wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


The wines of Marcel Deiss, Alsace

15 route du Vin, 68750 Bergheim, France
Tel: 03 89 73 63 37 Website: www.marceldeiss.com E-mail: marceldeiss@marceldeiss.fr  

Located in Bergheim, Domaine Marcel Deiss was established after the Second World War by the grandfather of the current owner, Jean-Michel Deiss. Currently it consists of 26 hectares spread over numerous sites in nine communes. After a number of years working organically, Deiss went biodynamic in 1998. I tasted a few of the wines with Jean-Michel and his oenologist Marie Helène Cristofaro (pictured above in a regrettably out of focus shot).

A rather bewildering array of wines is made, which are grouped into three categories, Vins de Fruits, Vins de Terroirs and Vins de Temps. It’s this middle category that is most fascinating, because Deiss believes strongly in terroir, and while in Alsace varietal wines are the rule, he makes field blends of different varieties.

Christofaro outlined the philosophy. ‘Old vines are like an alphabet to express the vineyard’, she explained. ‘The old tradition is to have hillside vineyards planted with mixed varieties, which are then made into wines known by the name of the place, like any other French region.’ Christofo maintains that in order to express the characteristics of a vineyard, a range of different varieties does best. ‘We think the clones we have now in Alsace are too simple to express the complexity of each vineyard’.

The good thing about slopes, she explains, is that the soil is deep enough and the roots can penetrate the faults in the rock. As a result of these deep soils, the varieties ripen the same time when they are planted together. However, on the plains this wouldn’t happen, so they plant varieties seperately on the flat vineyards. ‘Single varieties are the baby on modern viticulture’, says Christofo. ‘Modern viticulture has required people to separate grapes. With roots at the surface, because of the use of herbicides to remove grass and no tilling, the varieties will ripen at different times’. It’s an interesting idea.

There is a triage stage in the vineyard: the pickers are the same every year and know their job. They avoid picking grapes with bad rot, but allow some botrytis where it’s good.

In the winery, the grapes are pressed slowly using whole bunches: pressing takes between 10 and 20 hours, and it is stopped on the basis of taste. The result is a juice that isn’t dirty, and settling isn’t needed before fermentation starts. Because no nitrogen is put onto the vines, fermentation can take anything between 3 weeks and a year to complete. At the end the wine is cooled and a little sulfur dioxide is added. ‘If your grape skins are healthy you don’t need to protect the wine too much’, says Christofo. The wine is then run into foudres and typically will spend a year on its lees.  

Tasting notes from May 2011:

Marcel Deiss Riesling 2008
Ripe, seamless, smooth with some citrussy notes and a hint of lanolin. Smooth and fruity with melony richness. 90/100 (£19.95 Roberson)

Marcel Deiss St Hippolyte Gewurztraminer 2005
Lovely intense nose: herbs, grapes, lychee. The palate is rich textured and off-dry with thick grapey character, yet it retains balance. Brilliant stuff. 93/100 (£20.95 Roberson)

Marcel Deiss Pinot Noir Grand Cru Burlenberg 2005
Lively, expressive cherry fruit here with a savoury edge. The palate is elegant and expressive with nice cherry fruit and a strong, slightly earthy savoury current. Finishes dry. 90/100 (£34.95 Roberson) 

Tasting notes from May 2006:

Marcel Deiss Alsace 2004
Very fresh, bright, fruity nose. The palate is broad, full and fruity with lovely expression of lemony, herby, minerally fruit. Just a hint of sweetness. Delicious stuff. Very good+ 89/100

Marcel Deiss Engelgarten 1er Cru 2003
From gravel, which is a ‘filtering soil that makes mineral wines.’ Five varieties are planted together to express this site: Riesling (50%) and Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. Fresh, slightly sweet fruity nose, with focused lemony fruit and herbs. Classical and elegant. The palate is dry but with a nice smooth texture. It’s expressive, pure and quite complex. Very good/excellent 90/100

Marcel Deiss Grasberg 1er Cru 2003
A high (350 m) north-facing vineyard, with poor calcareous/limestone soil from the Jurassic era. ‘This was a tropical era with a lot of energy’, says Christofo. ‘Everything was oversized. This soil was lying at the bottom of a warm sea, so the wine is always warm and tropical’. Ripe, fresh, open nose with lots of tropical fruit notes. The palate is ripe and open. Quite sweet, with lovely fruitiness. Full, ripe, melony and quite intense. Very good/excellent 92/100

Marcel Deiss Grand Cru Schoenenbourg 2003
A clay, gypsum soil. This is apparently the longest ageing wine in Alsace: one that needs 10 years but can go for 50. Tight, fresh, herby lemony nose with some fruit sweetness. The palate is concentrated and rich with broad fruit. Lots of concentration here. A lovely, full-on, intense wine in an off-dry style with a long finish. Very good/excellent 93/100

Wines tasted 05/06
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Earlier report from September 2001

Deiss is one of the leading producers in Alsace, enjoying a high reputation for producing mineralic, terroir driven wines. These wines are unusual in Alsace in that they are not varietally labelled; instead Jean-Michel Deiss has chosen to name them by the vineyard, doing everything he can to let the characters of the different sites express themselves. It’s a slightly controversial approach (critics question whether it works to blend such different grape varieties, and whether Riesling is a blending grape at all), similar to that adopted by Marc Kreydenweiss for some of his wines, but it’s one I have a good deal of sympathy for. The wines themselves are pretty impressive, if a little challenging in their youth. In the UK these wines are available from Lea & Sandeman, Gauntley and Ballantynes.  

Engelgarten 1999
A field blend including Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. Lively, taut, expressive nose is almost Mosel-like. Lean, citrussy, minerally palate with high acidity. A tight young wine with good potential and lots of mineral extract. Very good+

Grasberg 1998
90% Riesling, 10% Pinot Gris, on limestone soil. Knockout nose is beautifully poised with a smoky, spicy, mineral character and a touch of honey. The rich palate has some fatness from the residual sugar, and great mineralic acidity. Great concentration. Very good/excellent

Burg 1998
60% Riesling, 40% Gewürztraminer, from a marl soil. Rich nose with limey, spicy notes and a rich grapey floral edge. Palate is juicy and rich, limey and grapey. Interesting, without too much residual sugar. Very good+

Pinot Noir Burlenberg 1998
Mid colour. Varietally true nose is rich and herby with some sweet undergrowth notes. Quite lean, high acid palate is a bit austere, but overall it’s a nice drop. Very good

Le Grand Vin de L'Altenberg 1997
A blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer. Very rich, smoky, minerally nose shows lots of complexity. Explosive palate with richness and power: lots of mineral extract, high acidity and plenty of residual sugar. Finishes off-dry. Very good/excellent

Back to top

wines tasted November 2001