Alsace is one of the most surprising regions of France. One imagines oneself in Germany, not least because of the names of the towns, streets and buildings, but one finds the warmth and relaxation so characteristic of eastern France. The classic, almost Swiss villages, the beautiful historical buildings and castles, the hills and vineyards, it is another world. Especially if you are invited to a winegrower who really does things differently from his colleagues and who puts the terroir above everything else: Domaine Marcel Deiss.
And what better way to get into the mood than by cycling through some of Marcel Deiss' vineyards: Mambourg, Grasberg and Rotenberg. From the outside you can see vineyards and rolling hills, but the difference is underground: the soil composition can vary enormously within a few metres, and this variation is more complex than in Burgundy. And anyone who has been in front of the Montrachet vineyard, for example, knows how quickly soil conditions can change.
When you enter Bergheim, the estate is a must. We were warmly welcomed by Marie-Hélène Deiss, who immediately introduced us to the vineyards, their location and the general philosophy. And then the tasting started right away, the best choice: here we talk about the soil, the location, the terroir. As Marie-Hélène herself describes it: "a vineyard is like paper: it says nothing. It's what you write on it that counts.
A mixture of grape varieties grows on each plot, as in the past. In this way, the varieties compete with each other, which leads to an improvement in the quality of the individual grapes. The Marcel Deiss Estate stimulates the vines to take root deep enough to make the most of the terroir. We therefore try to get the character of the soil into the grapes, so that each wine is an expression of its origin.
The taste of terroir
During our tasting, the location of the vineyard was indicated for each wine and real pieces of soil were used to illustrate the soil conditions. Each wine was clearly different, even though the wines had exactly the same grape variety composition. This was the case for Engelgarten and Rotenberg, which we tasted side by side in 2 glasses. The plots were right next to each other. Engelgarten is located on an old river bed with pebbles and gravel, Rotenberg is an old Jurrassic soil (oolitic limestone). Both wines were completely different, but each with its own specific touch. And when we asked what grapes the wine was made of, Marie-Hélène looked at us quizzically: "But that doesn't matter at all, does it? It turned out to be a combination of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir.
The tasting was a journey of discovery of the terroir and showed what Alsace and the different grape varieties can produce in terms of quality. The Grand Cru Schoenenbourg was briefly compared by Marie-Hélène to Romanee Conti. A popular wine in Europe since the 12th century because of its excellent conservation due to the composition of the soil. Schoenenbourg wines can become very old. A winemaker must consciously choose to make this wine. Unfortunately, according to Marie-Hélène, this happens too little, so that Schoenenbourg no longer has the appeal of the past, but the potential remains unchanged. And we were able to taste it afterwards, alongside the Grand Cru Altenberg and the Mambourg. What fantastic wines.
We tasted 18 wines that afternoon and came to the conclusion that we should have visited Marcel Deiss much earlier. The philosophy of winemaking, the intention with which the wines are made, the quality and certainly the value for money, all appeal to us. And to come back to the importance of the grape varieties and to want to do things differently: Domaine Marcel Deiss managed to get rid of the obligation to indicate the grape variety on the label a few years ago. Indeed, here we do things differently.
Too much to tell...
This blog can go on for many more paragraphs, on the Marcel Deiss website you will find all the information. When we left the domain, Marie-Hélène said goodbye with: "It's a question of terroir: pass the message on!Read more