Alsace 2 – Value vs Innovation

After the first leg of the Alsace tasting double-header, the second session had a very hard act to follow. Jimmy, the top-guy at The West London Wine School, promised us a very different tasting, and boy did he deliver! It was always going to be a tough follow-up session after the magnificent wines from Josmeyer and Schlumberger, but what we did end up getting was essentially two tastings in one; the value of Cave de Turckheim and the “innovation” of Marcel Deiss.

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But before we get to those two very different flights, the tasting kicked off with an aperitif made from the Sylvaner grape. Originally from Austria (although there are now only 36 hectares under vine) and known as Gruner Silvaner, it is a grape with a less than shining reputation; best known as a component of Liebfraumilch, the wine that was much abused and maligned in the 80’s and 90’s. Alsatian versions are primarily considered to be simple wines, the grape often described as having a very neutral flavour.

Bruno Sorg Vieilles Vignes Sylvaner 2012 (Hedley Wright £11.99)

Very pale and watery appearance with aromas of red apple, pear and just a touch of white blossom. Decent acidity with notes of citrus and pear, but what I’m left with is more pith than fruit with astringent finish. The wine does open up a little more with a bit of time in the glass but I’m left underwhelmed – a well made wine but just a bit bland. 85 points

So now we come to the first of the main flights of the evening, with four wines from the Cave de Turckheim. First established in 1955, the Cave de Turckheim is one of the most respected co-operatives in the wine world. They consistently deliver excellent single variety wines from grapes grown by 216 growers, and offers some of the best value for money anywhere in the wine world. Cave de Turckheim produces many of the supermarket own label Alsace offerings, including Tesco’s Finest and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ranges.

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Cave de Turckheim Marnes & Calcaires Pinot Blanc 2010 (Direct from Cave €6.60)

A bit of tropical nectarine and mango upfront with just a hint of exotic spice. On the palate there’s a huge burst of citrus with a dose good of juicy nectarine. There is nice acidity with a good dose of minerality and a slightly chalky finish. Delivers a heck of a punch for the price, very agreeable indeed and a real shame it’s not available in the UK! 89 points

Cave de Turckheim Granite Pinot Blanc 2010 (Direct from Cave €6.45)

Much more reserved nose than the Calcaires, with apple and a touch of citrus, but you have to give it a mighty sniff to get there! The texture is a touch richer and there is much more of the wet-stone minerality, almost redolent of Chablis, and good apple and citrus fruit. 87 points

Cave de Turckheim Pinot Gris Reserve 2012 (Amps Fine Wines £10.99)

Very rich aromas of peaches, white flowers and even a touch of earthy truffle. Quite sweet on entry with citrus, peach and good levels of acid. But the citrus is very industrial, almost like you would get from a detergent, and the finish is spoiled by heavy-handed and unbalanced alcohol. 84 points

Cave de Turckheim Riesling Brand Grand Cru 2008 (The Wine Society £14.50)

Heaps and heaps of citrus aromas with juicy limes and green mango to the fore. Along with the fruit is plenty of slate minerality and just a touch of petrol starting to evolve. On the palate is bags of citrus, beginning with lemosns, then a swathe of lime, all wrapped in a beautiful cloak of acid – very pure and very precise. A delightful balance of fruit and acid at spectacular value for top notch Grand Cru wine. 92 points

And then we come to the controversial (or innovative?) Marcel Deiss. The estate is run by Jean-Michel Deiss, the grandson of the founder (founded in 1944), and his wife Clarisse. It is their 100% belief in terroir-based wines that has caused quite a stir in Alsace; rather than the traditional Alsace way of bottling by variety, Deiss believes the vineyard to be more important than the grapes and prefers to produce field-blends and bottle them under the name of the vineyard. I found the wines to be very well made but perhaps lacking the precision of the top-end wines from the likes of Josmeyer and Schlumberger.

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Marcel Deiss “Engelgarten” Cru d”Alsace 2010 (Lea & Sandeman £27.50)

50% Riesling, 24% Pinot Gris, 24% Pinot Blanc, 2% Muscat

Exotic, floral and perfumed with a bit of a tropical edge – I can’t believe there’s no Gewürztraminer in the blend! Lots of acid on the entry with green apples and limes giving a bright buzz on the palate. A very nice wine with good balance and lots going on… But there is so much better wine available for almost £30. 90 points

Marcel Deiss “Rotenberg” Cru d’Alsace 2007 (Waitrose £29.99)

50% Riesling, 24% Pinot Gris, 24% Pinot Blanc, 2% Muscat

The same blend as the “Engelgarten” but with 3 more years in the bottle… Rich aromas of baked apples and honey with a hint of oxidisation. On the palate it’s nutty, with sweet honey but doesn’t have the acid to balance and bring the whole thing together. Not for me this one. 86 points

Marcel Deiss “Langenberg” Cru d’Alsace 2010 (Millesima £30.40)

50% Riesling, 24% Pinot Gris, 24% Pinot Blanc, 2% Muscat

Aromas of lemons, limes, pink grapefruit and lots of wet stone minerality. Very pure and precise on the palate, bursting with green apples and limes. This is the most Riesling-like of all the wines, more traditional and all the better for it… In my view! 92 points

Marcel Deiss “Schoffweg” Cru d’Alsace 2009 (Roberson £33.95)

50% Riesling, 25% Pinot Blanc, 25% Pinot Gris

A slightly different blend but that’s not the talking point here… It’s the use of expensive new oak… In Alsace! The nose is oaky and nutty with notes of butterscotch and plenty of peachy and citrus – it reminded me of a well made New World Chardonnay! The palate is also huge with baked peaches, citrus and plenty of leesyness and polished, expensive oak. Lovely balance of fruit, oak and acidity; I really like this wine but would never in a million years pick it as an Old World Riesling… and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing! Confused.com! 92 points

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Posted on February 2, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Interesting post! I picked up a load from the Cave de Turckheim last September, excellent value across the range – sparkling, terroir based selections and even the reds. The Marnes & Calcaires range were probably the best value for money in my book. I had hoped to get to Marcel Deiss but didn’t get chance – I might look to pick up a few of that Schoffweg, sounds intriguing!

    • We weren’t told what the blends were until the end of the tasting and I was sure that they had sneaked some Chardonnay in there – apparently it is allowed in Cru d”Alsace. I really ant to get over to Alsace myself but fear that it ain’t going to happen in 2014!

  2. I have a few of Deiss’ wines in the cellar, but have yet to try them–thanks for the post, might have to get to them this weekend!

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