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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2005

France (Alsace)

riesling, pinot gris, muscat, sylvaner, chasselas

France is seeing red! (Italy hasn’t been left with anything to cheer about either.) See you in four years, guys.

For the moment at least France offers up better wines than it does it does football players!

In selecting a wine for the week, I thought it appropriate to go with a winemaker also prone to controversy. Someone with a reputation for bucking the rules. But someone who is on his game and hard to beat.

Jean-Michel Deiss.

Deiss is a man with an extreme view of terroir. To the point that several of his wines are labelled by vineyard rather than varietal, in opposition to the long-established tradition in Alsace. His Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are densely planted with a broad mix of varietals, the names of which are not to be found on the labels of these field blends, wines Deiss calls “Les Vins de Terroirs.” They are noble field blends to be sure. But no other local vigneron would think of taking riesling, for example, and blending it, rather than isolating it as its own Grand Cru offering.

Diess and the Domaine’s oenologist, Marie-Hélène Christofaro, would argue that the proof of their approach is in the bottle. And indeed the wines have no shortage of laudatory reviews, leading Domaine Marcel Deiss to be placed among the very finest wine producers in Alsace.

The domaine is made up of 27 hectares, spread over nine communes. Originally established by his grandfather in 1947, the domaine under Deiss was farmed organically for several years before he turned to biodynamics in 1998. Planting is dense, with as many as 10,000 plants per hectare. Yields, however, are kept low, often much lower than the allowable maximum. The multi-varietal vines are on slopes, their roots running deep, allowing the mix of grapes to ripen at the same time. They are carefully hand-picked (including some choice botrytis-touched clusters) before gentle pressing, and slow fermentation. The wines come to bottle-readiness in large wooden foudres.

Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2005

The terroir is known as Saint Hippolyte — steep, south-facing, and pure granite. The yellow glow offers a complex blend of five different grapes. A sum is greater than its parts, certainly rich in aromas and taste. Endowed with mineral and citrus notes, with an unexpected salinity creeping in. All offset by a sweetness, though one that is never sugary. This is a full, flavourful wine, with lots of heft. Robust, yet zesty, seemingly even better sipped on its own than with food. At least we enjoyed it that way, in Adirondack chairs, in the warm, late evening sun. Heavenly.  $$





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