From: Alsace, France
Varietals: Alsatian blend (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer)
At a Glance:
Field blend of Alsatian varieties
A single site at the top of Altenberg (Grand Cru) in Bergheim
Shallow, iron-heavy, white limestone soils
The “En Remilly” of the single crus (top of the hill, poor shallow soils)
Planted between 1972-2002
10,000 vines per ha
Very slow, whole-cluster pressing for up to 12 hours
Fermented and aged in large ancient foudres for 12 months
Critical Acclaim and Taste:
VM 96 Rated 96 by Vinous Media
Deep golden yellow; this has a beautiful golden color associated most often with dessert wines. Perfumed aromas of ripe peach and tropical fruit, honey and sweet spices are complicated by noteworthy marmelady botrytis. Then rich, dense and luscious, showing a mouth-coating presence to ripe mango, grapefruit, papaya and peach flavors complicated by vanilla and other sweet spices. Finishes long and penetrating, with an ultra-suave and fleshy mouthfeel and noteworthy residual sugar but more than enough acidity to keep this opulent, luscious wine light and lively. This cannot be mistaken in any way for a classically dry white wine, as it is noticeably sweet, but it’s so rich and luscious that it can easily pair with roast chicken, mushroom and cream dishes, though I think it will probably prove most enjoyable with desserts, aged and blue cheeses and on its own. Knockout wine of monumental concentration and impeccable balance, if in a very sweet style. The noble rot really kicks up the complexity more than just a notch. This is the best Grasberg that I remember in years. Well done.
JS 96 Rated 96 by James Suckling
A ripe set of orchard fruit with quite a rich and assertive, minerally edge. The palate has a supple, juicy and attractively fresh feel with plenty of concentrated, rich, yellow-fruit flavors with very intense, fresh and focused drive to the finish. Twists dry. Impressive. From organically grown grapes. Drink or hold.
Pairing: Our favorite pairing with a wine like this is Choucroute Garnie. Unfamiliar? Definition from the James Beard Foundation. Choucroute garnie, a traditional specialty of the Alsace region of France, reflects its German ancestry. Steaming platters of sauerkraut are piled high with a variety of hearty sausages, frankfurters, salted meats, and cooked potatoes.
Other pairing options include lighter Thai and Vietnamese dishes that incorporate elements of fresh, citrus, vinegar, fish sauce and spice.
The domaine. No one will argue that Deiss is among the top two or three domaines of Alsace. As to the rest, Jean-Michel Deiss is what the French call, a fouteur de merde, a shit-stirrer. After an old man on his deathbed entrusted him with one of Alsace's gems, the Schoenenbourg vineyard, Jean-Michel found that it was planted to an old field blend or “co-plantation.”
He soon realized that this was the missing link in his quest for great wine and he replanted every single one of his top vineyards to such blends. Though this had once been the norm in Alsace, by the time Jean-Michel planted his grand crus to field blends, it was a technique reserved to lowly wines.
Then, he took on the Alsatian cru system. Too many grand crus, and too large at that, but no premier crus was idiotic, he thought, and he self-appointed seven of his top vineyards “premier crus.” When you taste them, it makes crystalline sense, but this is technically an illegal practice and Jean-Michel has been battling the authorities ever since. His latest concern is to have ancient but currently illegal Alsatian varieties added to the list of authorized grapes. A troublemaker indeed, but the wines are absolutely magical.
"The hill where the grass grows"
Grasberg is located at the summit of the Grand Cru Altenberg in Bergheim, at 340m altitude and facing northeast. The soil here is very shallow, which forces the roots to dig deep into the subsoil in search of water and nourishment.
A complex wine from Jurassic limestone terroir. Very persistent, marked by its minerality. Grasberg has tension, and this initial tightness indicates the complexity that will express itself in time.
Grasberg is the most fluorescent and electrically charged of the Deiss botrytized wines. The vineyard lies almost directly on limestone bedrock; its minerality is ripped. It is perched at the top of the Altenberg hill, north-facing, exposed to winds. The coolness of the site elevates the citrus acidity of limestone to a superlative, mouth-watering tang; restrains the botrytis from sweet to savory-sweet and sour; infuses the wine with freshness; and takes the sedimentary minerality to a more crystalline place. What is even more remarkable, even magical, is that none of these elements fight to lead. The spheres and fruit are striking, but just as much are the angles and energy. Grasberg has the golden ratio.
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