The Hospiz Alm restaurant is based in the small hamlet St. Christoph am Arlberg, which is the highest habitation in this major ski area, at 1850 m. Hidden under the attractive but otherwise unremarkable alpine-style restaurant is one of the world’s most remarkable cellars.
We met with Karl-Heinz Pale, sommelier, who has been working here since the collection of some 3000 extremely large wine bottles (ranging from double magnum to the 27 litre primat size, and there are plenty of these) began in 1988.
Adi Werner’s Weinwelt began in 1988. He fell in love with Bordeaux and, as a merchant, visited for the first time in 1978. Despite not being able to get into many of the top Châteaux, he was entertained by Marie-France Manoncourt from Château Figeac. In 1980 he managed to get six Balthazars from Château Haut Marbuzet , and the following year Château Figeac supplied their first large formats.
Most of these wines have been bottled in these large formats especially for Adi Werner.
As well as the main collection in the Hospiz Weinkeller, a second cellar called the Wine Dome was opened in 2022. This is somewhat grander and more architectural, but its walls are also adorned with lots of very large bottles of Bordeaux. It as designed by Viennese architect Gregor Eichinger.
Many chateau are not happy to fill big bottles. In the past, Cheval Blanc did 15 litre bottles but now the largest they will do is 12 litres. Karl-Heinz says that it’s a sign of trust on the part of the vigneron that they will fill bottles of these sizes.
These bottles are highly collectable, but the rule is that customers who buy them must drink them here. He has sold 450 of them in last 110 days.
A few years ago a 15 litre Cheval Blanc was was corked! They took it back to the Château, and although they couldn’t give the same vintage, they replaced it with the current one plus three double magnums.