Tue 05 Jan 2016

Remembering Jean Meyer of Domaine Josmeyer, Alsace

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It is with a feeling of infinite sadness that I have to announce the death of Jean Meyer at the age of 71 after a long illness, which he faced with great courage, helped of course by his wife Odile and daughters Céline and Isabelle.

Jean Meyer with his wife Odile

Jean Meyer with his wife Odile

It would be difficult to overstate his contribution to Alsace. If this French and Rhenish region has achieved anything since its post war elevation to appellation status, much of the credit must stop at his door.

Josmeyer sign, AlsaceHe did something unimaginable, combining an approach to winemaking that bordered on the puritanical with a flair for marketing could have benefited any of the world’s most prestigious brands.

As a winemaker he had no master, believing in the intrinsic quality of Alsace wines, and every year facing the challenge of turning his grape into wines worthy of the appellation and the Josmeyer brand.

Josmeyer had started as a négoce house but Jean gradually did away with purchased grapes. Today all the production comes from own vines, and that includes The Society’s Exhibition Alsace Riesling. Moreover, all the vines are now farmed both organically and biodynamically.

Alsace revels in its grape varieties and Jean made all their diversity a strength. Together with his daughter Isabelle, he designed labels according to grape variety, changing with every vintage. He was a passionate advocate of grand cru and designed a Japanese-inspired label just for these exalted wines.

His wines were never less than elegant and always were marked by a sense of purity. Jean was a remarkable epicurean and realised, perhaps before anyone else, the importance of food in selling wine. And he had an answer for any number of dishes. He extolled the virtues of gewurztraminer with anything tomato, for example, and took the time to write a lovely piece on matching Alsace wines with cheese on our website.

There was more to this focus on gastronomy than just marketing savvy. Jean was an outstanding cook in his own right, understanding the delicate balance that exists between wine and food. It is the same sense of balance that made him an outstanding blender. As a host, he had no equal; his lunches were always a high point of the year. His risotto was something of legend and the perfect foil for an aged riesling or pinot gris.

Jean Meyer with daughters Céline (left) and Isabelle, and Josmeyer director Christophe Ehrhart

Jean Meyer with daughters Céline (left) and Isabelle, and Josmeyer director Christophe Ehrhart

He had a boyish charm and infectious enthusiasm that will be irreplaceable.

Odile was his life companion who allowed him to shine, though not without the occasional tease. Céline and Isabelle are his talented daughters who for some time have held the reins of this extraordinary Alsace house. Our thoughts are with them.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Comments

  1. My wife and I were privileged to visit Josmeyer with a group of enthusiasts a few years ago. When we left, after an excellent tasting, we understood, for the first time, what Biodynamics was all about. Explained simply but thoroughly. RIP

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