A few weeks ago, the 2015 edition of the Alsace wine day was held in Stockholm. It is an annual event that always comes back this time of year. One of two producers that I tasted both this year and the last was Marcel Deiss, which is one of the very best producers of Alsace as well as the source of some of the region’s most idiosyncratic wines.
The wines of Marcel Deiss are produced in a fruity style with high concentration, a varying level of residual sweetness, including significant sweetness in some wines, and man vineyard-designated wines that are produced from field blends of several grape varieties. These blends are what is most characteristic of the Deiss range, since the top wines – including all grand crus and all other white wines with a vineyard name – are blends while the varietal Deiss wines are found among the simpler, non-vineyard designated. This is just the opposite from all other notable Alsace producers I know of, where blends are usually used in one or perhaps two entry-level wines, called Edezwicker, Gentil or something similar. By the way, Deiss is also practices biodynamics.
Last year I wrote a longer profile based both on last year’s tasting (January 2014) and a visit in the summer of 2011. Anyone who would like to know a bit more detail about Deiss should preferably read that post, since I won’t repeat all of it here.
Instead, below is an update on my impression of this year’s wines. Unfortunately, these notes were scribbled down when I had a bit of a cold. However, I still think that the notes are almost as (un)reliable as they usually are when I taste rather quickly in connection with wine fairs with a lot of people around. I.e., this type of tasting gives a decent picture of the overall style of a producer and in what shape the wines are, of the relative style and quality across the range, and usually a general impression of some of the region’s younger vintages. However, the longest and fulles, most poetic and most exact descriptions of the very best wines seldom originate from this type of tasting.
In similarity to my notes from last year, I indicate my impression of the wines’ sweetness using the scale 1-9, that is also used by some but far from all Alsace producers. Deiss does not indicate the residual sugar of the wines, neither on the label nor on the website, but my impression is that there is a fairly consistent style between the vintages: a wine from a certain vineyard is usually low or high in residual sugar and they usually line up in about the same order to increasing sweetness in different vintages. It is therefore not likely to get too much a surprise if a wine that was to one’s taste in one vintage is bought again in a new vintage. On the other hand, a Deiss wine from another vineyard can mean a different level of residual sugar.
Some short opinions about some of the most recent Alsace vintages:
- 2012 – a “classical” vintage with good acidity and balanced wines, reminds me more of 2010 than of 2011 or 2009.
- 2011 – a somewhat more ripe vintage than 2012 or 2010, but not too hot in style and does have balance. The difference in style between 2012 and 2011 does not seem to be too big, though, and many other pairs of Alsace vintages have been more dissimilar, such as 2010/2009, 2009/2008, and 2008/2007.
- 2010 – an absolutely fantastic vintage with really fine acidity. Should be the best vintage for extended cellaring since 2004.
2011 Alsace Rouge (Pinot Noir)
The tasting list specified “Pinot Noir” but the label did not. On the other hand, that’s the only allowed red grape within the Alsace appellation and on the Deiss website the wine is compared to those of Côte de Nuits, so there should be little doubt as to the grape variety.
An unfiltered wine with a somewhat unclear appearance (the label includes the text “Nature”). Nose with cherries, spices and a discrete oak note. The palate is distinctly dry, somewhat tart/acidic and slightly spicy with good oak notes and shows something of a “natural wine note”. 86-87 p?
For a long time, Deiss has produced a vineyard-designated red wine from Burlenberg in the home village of Bergheim. I can’t recall having seen this Alsace Rouge before, so it is likely a new addition to the range. Between these two red wines, there’s also a village-designated Rouge de Saint Hippolyte.
2012 Alsace (Blanc)
A blend of all Alsatian grape varieties, which are 13 when Deiss counts them, which must mean that also those that now are unfashionable are included, but no proportions are given.
The nose is fruity in style with melon, some honey, some mineral, and a hint of flowery notes. Rather dry (1-2? on the scale 1-9) and fruity palate with citrus, apple, some stoney fruit, quite good acidity, and good concentration. A fresh and rather firm aftertaste, but a completely bone dry wine, 87-88 p.
Varietal wines, “vins de fruit”
Raised in oak barrels.
Nose with apple, peach, mineral, just a faint impression of petroleum, and light spice note. The palate is dry (1 on the scale 1-9) with mineral, citrus, apple, rather good concentration, a rather firm impression, and some spice notes. Rather young, 88 p.
Deiss’ Riesling is usually dry and fruity. I assume that the small spice note in the nose and on the palate originates from the oak treatment that this wine sees.
2011 Pinot Gris
Raised in large oak barrels.
Rather spicy nose with apple and a light smoky note. Rather dry (2 on the scale 1-9), rather good concentration, palate with apple, spice note, mineral, some mint note, and a good acidity at the medium+ level. 88 p.
Nose with honey, spice, lychee and perfume. Off-dry on the palate (3-4 on the scale 1-9), very fruity and concentrated with honey, some tropical fruit and spice notes. 89 p.
Vineyard-designated wines, “crus d’Alsace”
All these wines are blends of several grape varieties. The blend typically varies between the vineyards, but the exact blend is not specified on the website.
A vineyard in Saint-Hipployte with granite soils.
Nose with citrus, a stony mineral note, and some petroleum. A dry palate (1 on the scale 1-9) with citrus, stony minerality, good concentration and some wax notes. A foody but firm wine wine a Riesling-like nose and palate. 89 p.
A vineyard in Bergheim with gravelly soils.
Nose with peach, citrus and a very discrete petroleum note. Rather dry palate (2 on the scale 1-9), citrus, some peach, a high concentration, high acidity, very good balance with mineral and a fruity aftertaste. Riesling-styled with some Pinot Gris vibes, 90 p.
Among the vineyard-designated wines, I usually consider Engelgarten a good introduction to the fruity and concentrated Deiss style, since it is usually quite a good wine where the residual sweetness is low enough so that the opinion about the sweetness alone will not dictate the overall impression.
A vineyard in Bergheim with chalky soils, a neighbour of grand cru Altenberg.
The nose is very spicy with some linoleum, cooked fruit, some dried fruit, and a noticeably developed impression. Rather dry on the palate (2-3 on the scale 1-9), noticeably spicy, fried apple and some old apple notes, good acidity, and some mineral. Foody and Pinot Gris-styled but comes across as significantly developed and therefore older than its vintage, 89-90 p.
A vineyard in Bergheim with Jurassic chalky soils, located around the summit of a hill above grand cru Altenberg.
Rather discrete nose with peach, slightly smoky with mineral. Somewhat off-dry impression (3 on the scale 1-9), citrus, some tropical fruit and honey, powerful concentration, and a high acidity that provides fine balance to the wine. Foody, still young, 91 p.
Without doubt a wine where the 2010 style, with all the acidity needed for balance, lifts the wine to a higher level.
A vineyard in Riquewihr mostly known for Riesling. Deiss plot in this vineyard is also likely to contain a high proportion of Riesling, and the wines are often made with some proportion of grapes affected by noble rot.
Nose with citrus and zest, a slightly waxy note, a hint of peach, and mineral. Off-dry palate (3-4? on the scale 1-9), lots of citrus, zest, high acidity, some grapefruit bitterness, and very lightly spicy. Fine balance, young, 92(+) p.
Also here, the 2010 style is obvious, with a fine balance. This wine comes across as rather similar to a lean and elegant Riesling Vendange Tardive of high class.