Embarking on an Adventure in Alsace: Exploring Domaine Weinbach (Part 1)

By | 27 March 2024

Website: Weinbach

Weinbach is a renowned name in Alsace, marking my second visit to this location. This visit occurred with Eddy Leiber-Faller, who manages the domaine in association with his brother Théo and their mother, Catherine Faller.

Weinbach offers an impressive sight of the Schlossberg Grand Cru, the site where a significant portion of their vines grow, covering an extensive area of 80 hectares. They recently grafted a block of mature vines to Syrah and Grenache last year, which yielded promising results. Eddy expressed their excitement about the prospects of Syrah and Grenache on the Schlossberg, while noting the effective grafting procedure on 20-year-old vines allowing for established rootstock.

However, they had to bear with a learning curve. While the Grenache was thriving, attaining 13.5% alcohol, it was devoured by wild boars. Therefore, they decided to safeguard it with electric fences in the subsequent year. The Syrah was unaffected, with a production of 200 litres. Boar-related issues are generally not a concern here since, as Eddy explains, “They don’t like Riesling. It’s too sour for them.”

Schlossberg, with its granitic soils, is where Riesling and a small quantity of Pinot Noir are grown. Adjacent to it, towards the right side of the hull, lies Furstentum, extending to 30 hectares on limestone and marl. This area is populated by the likes of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and following some recent acquisitions, Riesling.

In total, they possess 38 hectares of vineyards, all being estate properties. With an average production yield of 30 hl/hectare, they manage to produce approximately 150 000 bottles per annum.

For the past two decades, Weinbach has been practicing organic and biodynamic methods of farming. Depending on the location, they utilize anywhere between 0-100% of cover crop. Their pruning method also varies with respect to the site. As mentioned by Eddy, “Historically we have kept Schlossberg clean,” however, “this year we were experimenting with 50% cover crop, maintained throughout the season. This helps in retaining moisture and humidity and also prevents evaporation.” He further notes that one needs to regularly manage the plant cover to prevent it from rapidly overtaking the vineyard.

Eddy expresses optimism at the future of the Pinot family in Alsace, in light of the changing climate conditions. They foresee a single vineyard Pinot Noir in all of the premier sites within the next five years.

‘We started taking it more seriously 20 yeas ago,’ says Eddy, ‘and over time we have isolated the right vineyards. Alsace could have made great Pinots long ago but it wasn’t treated seriously. With climate change it is much more consistent and we can make great Pinot Noir every year.’

‘Burgundy is getting too hot for Pinot, it’s quite clear,’ he says, ‘so the sweet spot will be Champagne, Alsace and parts of Germany, and Switzerland. Champagne won’t switch to still wines because the bubbles are so profitable.’

He also adds, ‘Burgundians are opening a highway for us because of the prices. The Burgundians are saving the Bordelais!’

For Pinot Noir, they get higher acidity on granite than on marl/limestone.

‘Maybe the 100% Alsace model needs rethinking,’ suggests Eddie. ‘It’s 100%, but it would be beneficial to allow a 15% leeway for incorporating other elements.’ He mentions upcoming amendments to the Grand Cru Schlossberg regulations, which encompass the removal of Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, and a relaxation of the Riesling requirement to 85%.

Weinbach Pinot Noir Colline du Châteaux 2021 Alsace
Schlossberg, distinguishable by its granite soils. This wine features 20% whole cluster and matures for 2 years in an older barrel. It boasts a pure, juicy, lively, and fresh character, punctuated with delightful spicy details. A savory, mineral undercurrent and some autumnal notes give it depth, while its fine, linear structure with sappy green hints and fine tannins add complexity. Its brightness and delicacy are captivating, enhanced by an intriguingly fine-spiced purity. 94/100

Weinbach Pinot Noir Les Terres de Princes 2021 Alsace
Furstentum, whose uniqueness lies in its limestone marl. Made 100% in Bize Leroy’s distinct style, with whole clusters, and vinification integrale in a 350-liter barrel simply rolled around. The process involves removing the main stem, leaving only the pedicels and intact berries, which are allowed to ferment naturally with minimal intervention. It carries a linear, bright, and refined taste, full of juicy red cherries and plums paired with a sharp cherry twist. It features a hint of structure and a lovely acid line, evoking true precision. A nice grip makes its delicate nature even more noticeable. 94/100

Weinbach Les Vignes du Précheur 2022 Alsace
An exciting blend called Gentil, which co-ferments Riesling, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, and Muscat. The wine is linear, bright, and expressive, revealing delightful fruitiness. A zesty edge blends seamlessly with a slight citrus flair, harmonized by a touch of grapey richness and a floral twist. Extremely expressive, it finishes on a bright, spicy note. Its fruitiness and vivacity radiate beautifully. 92/100

Weinbach Muscat 2022 Alsace
Bright and very fresh (2 d skin contact, destemmed) with some limey brightness with some grapey terpenic richness. It’s fresh and linear, and dry and juicy. Lovely focus here with a bit of bite and some bitterness adding freshness. 92/100

All Rieslings are spontaneous ferments in large casks. All go through malolactic fermentation but these days there isn’t a lot of malic acid in the grapes, and stopping it would need lots of energy and sulfites.

