- Posted by Terroir Selections
- On September 24, 2013
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Domaine Marcel Deiss is located in Bergheim in the heart of the Alsatian wine region. It is currently run by Jean-Michel Deiss, whose family has been making wine since 1744. The domaine has 26 hectares of hillside vineyards spread over 9 communes and 20 kilometres. The Domaine’s website, http://www.marceldeiss.com, contains detailed information on all the terroirs Deiss has unearthed in Alsace.
Bergheim, Alsace – France
Jean-Michel, a medieval history buff, is a passionate and somewhat controversial preacher of the Alsatian tradition of “complantation”, or field blending varieties in the vineyard. He believes that a true expression of a site’s terroir is only possible through a field blending of the traditional Alsatian varieties in proportions suited to a particular site. Not one to accept the status quo, Jean-Michel works tirelessly to spread his message. Indeed just recently he managed to convince the INAO to change regulations allowing a blend to have Grand Cru status from the Grand Cru of Altenberg de Bergheim, where previously the wine had to be labelled as Riesling.
He is a fervent follower of biodynamic practices and believes that vines have to suffer in order to produce their best, using very dense plantations to achieve this. All of the wines from the domaine are produced from within the Ribeauvillé fault area. This oval shaped area runs for about 15 kilometres between Rorschwihr and Kientzheim and is at its widest point at Bergheim where it measures 2 kilometres across. The Bergheim valley is unique in Alsace: a hill blocks the cold air flowing down from the Vosges which makes this valley warmer than the other Grand Cru valleys in the area. The terroirs are a patchwork quilt created by the various North-South and East-West faults. As such, Jean-Michel treats each parcel of vines separately starting from decisions on viticultural techniques to the actual vinification – a very long, careful and laborious process.
Jean-Michel tends to pick late, even if that might allow some infection by noble rot. Once the grapes arrive in the winery they are very slowly pressed and allowed to naturally undergo fermentation under cool conditions. This process can take quite some time and it is not uncommon for his wines to retain some residual sugar. However, as for the onset of noble rot, Jean-Michel believes that this only serves to enhance the expression of terroir in his wines and give them a greater ability to age.
Classification of Deiss wines
In Jean-Michel’s opinion there are three broad categories of wine:
Vins de Fruits
- Varietally labelled wines from a single designated commune or village.
Vins de Terroirs
- Field blends of varietals dominated by their terroir, site and soil specificity which include what he calls his Premiers Crus and the AOC recognised Grand Crus.
Vins de Temps
- Classic late harvest wines with the Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles designations.