the contact details of the members in the Confrérie. They also had a chapter in London for a number of years but unfortunately that met with a similar fate.
We have since heard that progress has been made in setting up some activities here in the UK and knowing how charming David Ling is, I'm sure they will be able to convince someone to take on the baton.
If you want to find out more about the Confrérie, there's plenty more on their website here.
Beware all who enter here! Gargoyle protecting the gateway to Kientzheim
Home via Metz
The impressive Germanic-looking railway station
We had hoped to be able to call in on producers in the Moselle on the way home, but sadly they were closed up for the holiday (gone skiing!). However, we broke our long drive home in Metz, another impressive northern French university town which despite the atrocious weather was positively buzzing on a Friday night.
We had little time to wander and it really was pouring down, but a quick dash through the old town with the medieval colonnades and the gothic cathedral was enough to inspire a return visit one of these days.
We managed to get a table at a convivial restaurant where we could buy very reasonable wine by the glass and were impressed with the number of tables of young women out dining and drinking wine together. Who says that the younger generation aren't enjoying wine?!
Where to go next?