Grand Cru

Wineck-Schlossberg

Katzenthal and Ammerschwihr

Like a bailey preserving the castle donjon, the granite hillsides of Wineck-Schlossberg are nestled within a closed valley protected from the winds and forming a cup-shape offered-up to these great wines.

  • Soil type Granite
  • Surface area in hectares 27,49
  • Exposure South, South-East
  • Village Katzenthal and Ammerschwihr
  • Altitude 280 and 400 metres
  • Grape varieties (in % per variety)
    • Riesling 70%
    • Gewurztraminer 18% 
    • Pinot Gris 10%
    • Muscat 2%
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Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg

The wines

Wineck-Schlossberg demarcates its terroir with mineral and saline wines. Rather dry, a subtle balance between maturity, minerality and delicious quality is released from Wineck wines. Their structure is fine, crystalline with a beautiful underlying exuberance.

The terroir-tie

Here the dominating grape variety is Riesling. The grapes are always very ripe with a great tartaric acid level. This gives wines which open easily with elegant and light aromas of flowers and citrus fruits (bergamot). A fine, crystalline minerality with great underlying exuberance. Pleasant when young, they perfectly evolve after around 10 years while preserving this gracious balance.

Muscat plays on the same level of finesse, elegance and purity.

The early-ripening and sunny character of Wineck-Schlossberg allows for Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer to be harvested very ripe and often with noble rot.

It’s therefore easy to also produce Vendanges Tardives or Sélections de Grains Nobles. Open and aromatic with floral notes (rose), liquorice and spices, they are particularly elegant, pure and light. Their smooth character is reduced by the mineral and saline framework bestowed by the granite stone. This mineral signature nurtures and transcends these cuvées.

This Grand Cru releases a crystalline impression.

La bouche se révèle d'une grande précision et imprimée par une belle fraîcheur, élément central du vin. This acidity is straightforward, sometimes slightly contained, but always with a candour which structures the wine. The extended body is just a prelude for intense length and great, crystal-clear finish.

Le Riesling est dans son élément sur ce terroir. It appears tight on the attack, then unravels great finesse in the middle mouth.

Pinot Gris et Gewurztraminer possèdent la même ossature, complétant l'approche par leur générosité et une gamme d'arômes plus exotiques. They all express distinct minerality on the finish.

Romain Ilitis
Best Sommelier of France, 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2015 (in the Sommelier category)

Choose and serve

Vintage years

Some great vintage years: 1959, 1964, 1971, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012.

Ageing potential: to be opened after two or three years and at its best between five and ten years.

If these wines open up relatively quickly (after about three years), their ageing potential also gives some fast changes. The minerality becomes more intense over times but always remains lively.

Millésimes Tardifs : la tension générale est marquée dans les vins, elle développe un registre d'agrumes. Their lively essence provides tantalising taste-bud sensations.

Millésimes Précoces : l'exotisme devient un élément clé et apporte une touche sensuelle. The Grand Cru minerality is expressed, indicative of gunpowder and wet stones.

Romain Ilitis
Best Sommelier of France, 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2015 (in the Sommelier category)

Wine and food pairing

Some good wine and food pairingproposed at the Restaurant L’Astrance, Paris (3* Michelin), Chef Pascal BARBOT:

  • Riesling GC Wineck Schlossberg 2008, Poached langoustine, spicy vegetable achar and pineapple mousse.
  • Riesling GC Wineck Schlossberg 2004, Dashi consommé, cockles, mussels, oysters and lemon confit.
  • Commentary by Alexandre JEAN, sommelier: 'Three elements, the saltiness for the seafood perfectly marries the granite mineral express of Wineck, the smoked dashi for the evolving vintage year and the fruitiness of citrus fruits'.
  • Recipe by Jean Philippe Guggenbuhl, Restaurant Taverne Alsacienne Ingersheim:Riesling Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg, 2010, Snail cassolette with Riesling, morel mushrooms, cream and wild garlic.

Dishes accompanied by creamy sauces are perfect matches. The smooth sauce coats the wine-specific exuberance whereas the latter somewhat erases the unctuous sensation. This «win-win» association allows the cooked elements to fully express themselves. Creamy frog-legs, fish matelote or even veal blanquette are delicious dishes which pair wonderfully with this Grand Cru.

Romain Ilitis
Best Sommelier of France, 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2015 (in the Sommelier category)

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Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg

The terroir

The nature

Protected by 3 hills, both its granite soil and steep slopes contain the light and heat, providing Wineck-Schlossberg the consistent and incredible ability to resist the evermore frequent climate changes.

Location

Wineck-Schlosserg rolls-out its vine stocks over the territorial municipalities of Katzenthal and, to a lesser extent, Ammerschwihr. Located in an amphitheatre open exclusively to the south, it is wonderfully protected from the winds.

The parcels are delimited so that each one of them benefits most favourably from the specific climate which makes this terroir so special.

The vines are planted at an altitude between 280 and 390 metres. The very steep slope is mostly exposed due south with south-east and south-west variations along the small valleys surrounding the Wineck Castle. This feudal ruin takes centre stage in the middle of the vineyard, offering its impressive 21 metre-high donjon to the sun!

Soil

The soil is essentially composed of two-mica granite from Turckheim, very weathered gruss which is fairly deep and very recommended for growing vines.

