Alsace adventure (1) Domaine Weinbach

Website: Weinbach

Weinbach is one of the great names in Alsace, and this was my second visit. This time it was with Eddy Leiber-Faller, who with his brother Théo run the domaine alongside their mother Catherine Faller.

Weinbach has a great view across to the Schlossberg Grand Cru, where many of their vines are located. It’s 80 hectares in all. Last year they grafted over a block of mature vines to Syrah and Grenache, and the results were promising. ‘We are very excited about Syrah and Grenache on the Schlossberg,’ says Eddy, ‘and the grafting went very well. Grafting onto 20 year old vines gives an established rootstock.’

They learned a lesson, though. The Grenache was doing well and reached 13.5% alcohol when it was all eaten by wild boars. Next year they will protect it with electric fences. The Syrah was still there, though, and they made 200 litres of it. Normally boar aren’t a problem here. ‘They don’t like Riesling,’ says Eddy. ‘It’s too sour for them.’

Schlossberg (where they have Riesling and a bit of Pinot Noir) is granitic soils, and then to the right as we look to the hull there’s Furstentum, which is 30 hectares planted on limestone and marl. There they have Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Riesling after some recent purchases.

Altogether they have 38 hectares of vines. They are all estate, and make around 150 000 bottles a year with an average yield of 30 hl/hectare.

Weinbach have been working organically and biodynamically for 20 years now. They use 0-100% cover crop, depending on the site, and their pruning approach is also site dependent. ‘Historically we have kept Schlossberg clean,’ says Eddy, ‘but this year we were experimenting with 50% cover crop, maintained during the season. This retains moisture and humidity and protects against evaporation.’ But he adds that if you don’t keep the plant cover under control it chokes the vineyard very quickly.

Eddy says that he sees great potential for the Pinot family in Alsace with changing climates. The idea is that within five years they want a single vineyard Pinot Noir in all the great sites.

‘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.’

Ha 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,’ says Eddie. ‘It’s 100%, but it would be good to have a 15% latitude to blend other things in.’ In terms of the Grand Cru Schlossberg regulaions, he says they changing them to take out Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, and relaxing the Riesling quantity to 85%.


Weinbach Pinot Noir Colline du Châteaux 2021 Alsace
Schlossberg, so granite soils. 20% whole cluster, 2 years in barrel (older). Juicy, pure, lively and fresh with nice spicy detail. There’s a savoury, mineral undercurrent and some autumnal notes. Fine and linear with sappy green hints and fine tannins. Bright acidity, with a lovely delicacy. So pure and finely spiced. 94/100

Weinbach Pinot Noir Les Terres de Princes 2021 Alsace
Furstentum. Limestone marl. 100% whole cluster, Bize Leroy style. Vinification integrale, in a 350 litre barrel, which is just rolled. Main stem is removed and just the pedicels are left, so the berries are intact, and they are just left to do their thing. Very little work during the ferment apart from rolling the barrel. Linear, bright and refined with juicy red cherries and plums with a sour cherry twist. There’s a bit of structure here and a lovely acid line, with real precision. Nice grip but overall very delicate. 94/100

Weinbach Les Vignes du Précheur 2022 Alsace
A gentil. Riesling, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Muscat, co-fermented. Linear, bright and expressive with lovely fruit. There’s a zesty edge with some citrus, then some nice grapey richness, with a floral twist. Very expressive with a bright spicy finish. It’s just so fruity and lively. 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
Oldest vines on the Schlossberg, 60-70 years old. This wine took over a year to ferment and was left with 5 g/l rs, so they kept this. Amazing concentration and depth here with a crystalline, spicy complexity to the beautifully defined lime, lemon and white peach fruit. Has just a hint of sweetness that binds together the limey, spicy characters in complete harmony. Long tapering finish. 97/100

Weinbach Altenbourg Riesling 2021 Alsace
Marl and limestone soils in this lieu dit which is below Furstentum. Lively, bright and energetic with a focused acid line, and notes of pear, lemons and apples. Has lovely energy to it with amazing brightness and focus. Pure and fruit driven with a nice textural flow, finishing fresh and stony. Tension between the ripeness and acidity, with more yellow fruits. 95/100

Weinbach Grand Cru Furstentum Pinots 2021 Alsace
This is a blend of Pinot Gris with some Pinot Blanc in the mix, so it’s officially Pinot Gris. Fermented and aged in smaller barrels, one year on total lees. Honeyed spicy nose with lively apple and pear fruit. The palate is fresh and linear with just a hint of oak supporting the lively fruit. Some bacon and spice, ripe apple, and then spicy pear fruit. Has some richness but then also finishes fresh. Lovely spicy detail. 94/100

Weinbach Grand Cru Mackrain Pinot Gris 2021 Alsace
Same hill as Mambourg but the east-facing part. Planted in 2007. Fermented and aged in smaller barrels with a touch of new oak. Textured and fresh with nice depth and some fine spicy notes, showing lovely balance. Pears, apple and a grainy, spicy texture, with good weight in the mouth but staying fresh. Has palate weight, with some smoky spicy detail. 95/100

Weinbach MV0 Macération Vogelgarten 0 Intrant 2021 Alsace
14.5% alcohol. Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, 3 weeks skin contact, no added sulfites. Lovely deep orange/copper colour. Spicy, aromatic and grapey with peach and marmalade as well as some grapes. The palate is spicy and vivid with some strawberry and cherry as well as pear and table grapes, finishing with a nice spiciness. This is so distinctive with a sour cherry finish and a long finish. 94/100

Weinbach Les Freilles du Loup Gewurztraminer 2020 Alsace
From the vineyards between the winery and the village on the flats. Just off dry with nice focused grapey fruit and a touch of cherry and yellow plum. Nicely textured with a very delicate fine spicy finish. Beautiful balance to this wine, with real length. Not heavy. 93/100

Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum 2021 Alsace
Limestone marl soils. 90 year old vines. So lively and complex with bright pear and table grape, some nice mineral notes, reasonably high acidity for Gewurztraminer and some fine phenolic structure. Some sweetness here with brightness and focus, showing precision, complexity and balance. There’s a light lychee character here and some candied citrus fruit, but it never gets heavy or over the top. 96/100

Weinbach Mambourg Gewurztraminer SGN 2005 Alsace
10% alcohol. Deeply coloured, this is intense, raisined and powerful with bold fruity notes and then some fine spices. Very rich but with a savoury edge balancing the sweet orange, pear and raisin notes. So complex, sweet and refined, this is a lovely rich wine. 95/100

Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg SGN 2017 Alsace
This is so precise and balanced, showing intense, rich, grapey fruit with some apple and lime, and then a lovely purity with clean fruit and nice acidity. 200 g/l rs, but good supporting acidity. Has a crystalline quality and lovely purity. 96/100