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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine Weinbach Cuvée Ste. Catherine Pinot Gris

France (Alsace)

pinot gris

On a recent visit to the West African country of Ghana, wine wasn’t much on my mind, but, as I was about to leave, there in the duty free shop of Accra’s airport were several bottles from Domaine Weinbach. It reminded me that I had a bottle from that exemplary estate back home in my cellar.

The core vineyards of the imposing Domaine Weinbach — the five hectares of Clos des Capuchins — stretch back to 1612 and to an order of Franciscan friars. With the French Revolution the vineyard fell into private hands and in 1898 was acquired by the Faller family, ancestors of the present owners. Théo Faller, who died suddenly in 1979, was the person most responsible for taking the domaine to the highly respected position it holds today. His influence extended far beyond his estate. He worked endlessly to raise the profile of Alsatian wines and to establish standards within the region.

Colette Faller, in the face of considerable skepticism, has not only maintained the reputation of the domaine established by her late husband, but has enhanced it, bringing a wider recognition of the wines’ stellar qualities. At the time she assumed control she was one of the very few women anywhere to be managing a wine estate. In recent years, daughters Catherine and Laurence have joined their mother. They make for an outstanding trio.

They have 27 hectares under vine, and are perhaps best known for their rieslings and gewurztraminers, but our entry level pinot gris, without doubt, has the qualities that separate Domaine Weinbach from most all its competitors. The grapes come from the lower slopes of the Schlossberg grand cru and from the clos itself. The sandy soil, set above granite, is rich in minerals, and here the wines tend to be fuller-bodied and fleshier. Less elegant, but with rich mineral character.

Domaine Weinbach (named after the brook which runs through the property) rises behind the village of Kaysersberg, just north of Colmar. The wines are completely estate grown and bottled. Harvesting is by hand; pressing is done horizontally in whole clusters. Fermentation uses only indigenous yeasts, and the wines are matured in large, old casks. The influence of oak is minimal.

For twenty years the domaine has been organic and since 2005 biodynamic. In this Domaine Weinbach is in very good company. Zind-Humbrecht, Ostertag, Marcel Deiss, Josmeyer — all top-notch estates in Alsace profiled in this blog, all biodynamic. The depiction of the Copuchin monk on the neck of each and every bottle from Domaine Weinbach is a very strong lure for lovers of white wines.

Domaine Weinbach Cuvée Ste. Catherine Pinot Gris 2007

Arresting golden hue in the glass. A thoroughly ripened fruit aroma, a fullness with distinct mineral qualities. Wonderfully inviting. A near-syrup feel in the mouth, but dry and warmly concentrated, offset by a charming cut of acid. Long and lively finish. Oh, so good.  $$


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