Weinbach Colette Riesling 2021 Alsace
This is from the lower part of the Schlossberg hill, still granitic soils but a little bit deeper. Linear and precise with lovely citrus fruit core, some pear and white peach, but lovely acidity that integrates really nicely. Delicate with a nice acid line that is wrapped in the fruit. So pure. 94/100

Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2021 Alsace
From older vines. Shallow top soils, lower yields. Taut and linear with complex pear, lime and green apple notes. Has a slight savoury twist with some ripe fruit notes and hints of stoniness and a little fatness to the fruit. Lovely flesh and crystalline acidity: very fine and expressive with a long finish. 94/100

Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Ste Catherine Schlossberg Riesling 2021 Alsace
Produced from the oldest vines on the Schlossberg, which are 60-70 years old. The fermentation of this wine took over a year and resulted in a residual sugar level of 5 g/l. The wine’s profound concentration and depth gives rise to a crystalline, spicy complexity that is beautifully balanced by the lime, lemon, and white peach flavors. A slight sweetness harmonizes the lime and spice notes. It finalizes on a long, tapering finish. 97/100

Weinbach Altenbourg Riesling 2021 Alsace
This wine has been cultivated in Marl and limestone soils in the lieu dit below Furstentum. It is characterized by its vibrant, bright, and energetic constitution, with a focused line of acidity complemented with pear, lemon, and apple notes. It is energized and brightly focused, being pure and fruit-driven with a fluid texture, finishing fresh and stony. Its intrigue lies in the tension between the ripeness and acidity, with a dominance of yellow fruits. 95/100

Weinbach Grand Cru Furstentum Pinots 2021 Alsace
This blend includes Pinot Gris with a bit of Pinot Blanc, thus officially classified as Pinot Gris. It was fermented and aged in smaller barrels for a year on total lees. It features a honeyed spicy nose with vibrant apple and pear fruit characters. The palate is fresh and linear, with a hint of oak supporting the lively fruit, bacon and spice, ripe apple, and then spicy pear fruit. While it presents some richness, it also finishes fresh with a lovely spicy detail. 94/100

Weinbach Grand Cru Mackrain Pinot Gris 2021 Alsace
Planted in 2007, this wine from the same hill as Mambourg but the east-facing portion, was fermented and aged in smaller barrels with a bit of new oak. The palate is textured and refreshing, exhibiting great depth and fine spicy notes, achieved through a harmonious balance. It bursting with pear, apple, and grainy, spicy texture characters, possessing good body in the mouth, yet remaining fresh. The palate concludes with a smoky spicy detail. 95/100

Weinbach MV0 Macération Vogelgarten 0 Intrant 2021 Alsace
This exceptional wine, with 14.5% alcohol, is a blend of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, matured with three weeks of skin contact and has no added sulfites. It unveils a charming deep orange and copper complexion. The nose is aromatic, spicy, and filled with distinct notes of peach and marmalade. On the palate, one will encounter an expressive variety of strawberry, cherry, pear and grapes. It concludes with a pleasing touch of spice. Known for a pronounced sour cherry finish, this beverage gives off a lingering taste. A solid 94 out of 100.

Weinbach Les Freilles du Loup Gewurztraminer 2020 Alsace
The vineyards between the winery and the village on the flats offer this remarkable wine. It charms with an off-dry palate characterized by focused grapey fruit, cherries, and yellow plums. It wins hearts with its delicate texture and a fine spicy finish. This wine carries a well-balanced demeanor and provides an extended taste experience. Far away from being heavy, it claims a deserving 93 out of 100.

Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum 2021 Alsace
Originated from 90-year-old vines set in limestone marl soils. It is lively and exhibits complexity with bright pears, table grape, and some noticeable mineral notes. It carries a decent acidity level for Gewurztraminer, with fine phenolic structure. This wine captivates with sweetness, brightness, and focus, while maintaining precision, doubtlessly proving its complexity and balance. It’s light lychee character paired with candied citrus fruit but without overwhelming is what sets it apart. A full score of 96 out of 100.

Weinbach Mambourg Gewurztraminer SGN 2005 Alsace
A wine containing 10% alcohol, it delivers a strong punch with its intense and raisined flavor, combined with bold fruity notes and fine spices. A striking balance is found between its sweet orange, pear, and raisin notes and its savory edge. The experience is complex, sweet, and sophisticated; undoubtedly a rewarding rich taste. A commendable 95 out of 100.

Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg SGN 2017 Alsace
This is incredibly precise and well balanced, boasting a flavor profile saturated with intense, rich grape nuances intertwined with some apple and lime. The beverage exhibits a lovely purity, offering clean fruit notes coupled with appealing acidity. Containing 200 g/l rs, but the adequate supporting acidity provides a splendid balance. The wine exudes a crystalline quality, and its purity is commendable. Cracking a rating of 96/100, this wine is indeed a delight.

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