Sigilles & Œnothèque
The Sigille and the Oenothèque
In order to visibly honour exceptional wines that display both the quality and the typicity of Alsace varietal wines, in 1957 the Confrérie Saint-Etienne created a very severe blind-tasting competition called Les Sigilles d’Alsace.
Wines selected by a jury of Confrérie members at two annual tastings, are allowed to wear the red seal of the Confrérie, and 12 bottles of each wine are placed in the Oenothèque of the Château, to join the more than other 60 000 bottles that form a living memory of the history of Alsace wines.
This treasure of the Alsace vineyards includes the famous Méquillet Collection of around 200 bottles of Alsace wines that miraculously escaped the ravages of two World Wars, and consists of vintages from 1937 back to 1834…
Wines from all over Alsace, in the categories AOC Alsace, AOC Alsace Grand Cru and AOC Crémant d’Alsace (not forgetting the rare late-harvest Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles wines) are submitted to two blind tastings that take place in January and July each year. These wines must come from the harvest-before-last, in other words they must already be in bottle, or from earlier vintages in the case of late-harvest wines.
To be awarded a “Sigille” the wines are tasted anonymously by a large jury of experts made up of Confrérie members, winegrowers, experts and professional sommeliers. To be accepted, a wine must attain a score of at least 7 out of 10 for both quality and typicity, and each wine is then analysed by an independent laboratory to confirm that it conforms to all technical standards.
The wines chosen are labelled with the red “Sigille” (from the Latin “sigillum”, or seal). Each label is individually numbered and bears the signature of the Executive Chancellor of the Confrérie.
The list of all wines successfully awarded the “Sigille” is published annually, listed by producer and village. This buyer’s guide is eagerly awaited both by professionals and by private consumers and can be obtained on demand from the Chancellery.
Apart from the 12 bottles of each wine that enter the historic Oenothèque of the Confrérie, the Confrérie purchases further bottles to be served at official banquets and chapters both at the Château de Kientzheim and elsewhere. These bottles have a “neutral” Confrérie label, in order not to be able to identify the producer, and so they respect the charter of 1561 which enshrines the Confrérie’s solemn duty to promote the wines of Alsace “in an impartial and non-commercial way”.
The Oenothèque of the Confrérie Saint-Etienne is maintained and renewed by members of the Junior Council, who demonstate their attachment to the savoir-faire of their predecessors and their devotion to the quality of Alsace wines that has always been the prime objective of the Confrérie.