Thursday, 5 July 2012

Alsatian Ambassador

Guy Dopff sampling some wines
In the last few days I was in Alsace visiting some vineyards and tasting wines.

We even had a helicopter tour of the area and from above you could see little villages relatively close together and surrounded by vineyards or cornfields, the other major crop in Alsace.

But perhaps most memorable was meeting Guy Dopff yesterday, whose father started Dopff & Irion.

The Dopff family has been involved in the wine industry since 1584 and so it seemed natural for Guy to be part of it too. He worked for the company from 1958 and was president from 1975 until he retired in 1985.

However, Dopff is still very active and was a pleasure to talk to. The charming gentleman had no problems switching from French to fluent English and always had something light hearted to say.

On top of that he didn't seem to worry about his health, tucking into a slab of foie gras pate, followed by sausages, ham, sauerkraut and potatoes, as well as cheese and blueberry pie. Oh yes he also had his glasses of wine too.

I asked him is secret to his health and sharp mind. "A zest for life," he replied.

When he was young, he was in the army and learned how to fly planes. Afterwards in 1971 he raced a cessna, a small plane from London to Vancouver.

"We had to refuel, take a pee, and get coffee in less than half an hour to get a credit," he recalled. The longest leg was from London to Halifax where flying took all day.

In the end they didn't come in first, but they finished the race.

Then later on in 1980, he was invited to China as a wine expert.

The Chinese were interested in starting up a vineyard in Harbin, but when Dopff found out how cold it was in winter, he said, "No way!"

He remembers being entertained by his guests at a big banquet and he had to drink Chinese spirits. He managed to keep up with his hosts with all the ganbei or cheers around the table.

At one point his translator, a government-issued one, didn't translate something that was said.

He insisted that she tell him what they said and she shyly said, "You must enjoy good health", insinuating that he had a very good alcohol tolerance level.

While he didn't intend to go there selling wines, Dopff brought some from his winery for people to sample, but they didn't like it much. I assured him that wine is becoming more popular with young people, not just the uber rich.

Now in his 80s, Dopff still travels once a year to Vancouver to visit one of his daughters and his grandchildren. Last year he went to his daughter's cabin and wrote his memoirs, where he said he saw orcas, seals and eagles.

While he seems to live a very comfortable life, Dopff is humble, saying in the wine-making field, "You live poor, but die rich", meaning that others are willing to help you and you are able to meet all kinds of people.

It seems people of Dopff's generation, those who experienced war really have a zest for life; after surviving what may have been the end of the world, any obstacle that comes their way is nothing that can't be dealt with.

That generation is also very resourceful and quick on their feet, entrepreneurial and willing to take risks, also from their wartime experience.

And now they are living out their golden years and enjoying every moment.


1 comment:

  1. My name is Strath Goodship. I'm the son of Guy's co-pilot during the London-Vancouver air race. I googled "Guy Dopff" after seeing pics of that time + saw this post. If it is still possible to contact Guy, could you put me in touch so that I can send pictures. Thx!