A Closer Look at Alsace

Stony, Dry Brilliance from the Faller Family

There are lots of good reasons to pass over today’s featured wine. First, it’s from Alsace, the confusing region where the territory is French but all the names are German. The labels here aren’t especially user-friendly – the script typeface is hard to read and there are lots of words. (What’s the name of this wine again?) And when you see the word “Riesling”, you probably think “sweet” followed shortly by “I don’t like that.”

My advice to you: get over it! This is a fantastic opportunity to experience wine from one of the world’s most noble grapes – Riesling – grown biodynamically (no chemical sprays or fertilizers) and then allowed to turn itself into juicy, fresh, mineral-driven wine by some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Along the “Wine Brook”

Weinbach is an old estate that’s gotten even better in the past 20 years by going back to its roots. The vineyards in the Domaine’s home site – the Clos des Capucins – were first planted along a little brook (the “Wine Brook”) by Capuchin monks in 1612.

Already recognized as one of Alsace’s best when the Faller family acquired it in 1898, quality began to soar when Theo Faller took the reigns in the mid-twentieth century. But when Theo died unexpectedly in 1979, most assumed that his widow, Collette, would have to sell the estate and the Faller era was over.

Not so fast. Collette – who you’ll still find zipping around the Domaine today – refused to give up. First daughter Catherine joined her mother to help sell the wines and revitalize the vineyards. Then, younger daughter Lawrence joined as winemaker and things got better still.

Unprecedented Biodynamism

Finally, in 1998, the Faller women decided to take an unprecedented step in Alsace – conversion of their village and Grand Cru vineyards to biodynamic viticulture and their winery to natural, non-interventionist, winemaking. By 2005, all of the Weinbach vineyards were fully biodynamic and, with the 2010 vintage, the estate is an officially certified biodynamic grower.

Under the leadership of Catherine Faller, the wines here just get more pure and focused with every vintage, and the entry-level Riesling Reserve Personnelle is especially delicious in the open, friendly 2011 edition. It’s a joy to drink on its own today but will really shine with simply prepared white fish, grilled or breaded pork, and – of course – with robust savory sausages. The only problem is that not much is made and even less imported into the USA. Don’t miss this chance to enjoy a great Alsace white at the lowest price in the USA.

 

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