Located in Bergheim, Domaine Marcel Deiss was established after the Second World War by the grandfather of the current owner, Jean-Michel Deiss. Currently it consists of 26 hectares spread over numerous sites in nine communes. After a number of years working organically, Deiss went biodynamic in 1998. I tasted a few of the wines with Jean-Michel and his oenologist Marie Helène Cristofaro .
A rather bewildering array of wines is made, which are grouped into three categories, Vins de Fruits, Vins de Terroirs and Vins de Temps. It’s this middle category that is most fascinating, because Deiss believes strongly in terroir, and while in Alsace varietal wines are the rule, he makes field blends of different varieties.
Christofaro outlined the philosophy. ‘Old vines are like an alphabet to express the vineyard’, she explained. ‘The old tradition is to have hillside vineyards planted with mixed varieties, which are then made into wines known by the name of the place, like any other French region.’ Christofo maintains that in order to express the characteristics of a vineyard, a range of different varieties does best. ‘We think the clones we have now in Alsace are too simple to express the complexity of each vineyard’.
The good thing about slopes, she explains, is that the soil is deep enough and the roots can penetrate the faults in the rock. As a result of these deep soils, the varieties ripen the same time when they are planted together. However, on the plains this wouldn’t happen, so they plant varieties seperately on the flat vineyards. ‘Single varieties are the baby on modern viticulture’, says Christofo. ‘Modern viticulture has required people to separate grapes. With roots at the surface, because of the use of herbicides to remove grass and no tilling, the varieties will ripen at different times’. It’s an interesting idea.