Domaine Weinbach – one of the top Alsace producers

Domaine Weinbach. The picture is linked from Flickr, where it was uploaded by Michal Osmenda.

Domaine Weinbach is one of the top wine producers of Alsace, and is located in the village of Kaysersberg (Wikipedia article). Weinbach isn’t the only thing Kaysersberg is noted for, since the medical missionary and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Albert Schweitzerwas born in the village. Since 1898, Weinbach has been owned by the Faller family, today consisting of three ladies: mother Colette and the two sisters Catherine and Laurence. On their labels the producer name is written as “Domaine Weinbach – Colette Faller et ses filles” where the last translates as “and her daughters”.

Vineyards just outside Domaine Weinbach. The domaine is located to the left of the picture frame, and the steep vineyard in the background is Schlossberg. The picture linked from Wikimedia Commons, but is originally from Flickr where it was uploaded by Michal Osmenda.

Weinbach has 23.5 ha (58 acres) of vineyards, all of them of high quality, including grand cru holdings i Schlossberg (in the commune of Kientzheim), Furstentum (in Kientzheim and Sigolsheim) and Mambourg (in Sigolsheim). The also have holdings in two vineyards that are both located just below a grand cru. One is the 5 ha (12 acre) monopole Clos des Capucins, located just below Schlossberg, next to the winery of Weinbach. The other is Altenbourg, located just below Furstentum.

The fact that the domaine and the vineyards are spread over three communes doesn’t mean that they are that far apart. It’s only about 3 km/2 miles from one end of the vineyard holding to the other, and the three villages Kaysersberg, Kientzheim, and Sigolsheim are located in a row with short distances between. The commune of Kientzheim stretches all the way to the edge of the built-up area of Kaysersberg. This is the reason why the vineyards seen on the other side of the road from Weinbach are located in Kientzheim despite Kaysersberg being the adress of Weinbach.

The wine style of Domaine Weinbach is concentrerad and fruity, and in many of the better wines there is some residual sweetness. Since 1998, they practice biodynamic viticulture. The combination of concentration, a fruity style, some cases of residual sweetness, and a well-known producer does to some extent put Weinbach in the same camp as Zind-Humbrecht and Marcel Deiss, and all three are biodynamical domaines producing top-class Alsace wines that have a lot of “punch”. Of these three, I consider Weinbach to be the one with the most “regular” style.

Weinbach produces many different cuvées at different quality levels, and use different cuvée names for different varietals, and in some cases a vineyard name is combined with a cuvée name. The naming of the wines can therefore be a little difficult to decipher. Here is my attempt at summarising most of them:

  • The basic level – and at Weinbach already these wines are quite good in quality – is called Réserve (for Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Sylvaner) or Cuvée Théo (for Gewurztraminer and Riesling). The grapes mainly grow in Clos des Capucins, and in some cases they are supplemented with grapes from Altenbourg or Schlossberg.
  • The only vineyard-designated wine that doesn’t carry any extra cuvée name is the  Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg, that originates from the upper part of this vineyard and usually is the most firm Weinbach wine.
  • Cuvée Sainte Catherine is a designation for wines harvested somewhat late, and without a vineyard name it is applied to Pinot Gris and Riesling. In the case of Riesling there is also a Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine and in some vintages a Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine L’Inédit, produced in an even richer style. (Actually, the Sainte Catherine Riesling that doesn’t carry any vineyard names is also produced from Schlossberg grapes.) The name is explained by the fact that the grapes are often harvest around the Sainte Catherine’s day, 25 November, but there’s also a Catherine in the Faller family. The producer describes all these wines as dry, although in a rich style, but some of them can contain some residual sweetness.
  • Cuvée Laurence is a designation used for more concentrated wines than those above, and is used for Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. For both varietals, the designation is used both on its own and together with vineyard names: Altenbourg Cuvée Laurence for both Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, and a Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum Cuvée Laurence. (Cuvée Laurence without a vineyard name is also produced from Altenbourg grapes.) Expect a rather noticeable residual sweetness in thes wines, and in some cases they could go somewhat in the Vendange Tardive direction.
  • For truly sweet wines the common official designations Vendanges Tardives and Sélection des Grains Nobles are used, and sometimes Quintessence des Grains Nobles is used for versions with extra concentration.

Alsacedagen 20140127 Weinbach

I tasted these wines at the Alsace wine day in Stockholm at the end of January, and it was Catherine Faller who poured them.

Pinot Gris Cuvée Sainte Catherine 2011
Nose with ripe yellow apple, hints of apricot, some mineral, and spice notes. The palate has some residual sugar (I estimate 2-3 on the Alsace scale 1-9) and powerful concentration, good spice notes, apple, some apricot and good acidity. 90 p

Gewurztraminer Cuvée Théo 2012
Nose with white peach, lychee, and a discrete perfume note. The palate has some residual sugar (I estimate it to 2-3), mineral, and a medium acidity. Rather good balance for a  Gewurztraminer. 88 p

Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2012
Nose with ripe yellow apple, smoke, and some mineral. Dry on the palate, powerful concentration, mineral, high acidity, and some spice. 90 p

Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine 2011
Nose with ripe yellow apple, peach, and some honey. Dry on the palate, powerful concentration, quite a lot of mineral, and good acidity. 91 p

Note that there’s also a Riesling Sainte Catherine without Schlossberg in its name, but confusingly, also that wine is produced from grapes growing in Schlossberg… 🙂

Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum 2011
Nose of perfume and lychee. The palate is off-dry (I estimate it to 3-4) with powerful concentration, honey, spice notes and medium(-) acidity. 90 p

Pinot Gris Grand Cru Schlossberg Vendanges Tardives 2011
Nose of baked apple, some honey, and spice notes. The palate is VT(+) sweet (I estimate it to 6-7) with powerful concentration, spice, and a fine acidity. 91 p

Gewurztraminer Quintessence des Grains Nobles (Altenbourg) 2010
Nose with pronounced honey notes, spice, and discrete perfume notes with elegance. The palate shows typical Sélection des Grains Nobles sweetness with powerful concentration, loads of honet, dried fruit, spice notes, and a medium acidity. Quite good acidity for a Gewurztraminer. Drinks well now, could develop, 94 p.

Catherine Faller characterised the last wine as “liquid tarte tatin”, and who am I to say otherwise, although I’d opine that it’s uncommon to use this much honey in a tarte tatin. 🙂

Swedish version here.

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This entry was posted in Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling. Bookmark the permalink.

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