AT A GLANCE:
Name of wine estate: Domaine Marcel Deiss
Wine region: Alsace
Standout points: Picture-perfect location in Bergheim; Alsatian icon wines such as Grand Cru Schoenenberg
Winemaker: Jean-Michel Deiss
Wine style: Terroir-focused, wood-aged whites
Located in the postcard-pretty fortified village of Bergheim, Domaine Marcel Deiss represents the pinnacle of Alsace winemaking and is a must-visit winery for anyone with a serious interest in fine terroir wine. Winemaker and custodian of the domaine Jean-Michel Deiss (Marcel’s grandson) is one of the forerunners of the biodynamic movement in Alsace (Deiss converted to biodynamic farming in 1998). His single-minded focus is on making wines that reflect the terroir – the soil and microclimate – from which they are drawn. While for the rest of Alsace the primacy of the grape varieties Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer is beyond dispute, for Jean-Michel, these varieties should be a mere footnote to the special vineyard ‘fingerprint’ which true terroir wine is meant to express.
All in the (field) blend
The Deiss family traces its presence in Alsace back to 1744. Ever the individualist, Jean-Michel has sought to re-assert the importance of co-plantings of different grape varieties as the best way of expressing the characteristics of a vineyard. To this end, some of Domaine Marcel Deiss’s most sought-after wines (for example the Grand Cru Schoenenberg – one of the richest and most opulent of all Alsatian wines) are made up of field blends of multiple varieties, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, and various members of the Pinot family. To have the privilege of tasting wines as profound as these is to assent totally to the maverick Monsieur Deiss’s way of doing things.
A tale of terroir
At this revered maison, visits are all about the quality of the wines and discovering the unique diversity of Alsace terroirs. The wine shop is open from 9am-12noon and 2pm-6pm from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday from 10am-12noon and 2pm-6pm (although the estate is closed on Saturday in January, February and March). To make the most of your tasting, it’s advised to make an appointment. Their helpful visual displays and maps of the different soil types of the region will satisfy the curiosity of the most committed wine geek. Just be sure to give yourself enough time – there are many wines and terroirs to get through!