Domaine Laurent Bannwarth

What a Feeling

 

Quick facts

Location: the village of Obermorschwihr, Alsace, France

Owner & winemaker: Stéphane Bannwarth, his wife Geneviève & his sister Régine

Vineyard area: 12 hectares (9ha estate-owned, 3ha in long-term rental)

Vineyard management: certified organic (AB-Ecocert, since 2004) and biodynamic (Demeter, since 2013)

Soils: highly diverse depending on the vineyard – marine sediments, loess, limestone…

Main varieties: Sylvaner, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Muscat, Pinot Noir

Annual production (approx.): 90,000 bottles

Winemaking: manual harvest, spontaneous fermentation only, aging in concrete or steel tanks, old foudres, barrels or qvevri in Stéphane’s bioclimatic cellar. No fining, little to no sulfur added.

 

Fun facts

  • The Domaine is called “Laurent Bannwarth” in honor of its founder, the father of the current winemaker Stéphane and his sister Régine who started the winery in 1955
  • Stéphane is a big fan of qvevri – his cellar has a special part dedicated only to these classic Georgian clay vessels, which are buried underground.
  • This passion came from a Georgian vineyard helper that used to work for Stéphane – the conversation turned into an invitation, the visit to Georgia into a long stay; ultimately, Stéphane’s experience in the homeland of qvevri made him ship the first vessels for his own winemaking to Alsace back in 2011.
  • Besides making his own delicious wines, Stéphane is also part of Les Vins Pirouettes, a collective project and a beautiful range of glou-glou natural wines started by the legendary winemaker Christian Binner (both of which we also have the pleasure to represent).

 

Jump to wines | Laurent Bannwarth Website

 

“There aren’t really any rules in our winemaking,” Régine Bannwarth explains with a smile, “For us, it’s the vintage that decides. This is because vintages in Alsace can be extremely varied between cold and warmth and rain and drought, and not every plot reacts the same. So we don’t tie ourselves up with dogmas – my brother always works based on a feeling, picking the site with fruit that is presents the best material for each wine. Sometimes we make a one-off cuvée if we have a unique material at hand; sometimes we might not make a certain wine that particular year if the materia prima is not there.” 

For similar reasons, there’s no cuvée vieilles vignes, although some of the Bannwarth family plots date back to the 1950s, when the domaine was founded by Stéphane and Régine’s father Laurent. “We sometimes make a single vineyard wine, but only if it’s interesting enough on its own, such as our old marine limestone. But our goal is to make wine that is sympathique [friendly, pleasing] rather than systematique,” she laughs.

This humble attitude of observation, respect and adaptation rather than sticking to pre-conception and control also follows in the cellar. All the wines are fermented spontaneously and without additives or harsh manipulations, but there’s definitely space for improvisation, as most of the cuvées are made in a combination of different vessels (including concrete lined with glass or hundred-year-old foudres), according to what feels right or is available. The only exception is the Muscat, which is always made in stainless steel tanks to keep maximum freshness. 

The cellar is bioclimatic – another similarity with Stéphane’s friend and fellow winemaking legend, Christian Binner – and is dug into the ground and reinforced with riprap walls. Its elliptical shape encourages serenity and natural movement, and together with the stable temperature, it allows the wines to smooth themselves out naturally.  Most of the wines are hence made completely without sulfur, although a minuscule addition at bottling can take place if it’s deemed to be in the wine’s best interest. Once again, it’s le feeling, not the dogma that decides!

 
Wines


Sylvaner Nature— Back to the top

Grape: Sylvaner

Vineyard: old vines (50+ years) on oolitic limestone. Farmed biodynamically by Stéphane & co. (Demeter- and Ecocert-certified) themselves.

Making of: the grapes are hand-harvested, sorted and slowly pressed as whole bunches. Spontaneously fermented and then aged on fine lees in stainless steel to keep the freshness of the wine, for 11 months. Racked and bottled without fining or filtering, zero SO2 added.

Personality: floral, fresh, fruity! Citrusy (Meyer lemon, grapefruit pith), meadow in full bloom, a spicy resiny/herbal note – aromatic yet completely dry and refreshing wine, buzzing with acidity. 


Muscat Nature— Back to the top

Grape: Muscat (mainly Muscat Ottonel + a bit of Muscat d’Alsace)

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically (Demeter- and Ecocert-certified) by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years.

Making of: the grapes are hand-harvested, sorted. 2019 was slowly direct-pressed as whole bunches, 2020 macerated on skins for 4 days, with 80% whole bunches. Spontaneously fermented and then aged on fine lees in stainless steel to keep the freshness of the wine, for 9-10 months. Racked and bottled without fining or filter, zero SO2 added.

Personality: a great combination of Muscatey aromatics (exotic fruit salad, acacia in full bloom, elderflower) with a serious, dry palate with a refreshing acidic backbone. The best kind of crowdpleaser.


Pinot Gris Nature— Back to the top

Grapes: Pinot Gris

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically (Demeter- and Ecocert-certified) by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years.

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and then slowly pressed as whole bunches. Debourbage, spontaneous fermentation in tanks and barrels, where it remains for 10 months. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.

Personality: a real charmer, starting with its vivid golden color, notes of dried fruit, walnuts and toast, up to its lip-smackingly dry mouthfeel, perfectly balanced between freshness and fruity gourmandise.


Gewurztraminer Nature — Back to the top

Grapes: Gewurztraminer

Vineyard: loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically (Demeter- and Ecocert-certified) by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years. 

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and carefully sorted in the vineyard, keeping only the ripe and healthy ones. Slow direct press, debourbage, followed by native fermentation in neutral foudre.  Aged on its fine lees for 3 months, racked and bottled without fining or sulfur addition.

