Alsace – a 120km long by 8km wide swath of land located in the far northeastern reaches of France to the east of the Vosges Mountains that cut it off from the rest of the country.
Alsace has a somewhat fractured history as it was often a pawn between France and Germany – and much of its architecture, language, culinary and viticultural heritage reflects this. It was returned to the French following WW2 in a deal brokered by Marechal Foch – for whom a grape was named. The ultimate honour for a Frenchman, I’m sure.
Resting in the rain shadow of the Vosges, Alsace is blessed with an unusual continental climate that allows for an extended, warm growing season and is very dry (only about 500mm of rain per year in parts). It has varied soils – everything from limestone, clay, marl and gneiss to volcanic basalt and calcareous soils full of fossilized shells from the Jurassic era.
The vineyards are all located along the Rhin River that runs south to north – the southern Haut-Rhin sites producing slightly fuller and fruitier styles than those in the northern Bas-Rhin.
There are four grapes generally accepted as the ‘nobles’ – Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer – but others are also grown including Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chasselas and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir is the only red allowed; 90% of the wines here are white, fermented in stainless steel and generally no friend of oak.
There are 51 Grand Crus in Alsace and the Alsace AC (or Vin d’Alsace) is spread throughout the region. The wines here are incredibly varied – everything is made from bone dry red and whites to dried ‘Paille’ versions, Crémant d’Alsace sparklers, late harvest Vendange Tardives and sweet botrytised SGNs (Sélection de Grains Nobles).
Domaine Marcel Deiss is biodynamic and run by Jean-Michel Deiss whose father acquired it following WW2. He owns 26 ha of land spread over 7 communes and 220 different sites. The Domaine is in the village of Bergheim and the family owns some Grand Cru holdings in Altenberg de Bergheim.
This wine is a beautiful medium gold with legs. On the nose it’s got medium plus intensity and is youthful with aromas of honeysuckle, strong minerality, pear, lemon drop, pink grapefruit, gingerbread and spicy baked apple crumble.
The palate is ever-so-slightly off dry with average alcohol and flavours of citrus (lime, lemon and grapefruit juice), stone fruit (more baked apple pie and pear), honey, ginger and a TDN effect (that petrol flavour caused by tri-methyl-di-napthalene that will develop with time). It has a long finish.
WSET Outstanding wine; this is crisp, clean, complex and concentrated. The finish is long and interesting. Drink now and is definitely suitable for ageing with the concentrated fruit and marked acidity.