Writings and praise for the Windsbuhl are numerous and its history goes back a long way. J.J. Becker relates the story of the Windsbuhl in detail in his work “ Geschichtliches über Erlach-Windsbühl bei Hunaweier” (1912).
The first mention of the Windsbuhl goes back to 1324 when the Domain was known as Erlach. When the Count of Ferrette died in 1324, Erlach became the property of the House of Austria through the intermediary of Albrecht of Austria, the Count of Habsbourg who had married the daughter of the Count of Ferrette. The Domain was to remain in Habsbourg ownership until 1648 (the Treaty of Westphalia). In 1481, the Rathsamhausen of the “Zum Stein” branch took over the ownership and management of Erlach.
From 1530 to 1732, the Rathsamhausen zum Stein rented Erlach to the town of Riquewihr for two terms of 101 years. Various vineyard managers succeeded each other, notably the Court preacher Joachim Stoll from 1647 to 1678. During 1667 and 1668, a contagious disease spread throughout Alsace and the towns of the Rhine. At Ribeauvillé, many people fell victim to the infection. To escape its ravages, the stately household of Ribeaupierre removed to Wihr au Val. Joachim Stoll chose Erlach as an intermediary station, where he had a house built “at great expense” amongst his vineyards, on a mound located on the Erlach Domaine, which in 1668 he named Windsbuhl.
From 1732 to 1734 Erlach-Windsbuhl was again leased to Riquewihr. From 1734 to 1758, the Domaine was rented by Siegfried von Bernholdt (aide de camp and Marshal ofFrance) and Marie Louise de la Pailleterie (a Rathsamhausen zum Stein daughter) with different lessors from Riquewihr and Hunawihr. Von Bernholdt build the large Windsbuhl house (as it exists today) in 1760 and laid out the vineyard in its current configuration on the hill around his property.
At this time (1760) the planting of vines in the plain was subject to a quota by royal decree. Many vines were pulled up. The Windsbuhl vineyard, planted with noble grape varieties (“Edelgewächse”) had gained a great reputation at Strasbourg. In those days, the wines commanded a high price in the old wine market. The author found archives where the Hunawihr wines cost three times the price of wines from other communes. On 6 July 1796, the whole of Erlach-Windsbuhl became the property of M. Nicolas Pasquay. At that time, the property comprised fields (1 hectare), arable land (4 ha), chestnut grove (12 ha) and 6 hectares of vines. From 1800, the Windsbuhl was worked by the Hoffmann family. J. Becker reminds us that the noble wines of Windsbuhl, reds and Tockayer as well as other quality grapes were avidly sought after by the wine connoisseurs. Wine brokers of the region brought their clients from various countries to the Windsbuhl to buy wine there in barrel.
The Windsbuhl vineyard experienced a very prosperous period towards the end of the 19th century. The entire property of Erlach-Windsbuhl was purchased by M. Albert Meyer of Strasbourg who completely redeveloped the property and increased the wooded area. Thus the wines from the Windsbuhl acquired a reputation far beyond the borders of Alsace, as one would expect of an ancient imperial property (ndlr). In 1987, the Zind-Humbrecht Domaine bought the Clos Windsbuhl vineyard from Mme. Bérangère Meyer, vinifying the first wines from this prestigious Clos in 1988.
The Clos Windsbuhl faces south to southeast. With its average to steep slope (between 15 and 40%), the small Windsbuhl hill is at a high altitude for Alsace (around 350 m) The vines grow in a shelly limestone substrata, know as muschelkalk, rich in clays and chalky rock. The soil is very thin in certain areas and the country rock often outcrops in the middle of the slope. It is well worth noting that the Windsbuhl lies on a soil structure quite different from the rest of the commune. Georges Spetz, chronicler and author of “L’Alsace Gourmande” in 1914, established a list of the best villages and growths of Alsace. He cites the Kanzelberg of Bergheim, theGeisberg, Trottacker and Zanacker of Ribeauvillé , the Windsbuhl of Hunawihr, the Schönenburg and Sporen of Riquewihr, the Geisburger of Kaysersberg (Schlossberg), the Käferkopf of Ammerschwihr, the Brand of Turckheim, the Hengst of Wintzenheim, Isenburg of Rouffach, the Kessler, Sähring (Searing), Wanne, Kessler of Guebwiller, Ollwiller and the Rangen of Thann!
The altitude of the vineyard coupled with Hunawihr’s tardy climate means that the Clos Windsbuhl is often one of the last of our domaine’s vineyards to be harvested. This explains the aromatic quality of the Clos’ wines and the consistent balance of acidity, a guarantee of good ageing. Although often harvested late, the Windsbuhl grapes are only rarely botryitized, doubtless due to the altitude of the vineyard, but nevertheless often reach high levels of maturity.
Today, the Clos covers an area of 5.5 ha. The Pinot Gris (Tokay d’Alsace) is in the majority, followed by the Gewurztraminer and the Riesling. We also have a parcel of Chardonnay which goes into our Pinot d’Alsace each year.