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Domaine Weinbach

Domaine Weinbach

Faller Genius: Mesmerising Riesling and Gewürztraminer from one of the World’s Greatest Wine Estates

Let’s cut to the chase: Greatness is not always easy to define, yet here it’s straightforward. There’s the legendary quality of the Domaine’s terroirs for a start. Weinbach is the largest land holder on the Schlossberg hill, one of the world’s premier sites for Riesling. Then, there is the outstanding, certified biodynamic work in the vines, the low yields—typically less than 35 hl/ha—and the strict fruit selection at harvest time. Furthermore, there is the classic, minimalist and refined-over-many-decades practice in the cellars that includes whole-cluster pressing, wild-yeast fermentation with no additions, and maturation in ancient, colossal casks. Finally, there’s the brilliance and longevity of the wines themselves, a high standard Domaine Weinbach has been achieving for longer than anyone can remember. 

Of course, no discussion of this Domaine would be complete without mention of the great women that established the modern Domaine Weinbach: Colette Faller and her two daughters, Laurence and Catherine. Sadly, two of these great wine women have been lost to us. Today the emblematic Catherine Faller—surely France’s most charismatic First Lady of wine—is the matriarch. Working with Catherine are her sons, Théo and Eddy Faller, who oversee the day-to-day running of the Domaine and are further driving it to higher peaks. Longstanding maître de chai, Ghislain Berthiot, revels in the phenomenal quality of fruit the Faller family give him to work with. 

Domaine Weinbach farms 32 hectares of vineyards, predominantly Grand Cru. The most famous terroir is the majestic Schlossberg hill, closely followed by the walled Clos de Capucins; a Weinbach fiefdom that lies around the house and its cellars. Put simply, Schlossberg is one of the greatest Riesling vineyards in the world; the quality of this very famous vineyard was well known as early as the fifteenth century. For this reason, it was the first vineyard in Alsace to receive the status of Grand Cru in 1975. The Weinbach Domaine owns eight hectares of this terroir. Another of the Fuller’s great terroirs is the monopole, Clos de Capucins. Taking its name from the Capuchin friars who arrived here in 1619, the Clos is at the bottom of a slope, well protected from winds by the surrounding hills. Its soils consist of sand, alluvium, granite gravel and pebbles. And we should not forget the majestic Furstentum Grand Cru which, in the gifted hands of the Faller family, produces some of the world’s most profound Gewürztraminer.

Domaine Weinbach is universally regarded as one of the greatest producers of Alsace and therefore by proxy, one of the greatest ‘aromatic’ Domaines in the world. It is a Domaine that produces an endless stream of wines that are as delicious as they are profound.

The purchase, in 2019, of six hectares once belonging to Domaine Gérard Fuchs has added more Grand Cru land to Weinbach’s granite-rich bow. The parcels—now in biodynamic conversion—include mature vines from within the Grand Crus of Mambourg, Mackrain and Kaefferkopf and a one-hectare block in Furstentum planted to Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinots Blanc and Gris. Yet the sale lot was not limited to Grand Cru terroir, and Weinbach has also picked up some choice parcels of villages-level vineyard, all lying within a four-kilometre radius of the winery in Kaysersberg. With many of these parcels now in play, the Faller family has seized the chance to embark on a range of winemaking trials and these fascinating wines are released under the Ø Intrant (Zero Input) label.

In terms of vineyard and winemaking practice, the Fallers work as closely with nature as possible. They have farmed organically for some time; however, in the late 1990’s they began the conversion towards biodynamics, a move which was complete in time for the 2005 vintage. Only organic compost is used, and the high value placed on hand vineyard management means there is no recourse for anti fungal, or insecticides. Since conversion, we’ve noted incremental rise in minerality and freshness of the wines, alongside a higher clarity and depth of fruit. The wines have more body, tone and shape too. Quality is still the key, but the wines are somehow more pristine, with brilliant intensity. They glow with life on the palate, as if they have been lit from the back.

In the cellar, the fruit is whole cluster pressed into ancient large foudres where it ferments on its indigenous yeasts. The ferments are lengthy, unhurried and the wine is untended until it is ready for bottling without fining.

In terms of the style, Weinbach offers a remarkable confluence of intensity and clarity, of power and finesse, as contradictory as that sounds. There is also clarity and homogeneity when it comes to the levels of dryness (a rarity in Alsace these days). Basically, all the Rieslings are dry unless they are late harvest (marked “Vendage tardive”, “Selection de grains noble”, or “l’Inedit”, the latter being a specific late harvest bottling). The Gewürztraminer’s will all have residual sugar, but this will be balanced by the phenolics and natural acidity of the grape. In sum, the carnival of layered, rocky, and at times bewilderingly complex wines crafted at this remarkable Estate is something to behold. 

Region

Alsace, France

Wine Maker

Ghislain Berthiot and Théo Leiber-Faller

“Domaine Weinbach is arguably one of the world’s greatest wine estates. Over the years, the Faller family has produced myriad fantastic wines that are sought by wine lovers and collectors everywhere. That consistent track record has shed light on Alsace’s many delicious, age-worthy and memorable white wines. Quality is so high across the board at Weinbach that it is hard to choose a single “best” wine as the subject of a vertical tasting.” Ian D’Agata, Vinous

What They Are Saying

“Domaine Weinbach is arguably one of the world’s greatest wine estates. Over the years, the Faller family has produced myriad fantastic wines that are sought by wine lovers and collectors everywhere. That consistent track record has shed light on Alsace’s many delicious, age-worthy and memorable white wines. Quality is so high across the board at Weinbach that it is hard to choose a single “best” wine as the subject of a vertical tasting.” Ian D’Agata, Vinous

Domaine Weinbach

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