13 Dec We asked two Head Sommeliers for their top picks
For any avid wine-drinker, this drink is more than just an accompaniment to their evening meal and forms an integral part of their ski holiday. At Kaluma Travel, we believe choosing the right wine for our guests is vital for our chalet service. So we have asked the two Head Sommeliers of the Hospiz Hotel and Hospiz Alm, St Christoph am Arlberg for their top picks of the season and an insight into their wine in the infamous Big Bottle Wine Cellar.
The Hospiz Alm, St Christoph
For those wine connoisseurs who haven’t heard of the Hospiz Alm in St Christoph, it is the proud owner of the world’s biggest big bottled wine collection featuring primarily wines from Bordeaux; many of which are bottled exclusively for this very famous establishment. It is a must visit slope-side restaurant and bar with a huge sun terrace and featured balcony, for these three main reasons:
- Their excellent food and wine
- The unique and impressive wine cellar
- The slide which takes you to the toilet…..
The two Christians (Mr Schadl and Mr Unterholzer) are the resident Head Sommeliers at the Hospiz Alm.
Mr Christian Schadl has worked in the Hospiz Alm since 2005 and has been the Restaurant Manager and Sommelier since 2011. In the summer months he stays with his family in Vienna where he does the pre-winter work in the local wine region as well as travelling the world for wine tastings, wine buying, visiting wineries, and searching for new and exciting wines.
The Hospiz Alm was built in 1988. Mr Adi Werner started collecting their infamous Big Bottles in the early 80s. He started with just 6 x 12 litre bottles of Haut Marbuzet 1982. Now they have around 3000 Big Bottles from 3 to 18 litres! The Alm alone sells around 450 – 500 of these sizes in one winter season (December – mid April). There are around 25 Chateaux which started filling these sized bottles purely for Mr Werner and the Hospiz Alm and these include some of the big names like Latour, Lynch Bages, Figeac and Palmer!!
But what about the altitude? Does that play a part in your wine experience? We asked the experts about this age-old concern of skiers who enjoy a tipple or two high up in the mountains.
‘The Hospiz in St Christoph is situated at 1800m above sea level. It’s actually a myth that altitude “gets you drunk quicker”. It doesn’t. It’s actually all to do with dehydration…
The biggest difference between low and high altitude is the dryness of the air. You’ll need to drink plenty of water, because wine will also dehydrate you, and if your nose and palate are dry, they aren’t working as well so a wine’s flavours can seem dull. High Altitude can also make a wine with tannins seem unpleasantly sharp. Typically, tannic wines cause us to salivate, as a way to reduce their astringent effect on the palate. But if you are dehydrated, you will have trouble producing that required moisture, so the wine may seem more tannic.’
A few facts about the Hospiz Alm Wine Cellar:
- Oldest bottle in the Alm is a Chateau Yquem 1921
- Most expensive bottle is the 12 litre Cheval Blanc for around €65,000
- Most popular bigger bottled wine – probably the Cheval Blanc 1982 Magnum or a Petrus 1990
- Best Wine at the Alm is difficult to choose as it is often based on the tastes of the guest or the suggestions of the Sommelier. Some of Christian’s and the guests favourites (where the price is “still ok”) are Chateau Pichon Lalande 1996 or Château La Conseillate 2000 – both cost around the €450 which is a medium-priced wine in the Alm. From the famous big Chateaux it is probably Château Lafite Rothschild 1996 in a Magnum or Château Cheval Blanc 1990.
- Christian’s favourite wine is Château Figeac 2000, which is also his favourite winery in Bordeaux – a must visit for anyone into their wines.
- The big bottles of Cheval Blanc which we are famous for (in wine circles) you can’t get anywhere else in the world. They have filled these sizes (12 or 15 litres) only for the Hospiz Alm restaurant since 1998. It is quite remarkable.
- The quality of the wine in a big bottle is better, because the wine matures slowly in large volume.
Mr Unterholzer worked in the Alm for many years and has now moved to the Hospiz Hotel where he is the Head Sommelier and spends his winters touring the cellars, serving and explaining the wines and the summers stocking the cellar and looking for the next best wine producer!
A few facts about the Hospiz Hotel Wine cellar
(which is more about single bottles, as opposed to the big ones in the Alm)
- Currently the Oldest Bottle in the Hospiz Cellar is a Château d Y’Quem from 1865.
- This is also the Most expensive Single Bottle at €48,000
‘We will always try and fit the best wine to the people drinking it and to their tastes, that’s our job. We have so many suggestions, it really does depend on what the guests want to drink, but if I would have to choose one white and one red it would be:
White: The Grüner Veltliner Schlossberg by Fritsch, a really beautiful Austrian white wine
Red: The Clos L’Eglise 2001 a typical Pomerol red from the Bordeaux region.’
We are very lucky in our wine list, that we not only stock favourites from the big wine producers but as well from smaller independent producers and we also stock wines that you can not find anywhere else in the world, bottled exclusively for us at the Hospiz.’
A common question about the cellar is the names of the bottles…
They are often asked why they have some wines bottled in big bottles. Simply, if you are a group all enjoying a great wine, then it will always taste better from a bigger bottle. The taste will be far more consistent from a 12 litre bottle than it would be from 15 single bottles. There also a great sense of occasion to open, drink and enjoy a big bottle. As Mr Schadl explained as well, the wine matures slower in a bigger bottle, enhancing the full taste of the wine produced over time.
Wine Bottle Sizing
3.0l Double Magnum
6.0l Imperial or Methuselah
So there it is. Some top tips from some top sommeliers. You have no excuse now when you look at your next wine list – you should now exactly what you are looking for!