I’m a really big fan of Wine Cooperatives; wine tasting which is relaxed, in a friendly and professional atmosphere, unpressurised, always in English, and always free. I’ve written about them before (In praise of Wine Cooperatives) with some of my favourites being in Beaune, Buxy/Montagny, Bourgueil, Montbazillac, Turckheim, Chablis, and …… Ribeauvillé.
“The vineyards of Ribeauvillé have been there since the beginning of time. The Lords of Ribeaupierre and the Benedictine monks were the first to utilise the abundance of natural resources: with its south facing slopes and varying top soils.”
Ribeauville Wine Cooperative History
The Cave de Ribeauvillé is the oldest Coop in France, established in 1895 and has always had a simple philosophy of taking the entire harvest from each member, and paying them fairly, and with only 38 growers everyone involved is serious about creating quality wine. Quality just oozes from the building as soon as you walk inside.
Historically, in 1885 Alsace was annexed to the German Reich, and this was the catalyst for the Cooperative creation. Cut off from France and its wine connoisseurs the vineyards of Ribeauvillé were sadly neglected and it was a group of winegrowers who then decided to group together. They founded the Ribeauvillé cooperative based on the ideas of German sociologist Frédéric Raiffeisen and initially named it Rappoltsweller Winzerverein. The principle was simple, each member had to bring all his harvest to the cooperative and in exchange was paid fairly. Skilled workers were in charge of the winemaking and bottling, a sales force found outlets for the wine and an administrative body took care of production and selling. Everything was placed under the direct control of the winegrowers who formed a board of directors. A simple principle, but with very clear organisation and comprehensive strategy. To re-emphasise the quote from above, the vineyards of Ribeauvillé have been here since the beginning of time. But it was the Lords of Ribeaupierre and the Benedictine monks who first recognised the value of its south facing slopes and different topsoils. It is believed that the knight-monk Martin Zahn returning from the Crusades played a major role in the creation of “Clos du Zahnacker”. This is their most prestigious plot, a monopole, an enclosed plot which has been the exclusive property of the Cave de Ribeauvillé since 1965. It has a rich history. It has been owned by knights and clergy. As mentioned, it’s name comes from one of its first recorded owners, the knight and monk Martin Zahn (Zahn Acker = Zahn’s Field). Measuring 1.24 hectare, the Clos du Zahnacker is dominated by the Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle and is located in the heart of the Grand Cru Osterberg, with a south-east sun exposure. Three grape varieties are cultivated in equal parts among the Clos: Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer all making exceptional wines. Despite all the upheaval in the history of this part of France since 1895, the Cave de Ribeauvillé has survived and stuck to its guiding principle.
Inside The Cooperative Tasting Room
It is a joy to visit, free tasting of ALL wines, tours of cellars and vines, and exceptional value pricing. Wine Cooperatives like this one are well worth visiting either as an introduction to wine tasting or as an opening when visiting a region for the first time. We visited the tasting room twice last week, first time tasting all the common grapes and at all levels, 25+ wines. Then on our return two days later to retaste several we had chosen as high quality and high value before making our choice. My daughter bought several grades of Riesling but none for me.
Another Wine Tasting Festival!
As a quick aside to all this, we really couldn’t believe our luck as over the weekend it was the Ribeauvillé wine festival where 270 wines were available for tasting for €8. A large room, donut shaped large tasting table, chillers and servers inside the donut. A catalogue with all the wines organised by type (fizz, white, red) and by grape (Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Noir). Get your Tasting Glass and catalogue, tell the waiter the wine # you want to taste, then look, swirl, sniff, taste and ……. spit, because 270 is a LOT of wine. I managed 27, daughter and husband got through 40 apiece! Then zzzzzzzz!