It’s porous soil, not very deep (30 to 50 cm) which heats-up rapidly during the spring and is rich in mineral elements.

Its subsoil belongs to the crystalline-base foundation of the Vosges mountain range.

Microclimate

The Wineck-Schlossberg climate identity is related to the specificity of the Katzenthal valley, a small hemicycle-shaped vale protected from dominating winds by the 3 hills.

As opposed to the Grands Crus located in the open valleys which favour air currents, Wineck-Schlossberg benefits from a warmer and earlier «cocoon effect». In summer, the heat is stored and intensified in this «chamber» and creates a cru-specific micro-climate.

> The Galtz mount forms a mass at the end of the Katzenthal valley, acting like a shield and protecting the Grand Cru from the dominating winds and rainfall.

The Katzenthal dale is far advanced compared to the Vosges piedmont plain. It is protected by several rows of average-sized mountains before the peaks of the Hautes Vosges. This natural protection creates a screen against the clouds coming from the west and gives this sector very little rainfall (600 mm/year).

Autre particularité, Katzenthal n’est traversé que par un petit ruisseau, qui en été ne représente qu’un faible filet d’eau, le Dorfbach. Nevertheless, the vineyard doesn’t suffer from drought as its deep-growing roots search for the rare clay arteries which distribute freshness.

Finally, the steep slopes of Wineck-Schlossberg (up to 45%) accentuate leaf exposure to the sun and reminding us of the essential – the Wineck-Schlossberg Grand Cru is a hillside wine-growing area.

Grape varieties

Katzenthal belongs to the historic wine-growing area of the small Colmar region. Certain period documents and numerous labels show that one of the first grape varieties to be attributed in this sector was Riesling. Since the best hillsides had always been planted with vines, it was only normal that Riesling was the first variety to be planted on the Wineck-Schlossberg.

Ce cépage tardif réussit bien sur des secteurs bien exposés et précoces comme les coteaux. Riesling adores granite and likes pebbly and light soils. Its rooting system easily adventures down deep in the ground. It is planted on the summit part and the mid-slope of the hills.

Some rare parcels of Muscat can also be found.

Pinot Gris «rules» on the richer and lower parts of the hillsides.

According to history, Gewurztraminer was also planted on the more sandstone and clayey part neighbouring the Kaefferkopf Grand Cru.

The people

Sitting in the heart of the rolling vineyards, Wineck Castle seems to be looking up at the sky, thinking back over its abundant history within these vines, and associated since the 12th century to that of the Katzenthal village.

Heritage transmission

The site character and beauty are enhanced by the presence of a 12th century castle in the heart of is vines, built by the Counts of Eguisheim-Dabo. This stronghold was formally called Windeck orWeineck, literally the «wine corner». Up until the 14th century it belonged to theWineck, the Knights of Colmar, before becoming the property of the Rathsamhausen Barons. Today it is owned by the Alsace Historic Monument Preservation Society. The presence of this castle makes this Grand Cru unique in Alsace. Since the 18th century, the Grand Cru wine-making part was called Schlossberg (castle hill). To avoid confusion with the Schlossberg de Kaysersberg Grand Cru, the appellation was named Wineck-Schlossberg, in reference to its knightly ancestry.

Les coteaux de Katzenthal apparaissent très tôt dans l’histoire de la vigne. As Michel Mastrojanni writes,

Its vineyard is incredibly old. Already in 1211, the Marbach priests were producing wines in Katzenthal and the castle hill, which became the Wineck-Schlossberg Grand Cru, has been farmed for several centuries.

Op. cit., p. 123

About the same time in 1264, a certain Werner Von Hattstatt offered some Cuttenthal de Katzenthal wine to the Colmar Unterlinden monastery (Bulletin d’Alsace, 18.1896).

It’s in the list annuity renewals belonging to the Ratsamhausen family, dated March 16, 1706, that the name of Schlossberg appears. Several inhabitants, particularly Hans Jacob Bläss and Peter Schmitt had vineyards in which they were assigned fees. Found in the Haut Rhin archive records: AD 68, 2 E, carton 160 liasse 2, pièce 6.

>The finage plan of Ingersheim and Katzenthal drawn-up in 1760 shows a vast surface area of vineyards around the Wineck castle, the Schlossberg which has a prominent position among the other vineyard parcels in this finage.

The mention of Schlossberg increased near the end of the 18th century. A whole series of harvest orders dated from 1830 to around 1870 refer to these places as having «the right to harvest», regularly citing Schlossberg. From the Haut Rhine archive records: AD 68 E dépôt-13, 3e liasse.

The hillside reputation was such that it became the ultimate representation of the Alsace wine-growing area – in sketches by Hansi (Bell-tower in the vineyards, 1929) the encyclopedias (Le Millio, 1970 – Découvrir la France, 1972), and even in some geographical manuals for schools.

This precedence notably allowed this terroir to be classed as a Grand Cru in 1985.

Beloved vineyards and wine

The Wineck-Schlossberg terroir is steep, pebbly and sunny, obliging the wine-growers to be fully committed.

The vineyard is worked in the slope direction, along straight rows with vines planted from between 4500 to over 8000 vine stocks per hectare. Since mechanical devices are limited, it’s manual work all the way. This creates an intimate man-vine relation, an exceptional and ultimate respect for this demanding work and proud of all the work accomplished.