While Jean-Michel Deiss is by all accounts one of the finest winemakers in Alsace, he is also one of the most influential men of his generation in the wine world. Deiss not only caused the authorities to revise the appellation rules in Alsace, but also triggered a revolution in the way that all of us think about terroir. Implicit in the concept of terroir, at least before Deiss, was the conventional wisdom that single variety, monocepage, best reflects a given terroir, e.g., only pinot noir or chardonnay (depending on soil type) can manifest the soil of Burgundy. In Alsace, this fundamentalism dictated that “quality” wines needed to be made from a single grape variety.
Deiss presents a different perspective. To him, a grape variety is only a single instrument, not the symphony; the best reflection of a terroir is a wine comprised of a harmonious balance of indigenous varieties that are “co-planted” in the vineyard. This means that multiple varieties are planted together in a vineyard to facilitate adaptation and mutation with the end result of concurrent budburst, lignification, blooming, and ripening. The entire vineyard is then harvested and fermented in concert.
Domaine Marcel Deiss, named after Jean-Michel’s grandfather, is a 27-hectare estate located in Bergheim near Ribeauvillé. Managed by Jean-Michel since 1981, the day-to-day work is being increasingly supervised by Jean-Michel’s son, Mathieu. The vineyards and winemaking are certified organic and biodynamic.
After selective picking in the vineyards, and scrupulous triage, the general practice is to press whole clusters very slowly (10-20 hours), to ferment slowly (usually in wood), and to cool the wine post-fermentation. The wine is then racked into barrels, typed, and aged depending on the vineyard, and then to age the wine on its lees for a year before bottling.
Schoenenbourg, Altenberg de Bergheim, Mambourg, Huebehl, Gruenspiel, Burg, grasberg, Schoffweg, Rotenberg, Engelgarten, Langenberg, Alsace de Berckem, Burlenberg, Alsace Blanc, Alsace
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