Jean-Michel Deiss, (the son of Marcel Deiss, who established the property in 1949) currently manages the 27 hectares of vines, which are planted on some of Alsace's finest terroirs, including the grand cru Altenburg de Bergheim. Jean-Michel Deiss grows his vines according to biodynamic principles, a philosophy that prohibits any form of chemical treatment and combines an understanding of cosmic rhythms with work on the soil and the vines. The objective? To encourage the vines to develop as deep a root system as possible in the subsoil, thereby giving full expression to the terroir. Despite being an acknowledged master of the art of making single varietal wines such as Pinot Gris and Riesling, this exceptional winegrower has waged a veritable campaign against the traditional Alsace approach of regarding the grape variety as the essence of the wine, and granting negligible importance to the terroir. Thus he has reintroduced ancestral practices such as mixed planting of all of the traditional varieties (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris) on the same plot, with no sorting at the harvest. The terroir then comes to the forefront, free to fully express itself without the omnipresent constraint of a single variety. After years of campaigning, Jean-Michel Deiss finally succeeded in obtaining authorisation for the application of the terms "Grand Cru" and "Premier Cru" (previously reserved for traditional cuvées) to these "vins de terroir". The names of the grape varieties have not appeared on the labels since 2005. More information : Read the article about domain Marcel Deiss on the blog
About the cuvée
Altenberg is the perfect illustration of the work and principles of Jean-Michel Deiss, who has consistently championed terroir over variety in his winemaking practice; his faith in and passion for great Alsatian wine are as deeply rooted in the Bergheim soil as his vines. This terroir sits in a geological faultline of Ribeauvillé, juxtaposing Jurassic limestone and shale-marl; it is a fossil-rich bedrock with poor clay-limestone and ferrous red soil enriched with limestone rock, which favours the development of the vines' root systems by extending more deeply into the earth in search of nutrients and water. Altenberg has its own warm, dry almost overexposed microclimate, arising from its south-facing slopes and protection from wind and rain afforded by the Vosges mountatins. Fruit maturation is unusal and complicated, compounded by the desired presence of volatile noble rot, and thus the winemaking in this vineyard requires a heightened attention to terroir over grape variety. Terroir is master of ceremonies here, dictating both the selection and performance of rootstocks, varieties, vintages and even the winegrower themselves; this is truly a terroir-driven wine expressing a pure, balanced symphony of place. This cuvée draws upon the ancient tradition of long-ageing and easily transported Alsatian wines which provided the foundation for a thriving culture and economy in the Rhine Valley from the Middle Ages and which continues to this day.
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