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Friday, 30 September 2011

Alsace's Marcel Deiss with Barry James Wines at Boutique Wineries‏


At the recent Boutique Wineries tasting, I got to try a range of Deiss wines from Alsace with Barry McCaughley of Barry James Wines.

We started with an Alsace Nature - a somewhat unusual wine on many levels.

Deiss's philosophy is to express in each wine the three factors that make a wine complete : the grape variety, the vintage and the terroir and the wines have been pretty much all organic and biodynamic since before it became trendy to do so, so we are in somewhat eclectic territory already.

The Nature, an Austrian-style vineyard blend (the equivalent of a Gemischter Satz), is sealed with a glass stopper and is a "natural wine", that ill-defined term which means little but generally stands for low intervention.

With "four or five" varieties in the blend, it had a startlingly intense purity, crisp, linear acidity and a structured minerality that had me thinking of my favourite Austrian whites.

But there is also a hint of oxidative, sherry-like character and the end result feels like a blend of Wachau Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and some fino thrown in.

Strange and unusual, I found I liked it a lot, marking it down as the best wine I tried that day and arranging to do a separate, in-depth review of it.

The rest of the Deiss wines were very different in character from both the Nature and what one thinks of as typically Alsatian generally.

Although not so far apart, geographically, historically, linguistically or culturally, the Alsatians and the Germans have very different ideas about what a white wine should be like, with the Alsatians plumping for a food-friendly, dry, aromatic, full-bodied style whilst the Mosel, in particular, excels in refined, delicate, off-dry wines more suited to the garden than to the dining room.

If the Nature was distinctly Austrian, then the Alsace 2010 was the most traditionally Alsatian in style.

Like the Nature, it is a vineyard blend (but different vineyards in this case) and felt crisp with pear and lime fruit and a focused acidity.

The Riesling 2009 felt soft and full with a hint of residual sweetness and a long finish.

The Englegarten 1er Cru 2007 with mostly Riesling but a small percentage of Pinot Blanc, was a Mosel-style wine, felling gentle and balanced.

The Rotenberg 1er Cru ("Riesling and a blend of Alsatian Pinots") was fuller with more sweetness.

Recommended Wine

None of these wines is exactly cheap - entry level is almost £20 with prices going up to £40.

However, for me the best wine here was actually the cheapest - the Nature at £18 for its startling intensity and structured minerality.

Links & Contact details

Barry James Wines:
1 Park West
40 Tanner Street
SE1 3LG
Tel: 07917 668550

Marcel Deiss - http://www.marceldeiss.com/
Boutique Wineries - http://www.boutique-wineries.co.uk/

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