By Marco Giovanetti
From all the French wine growing, none conjures beautiful images better than Alsace. It is situated in the Rhine River plain. Alsace shares borders with Germany and Switzerland and it has alternated between German and French cultures over the centuries. As a result, it has own its own colorful culture.
Alsace has one of the greatest gastronomic and wine culture in France and Europe. This is one of the french regions with the greatest number of restaurant stars per inhabitant. The Michelin guide for 2015, list close to 30 restaurants with one star and more.
The region is blessed with a magnificent climate and soil to grow grapes. In terms of climate, the Vosges Mountains protects the Alsace region from any Atlantic influence by blocking moisture and storms that blow eastward from the ocean. As a result, Alsace enjoys a strange dry, sunny climate. It ranks among the driest of any classic French wine region.
Alsace grows mostly white wines with a tiny amount of red. The main varieties are Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer. Muscat and Sylvaner are also grown. In red, only Pinot Noir. Alsace wines reflect the land where they are born. Since 2012, french legislation recognized 51 crus ( sites) in Alsace making singular and unique wines.
Recently, I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Domaine Marcel Deiss, a benchmark producer in Alsace. A.O.C Chateaux, its importer in Quebec, organized a tasting in which we tasted a group of its celebrated single vineyard wines as well two of their regular commercial blends.
Domaine Marcel Deiss has winemaking roots in Alsace dating back to the 18th century. After World War II, Marcel Deiss founded the current enterprise. The domaine has 27 ha of vineyards in 9 different communes. The domaine is run today by Jean-Michel Deiss along with his son Mathieu.
Deiss, is one of the few of producers that believe in coplantation of different varieties in their lines of wines, even the ones coming from their celebrated growths.The biodynamic state, makes three categories of wines: Wines of Fruit, Instant wines; Wines of Time, wines that require patience; Terroir wines, mirrors of the environment.
The first category comprises wines dominated by a single grape. They are made to drink young. In contrast, the patience wines are expression of the vintage. It is in this echelon, where the late harvest and dessert wines come into play. Finally, the terroir wines, reflect strictly the place where they are from. They are made with different grapes and named according to the place where they come from. The practice follows the old Alsatian tradition
Their holdings comprise 220 parcels scattered between Saint Hyppolyte and Sigolsheim and divided in the following sectors: Saint-Hippolyte, Mittelwihr-Beblenheim and Bennwihr-Sigolsheim. Each sector making singular wines.
The wines tasted
Alsace Blanc 2014. SAQ # 10516490. $26.45
( 13 Alsatian grapes: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Pinot Beurot, Pinot Noir, Muscat, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat a petits grains, Muscat rose a petit grains, Sylvaner, Chasselas, Chasselas Rose)
Rich nose. Lovely perfume of apricot and pear puree. In addition, lychee and rose blossom water. On the mouth, medium to full body. A bit less aromatic than the nose but still fragrant. Round and wavy on the mouth. Crisp finale. 93/100
Alsace Rouge 2013. SAQ # 12185410. $28.05
( Pinot Noir and other mutation of the grape such as Beurot, Meunier, Blanc, Gris)
Intriguing nose of smoke and eucalyptus aromas. Furthermore, cherry blossom and rose water. On the mouth, full body with a good structure. Tannins are on the drier style. The palette brings to mind a panel of floral retronasal aromas. Earthy finale. 92/100.
Red-Burlenberg 2012. Called by them Premier Cru but it does not exist this classification in Alsace.
( A very ancient terroir, composed of different old layers of chalk. Similar terroir as found in Clos de Beze in Burgundy)
Rich and nitid bouquet. Ripe red cherry candy with touches of red prune jam. Bed of flowers sitting on a mineral block. On the mouth, full body. The texture is smoother than the alsace rouge but more structured. Aromatic finale that brings to mind church incense finale.Tannins are a bit closed at the present moment.Need some time on the cellar. 92/100
( Situated in Saint Hyppolyte, in steep terraces facing south. Very old and degraded granite)
Aromas of rock salt rock with notes of grapefruit and tonic. Full body and fresh with a wonderful smooth texture. A bit off dry with a crescendo of white fruits flavours.. This wine has soul. A finale bringing to mind bitter herbs and confit citrus peel.Very long with a grandiose finale. 95/100
White- Engelgarten 2012. SAQ #11687688. Price: $47.50
( Gravelly land near the medieval fortress of Bergheim.)
Intense mineral aromatics. Full body and fresh. Very explosive minerality with citrus and lime pulp and peel flavors. Do a wave in your mouth and then finish straight like an arrow. Long finale bringing to mind flint and caramelized fruits. 94/100
( Exceptional terroir, a fine layer dating back to Eolian period. Warm climate with a lot of ventilation)
On the nose, lots of chalk notes. Smoke and lime yogurt. Cool in the palate, subtle with exotic flavors. Vibrant with a even sonic finale. 95/100
( Prized Vineyard since the middle ages. Soil with calcium and magnesium, from the Quaternary period)
Cloves, nutmeg, lime.On the palate, develops opulence very quickly and then get restrained by the acidity giving an extension to the wine length. 96/100
White Altenberg 2011
( Rich soil full of fossils, red chalk)
Passion fruit with lime leaves, Verbena. Full body. On the mouth, off dry. Luscious on the mid palate. Abrasive on the edges. Lots of equilibrium and tastes. A juxtaposition of tastes and aromas. Bitter on the finish. Apricot seeds aftertaste. My favorite of the tasting. 97/100