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Vin de terroirs

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As explained by the young and personable Mathieu Deiss, who was in town last week for the Renaissance des appellations event, the Marcel Deiss estate has two basic lines of wine: variety-driven and terroir-driven.

Vineyards where, in the winemaker’s opinion, the expression of terroir is muted are planted with single or segregated grape varieties, and the wines are made and labelled as varietals: Riesling, Muscat, etc. With the exception of a handful of high-end bottlings (the so-called vins de temps, which are vendange tardive and sélection de grains nobles wines considered particularly expressive of the character of their vintage), these are marketed as vins de fruits.

Vineyards where terroir trumps variety are planted with mixed varieties, all of which are harvested, pressed and fermented together (Mathieu says co-planted, biodynamically farmed grapes “learn” to ripen at the same time). These vins de terroirs are the estate’s flagship wines. Although such field blends were once the norm in Alsace, it wasn’t until 2005 that Deiss convinced the INAO authorities to allow estates to label wines from grand cru vineyards with only the vineyard name and sans the grape variety.

Alsace 2009, Marcel Deiss ($22.60, 10516490)
The estate’s entry-level vin de terroirs is a field blend of biodynamically farmed Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Gold with a pale green cast. Attractive if hard-to-pin-down nose: dried lemon peel, quartz, grapefruit, sweeter fruit in the background, a hint of pine needles and alcohol. Soft and round on entry – yellow-fruity and verging on off-dry – followed by a faint, spritzy tingle. Dries as it goes along, the fruit becoming more citric, the flavours more savoury. Bit of heat and bitterness on the longish finish. Lingering straw and brown sugar notes.

We’re so accustomed to associating fine Alsatian whites with varietal characteristics that drinking such an unmistakably Alsatian yet varietally elusive wine is disconcerting. Nonetheless, this bottle delivers pleasure by the glassful and convinces me that tasting through a range of Deiss’s vineyard-specific vins de terroirs would be a fascinating exercise.

Written by carswell

March 7, 2012 at 17:08

Posted in Tasting notes

Tagged with ,

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