Painting Alsace

Published by Shana Dilworth on 16/05/2017

Alsace is a conundrum of grapes, soils and producers. Unlike the other regions of France, where variety is rarely mentioned, Alsace offers so much of a mixed bag of styles that we usually have to rely on the grape to direct us in our selection of the wines we choose to drink.

However, after spending an afternoon with Marie-Helene Deiss last week, I have been enlightened. I now realise that sometimes, less is more. In order to fully enjoy the wines from iconic Alsace producer Marcel Deiss, we have to get beyond 'knowing' the grape or blend and let ourselves be led by the terroir.

You choose Engelgarten, not because of its grape blend, but because it is a wine from the gravelly terroir of Bergheim. A wine made from this vineyard has suffered through the dry summer, creating a high ratio of skin to pulp in the grapes. This creates an incredibly complex wine in structure and aromas, with flavours of cooked orange peel, wrapped in intense minerality.

On the other hand, if ever there were a Doctor Who wine, it would be Deiss’ Schoenenbourg Grand Cru. These wines “express their undeniable ability of being aged to travel through time: rich, extraordinarily corpulent, far away from its norm.” There is always a bit of noble rot in the Schoenenbourg vineyard, which lends its wines their exceptional ability to age.

Deiss’ wines offer any home cook a creative palette of aromas, flavours and textures. The gentle, subtle Pinot d’ Alsace makes not just a perfect aperitif, but also a great wine pairing with start of summer vegetables - tender pea sprouts, asparagus, and salade aux agrumes.

For an impressive main course wine, the full bodied Mambourg Grand Cru pairs with prawn, lobster or pork belly. But be warned - if you buy a bottle, make sure you get two. Leave one for 10 years and you will get to experience the incredible, ethereal delights of Alsace at its best.

It becomes a wine that paints a picture in aromas and flavours; not just something that tastes of grapes, but a still life of a climatic point in time and a winemaking impression of the terroir where it was grown.


Shana Dilworth

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