Polyphenol


Grands Crus d’Alsace
March 3, 2009, 4:21 pm
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Yesterday at the Grand Hôtel Intercontinental near Opéra Garnier, I fell for pinot gris.  I had been tempted in Strasbourg in January, but I had mistrusted my palate.  After tasting more than fifty rieslings the day of the competition, I was easily distracted by its gorgeous fleur d’oranger nose and its beguiling tinge of pink.  Alsace is built on riesling however, and I was there to pass judgement on the new vintage.  

A similar message prevailed at the Grands Crus d’Alsace tasting in Paris.  Legally gewurztraminer, muscat and pinot gris can pour into a grand cru and there were interesting varietal examples of each.  But riesling is king here.  I warmed up on the parcours pédagogique, tasting a trio of blooming, abundant muscats  followed by frankly bizarre grapefruit and bubblegum sylvaner.

I fought my way for a glass at Clos Saint-Landelin and was generously rewarded.  René and Thomas Muré’s pinot gris was so supple, with unimposing acidity and a little sweetness, the 2007 was a real pleasure and the 2005 was even more delicate.  While neither were hugely open on the nose, Thomas told me 2007 would pay the greater reward for ten years cellaring.  Clos Saint-Landelin has been certified organic for twenty years and has recently jumped in to biodynamics in pursuit of deep roots and bright minerality.  The great biodynamic wines of Burgundy were an inspiration for the move, and the Murés have already noticed more upright vines, thicker leaves and increased resistance to botrytis.   

Jean-Michel Deiss

Domaine Marcel Deiss has ten years of experience of biodynamics and made the transition as part of “une démarche vers la qualité” –  a natural progression for winemakers continually improving their craft.  The Deiss rieslings, I am not the first to note, were extraordinary and reminded me why I was there.  The Schoenenbourg vineyard has a sulfur-rich chalk subsoil that fashions the profound structure of its wines; Mathieu Deiss told me that Schoenenbourgs consistently call for six or seven years to open on the nose.  The Altenberg de Bergheim, also 2005, was more inviting, a colleague called it the Sauternes of Alsace.  Very rich without being heavy, “scotché” or sticky (a term derived from Scotch/sellotape I understand) and much more open on the palate, which is attributed to its limestone upbringing.

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