Marie Helène Cristofaro, oenologist at M. Deiss, gives us a detailed account of the way the vineyards as well as the grapes are the focus of the attention to reach the best quality in the wine. Good grapes makes working on the wine easier. Light filtration. Relatively slow Fermentation : 3 to 6 months. No fertilizers. The must (juice) is low on nitrogen, and the only yeast used are the ones present in the grapes' skin, the indigenous yeast. That's why fermentation is slow, which in return brings rich aromas. Hand harvest. Yield is 25-30 hectoliters/hectare on "Grands Crus". On "Appellation communale" yield is 45-50 hectos/hectare. To get a high quality juice, pressing is intentionally slow, which is possible due to the high number of press machines here (relative to the size of the Domaine). Grape juices will ferment slowly (6 months for a "rich" wine) in big wooden foudres. Wine will be fed by its own lees; further "batonnage" will keep the lees in contact with the wine for a better exchange.
_Single-variety wines, each made with one grape variety.
_Late harvest wines.
_Terroir wines, with specific micro-climates and soils.
Our host then lead us to the tasting room, for a great tasting experience :
__1: Pinot blanc Bergheim 2001. Very important as it is the base wine, affordable and with the widest distribution. The wine is nonetheless here matured with care. Rich maturity. Nose : Red fruits. Brioche & toast (B. and our 2 japanese experts-friends comment.. ). Pinot blanc's yield is often 100 to 120 hectoliters/hectare in the region. Here is stays at 45 only. Price : 11 Euro.
__2 : Riesling "Saint Hippolyte" 2001. Minerality here. Lemon. Our host tells us that to have higher competition between the vines, new plantations are made at a 10 000 vines/hectare ratio, which is higher than usual in Alsace and closer to Burgundy's ratio. This leads to competition between the vines that helps them search their nutrients deeper in the ground. Competing and suffering vines make better wines... This helps also the grapes to have a better maturity, and still acidity.
__3 : Burlenberg 1999 (red). Pinot Noir and Beurot grape varieties. Volcanic soil and hardened limestone. Gives to the wine roasted notes. Very very fruity. 22 Euro.
__4 : Engelgarten 2000. On a gravel plateau. Light soil. Complantation also, of several grape varieties : Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot, Muscat, Pinot Noir. 22 Euro.
__5 : Rotenberg 2001. Riesling and Pinot Gris. Limestone paved underground on eastward slope. "Gras en bouche" (rich). It doesnt show its 13.5° alcohol. 30 Euro.
__6 : Grasberg. Riesling and Pinot Gris. Some gewurztraminer also. Located at 320-340 m altitude. High temperature gap between night and day play a role for this wine. Soil is poor and Stony. 50 cm/ 1 meter deep only. Then rock with faults in which the roots try to slid to find their nutrients. Limestone with sea fossils. Northeast exposition. Maturity. Noble rot. Acidity masked by richness. Exotic fruits. Offers this kind of result every year. 30 Euro.
__7 : Altenberg. Grand Cru de Bergheim 1999. A lot of Botrytis here. Very wide range of aromas. Vanilla. The limestone soil gives here its full expression. Exposed southward. The Altenberg 1997 costs 39 Euro.
__8 : Schoenenbourg 1999. Residual sugar 25-50 g. Feels like 10 g only. Price 50.5 Euro. The "Schoenenbourg" wines were also left 20 years with lees in wooden foudres in the past. The roots grow through gibs soil and wine makers even added some of this gibs into the wine for a better conservation in this remote past. This led to long life wines which were very appreciated by northern european amateurs. It was already exported in northern Europe back in the 15th century . This helped make Riquewihr become what it is now (a village with rich historic traditional houses).
So, this was our visit and tasting at Domaine Marcel Deiss , with the efficient explanations of Marie Helène Cristofaro . Thank you !