Domaine Weinbach is one of the region’s most storied producers. (photos by Renee Wilmeth for Wine and Whiskey Globe)

Usually, when it comes to French labels, knowing the grapes of the region means you know what’s in the bottle. But when you are dealing with Alsace (pronounced “AL-sass”), they make it easy and just tell you.   

When they think of this region—pulled between France and Germany for generations—most people think of Riesling. True enough. But when you sit down to a tasting, especially one in the cozy parlor warmed by the antique ceramic stove at Domaine Weinbach, you’re going to taste Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. Tastings in Alsace can require some stamina.

Domaine Weinbach has been one of the most well-regarded producers in Alsace since the Faller brothers began making wine in 1898. The iconic family home is part of an original Capuchin monastery with thick walls enclosing vineyards outside Keysersberg.

From the windows of this special place, you can look out over the vineyards and marvel at how fortunate you are—especially after tasting these wines with a plate of 3-year aged Comte and a lot of laughter with matriarch Catherine Faller. What an Alsatian label can’t tell you is how profoundly the wines deliver a sense of place. Each bottle is infused with the history, the wars, the joys and sorrows, and the people of the place as well as the terroir.  This Pinot Gris is one of my favorites. 

Details of the family business are hidden in plain sight.

Clos des Capucins 2012

A “clos” is a walled-in vineyard; wines made with grapes from the plants surrounding the original estate bear this label. The top label on the neck also bears the vintage.

Cuvee Ste. Catherine

Like many producers in Alsace, Domaine Weinbach singles out wines from particular plots or vineyards. The Cuvee Ste. Catherine is one of these.

Pinot Gris

This grape, a distant relation to the Italian Pinot Grigio, takes on a new range of characteristics in this region of France. Full-bodied with honey, pear, and bright acid, this wine pairs beautifully with food.

Vin d’Alsace

Indicates that the wine comes from the Alsace appelation, or AOC.

Domaine Weinbach

The producer. Labels in France have strict guidelines about the proportion and size of the maker’s name.

Mis en Bouteille al la Propriété

You often see this phrase on corks. It simply means the wine was bottled on site at the winery.

Colette, Catherine et Laurence Faller, Propriétaires-Vignerons a Kaysersberg-68240 France

Colette and sisters Catherine and Laurence are the latest two generations of proprietresses and winemakers. Catherine has recently brought her sons, Eddy and Theo Faller, into the business. In a bow to modern times, the website and telephone is also listed.

Alcohol by Volume 14.5%

White varietals like Pinot Gris tend to be a little lower in alcohol depending on the growing season, sun, heat, and sugar content. These wines can be heavy enough to stand up to food.

750 ml

The size of a standard wine bottle. The standard volume is the same even when the bottle—as with this familiar Alsatian form—is taller or elongated.