August 10, 2009

Deiss : Premier Cru or Not Premier Cru

By In Articles, Wine Notes

Alsace has 51 officially designated grand cru plots, it’s only a little region but all seem to agree that 51 is a rather large number. Whichever hill side you scramble up or roadside you halt by to snap a picture of Grand Cru Pfersigberg, Schoenenbourg or Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé you have to wonder if they are all as Grand as each other.

And why has Alsace, uniquely, only two rungs on the quality ladder – Gand Cru and ‘others’? Why no Premier Cru level? Just imagine the ‘negotiations’ to down-grade some of the lesser Grand Crus to Premier Cru status! Merdi.

Thing is you can actually find Premier Cru on Alsace wine bottles. From just one, solitary, producer – Deiss.

It is all unofficial and has rankled/upset/annoyed more than one fellow wine producer. Viewed by many as a dangerous maverick Marcel Deiss is certainly unconventional and at times confrontational. But you “have to make a noise to be heard”. What you cannot complain about though is the quality of the wines.
Deiss wines come from 27 hectares of vines producing 220 parcels of wine amounting to some 80-100,000 per year bottle production, depending on the harvest. All are biodynamically produced, although that is not used as a marketing proposition on the label. Deiss have been touting the idea of Premier Cru for years and have produced nine – Burlenberg, Gruenspiel and Grasberg for example. Along with the three Grand Cru wines they produced the Premier Cru wines are grouped under ‘terrior’, leaving ‘wines of fruit’ and ‘wines of time and patience’ as the other ranges.

I’ve been struggling to encapsulate the style and flavours of the Deiss wines, with little printable success. A certain Mr Wood came through on twitter with this sub-140 character gem:

Deiss – like the flavour has passed from soil to palate after being strained through Agent Provocateur

Which I think translates as ‘slightly soiled lingerie’!
Grand Cru: each with the magnificent, way over-the-top, labels

Wine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru, 2005, Alsace, France.

Stockist: Found the 2004 at Lea and Sandeman £47.75 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A blend of 13 varieties and needs at least an hour opening to become fully expressive. Crystallised lemon, ginger, honey, creamy exotic fruits, peach and vanilla. A richness in texture and extremely elegant. High residual sugar but a steely backbone gives the impression of less.
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Wine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Mambourg Grand Cru, 2005, Alsace, France.

Stockist: The 2004 is listed by Lea and Sandeman £53.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A fascinating aroma that really left us stumped to describe – lanolin, meaty, over-ripened bananas, leather. Very complex and intriguing. Minerally texture, depth. Dry with ‘single digit residual sugar’ Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating – 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Wine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Grand Cru Schoenenbourg, 2005, Alsace, France.

[More: Adegga / Snooth]
What a contrast to the Mambourg; light but with poise and concentration. Pure orange on the nose. 100% Rielsing. Dry finish but 71g residual sugar, but perceived sweetness is much, much lower. Alcohol 11.5%.
Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Wine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Engelgaten Premier Cru, 2005, Alsace, France.

Stockist: Lea and Sandeman £26.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A field blend of mostly Riesling (80%) but includes Pinot Gris (15%), Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir. Apparently to get all these different varieties to ripen at the same time you just have to pack them closer together in the vineyard (high density planting). Rich but that distinctive underlining mineral acidity gives the impression of being quite dry. Very long finish. Alcohol 12.5%
Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

The Grand Cru wines are very expensive; sadly of the wines available in the UK only the Engelgaten was tasted during the visit. Plenty of others were tried – Burg 2005, Gruenspiel 2002, Schoffweg 2005, Rottenberg 2004…

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