Personality: very floral, with lush exotic fruit nose typical for the varietal, completely dry and very refreshing on the palate.


La Vie en Rose— Back to the top

Grapes: Gewurztraminer

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically (Demeter- and Ecocert-certified) by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years. 

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and sorted in the vineyard, keeping only the ripe and healthy ones. Destemmed and macerated for 10 days in stainless steel, with two daily gentle punch-downs by hand. Aged on its fine lees for 4 months, racked and bottled without fining or sulfur addition.

Personality: a wonderful example of macerated Gewurz – aromatic, with flamboyant notes of roses and Oriental spices, yet completely dry and easy to drink.


Pinot Noir Nature — Back to the top

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Vineyard: loess, clay and loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically (Demeter- and Ecocert-certified) by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years.

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and sorted in the vineyard, keeping only the ripe and healthy ones. Whole-bunch macerated for 12-15 days, with two daily gentle punch-downs by hand. Aged on its fine lees in foudres for about 10 months, racked and bottled without fining, filtering or sulfur addition.

Personality: delicate ripe berries, smooth tannins, a little earthy note and a refreshing finish giving away the Alsatian zero-zero pedigree.


P’tite Bulle— Back to the top

One of the cuvées born out of Stéphane’s feeling for the conditions of a specific vintage – in 2018, the grapes weren’t apt for their regular crémant, but perfect for a little different, vivacious sparkler, and a “Lil’ Bubble” was born.

Grapes: Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years.

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested, sorted and then slowly pressed as whole bunches. Debourbage, spontaneous fermentation in tanks, where it remains for 4 months. Bottled the following March with grape must and natural yeast to start the second fermentation in bottles. Unfined, undisgorged, zero dosage.

Personality: lively and ready to party! Fruity, refreshing wine with a nice roundness and a compelling fizz.


La Petite Folie— Back to the top

This “Little folly” was born at a time (2015) when making sparkling wine with Gewurztraminer was considered crazy in Alsace – but Stéphane wasn’t afraid to marry the grape’s aromatic richness with a little fizz, and the delicious results have proven him right!

Grapes: 100% Gewurztraminer

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years.

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and gently, slowly pressed as whole bunches. Debourbage, spontaneous fermentation in tanks, racked once. About a year later, the wine is bottled under crown caps with the addition of grape must and natural yeast for refermentation in bottles. Unfiltered, undisgorged, little bit of sulfur at bottling.

Personality: Gewurztraminer’s aromatics and fruitiness are lifted by pleasant sparkle – refreshing balance!


Auxerrois Qvevri — Back to the top

Stéphane’s passion for qvevri came from a Georgian vineyard helper that used to work for Stéphane – the conversation turned into an invitation, the visit to Georgia into a long stay; ultimately, Stéphane’s experience in the qvevri homeland made him ship the first vessels for his own winemaking to Alsace, back in 2011. Each vintage, he chooses what he feels is the best site or part of it, selecting only the well-balanced, ripe grapes that will work well in this idiosyncratic vinification.

Grapes: 100% Auxerrois

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years.

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and meticulously sorted to keep only the healthiest ones. The vinification happens in Georgian qvevri, as the name suggests: the whole bunches are first gently pressed in linen bags which are then placed into the qvevri and topped up with the juice. Macerated and spontaneously fermented for 6 months, then racked into stainless steel tank for 2 more months. Bottled unfined, unfiltered, zero sulfur added.

Personality: a companion for a the whole evening… and more! Super compelling from the first sparkle of its intense straw yellow color, the first whiff of smoke, gunpowder and sweet spice. Velvety, smooth, rich and everchanging between dry fruit, citrus rind and stony flavor notes. Don’t hesitate to decant and put in big enough glass.


Synergie Qvevri — Back to the top

Stéphane’s passion for qvevri came from a Georgian vineyard helper that used to work for Stéphane – the conversation turned into an invitation, the visit to Georgia into a long stay; ultimately, Stéphane’s experience in the qvevri homeland made him ship the first vessels for his own winemaking to Alsace, back in 2011. Each vintage, he chooses what he feels is the best site or part of it, selecting only the well-balanced, ripe grapes that will work well in this idiosyncratic vinification.

Grapes: Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris (roughly 1/3 each)

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone. Farmed biodynamically by Stéphane & co. themselves. The average age of vines is 45 years. 

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and meticulously sorted to keep only the healthiest ones. The grapes are partially destemmed and gently crushed by hand during the first week of fermentation.  The vinification happens in Georgian qvevri, as the name suggests, where the varieties macerated and spontaneously fermented together for 6 months. Racked into stainless steel for further 3 months of rest and settling. Bottled unfined, unfiltered, zero sulfur added (7ppm total).

Personality: lush Gewurztraminer aromatics meets Pinot Gris’ velvety richness and mellow tannins, with Riesling supporting their union with refreshing acid backbone, especially in the colder 2012 vintage that shows great fresnhess and aging potential. Synergie is a truly fitting name for this complex, well-balanced wine!

 


Ambre — Back to the top

Grapes: 45% Pinot Blanc, 40% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewurztraminer

Vineyard: loess, loamy-limestone in Bildstoecklé. Farmed biodynamically by Stéphane & co. themselves.  

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested and meticulously sorted to keep only the healthiest ones. The Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris undergo 6 days of whole-cluster maceration and are gently foot stomped. A small amount of the Gewurztraminer is destemmed and macerated for 7 days. The wine is a blend of three vintages: 2019, 2020, and 2022. The 2022 was racked in February 2023 and bottled in May 2023. The other wines rested on the fine lees and were racked in their time as well. Unfined, unfiltered, with no added sulfites.