Deiss 1998 Schoenenbourg (Alsace) – Very, very sweet, though there’s plenty of acid to support it, with a flowery mineral streak and not much else. Still as simple as it was in its youth. It’s a tasty simplicity, but it would be nice to see something else develop. Maybe in another decade or so? (6/06)
Deiss claims these blends (usually riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and muscat, though I have no idea what’s actually in here…the riesling, at least, is obvious and dominant at the moment, and nothing else would be legal as this is a grand cru site) are a more traditional expression of Alsace’s great sites. The cynical might claim that they’re simply outrageously expensive edelzwicker (the catchall name for cheap versions of this same blend). The keys to such wines are twofold: express the site (which Diess does well, here…though more recent vintages have been increasingly obfuscated), and not let the two aromatically dominant grapes in that mix (gewurztraminer and muscat) obliterate all else. The latter is also a success in this wine. However, the amount of residual sugar is off-putting – this is a dessert wine in alternative clothing – and, as with so many of Deiss’ wines, the tertiary complexities that come with age just do not develop as often as they should. Even the most obtuse reader should conclude that I’m not exactly high on Deiss, and they’d be right, but for me it’s more of a disappointment than a simple dislike. Deiss – like Ostertag – is an obviously talented winemaker (here and there, a bottle succeeds to support this belief) who, in my opinion, has let his theories and his philosophies overwhelm his wines. And I’ve said it before: based on the evidence, I’m not at all sure that biodynamic viticulture achieves superior results in Alsace like it does in many other regions. I have no explanation for why that might be, and yet… Closure: cork. Biodynamic. Web: http://www.marceldeiss.com/.
Brigaldara 2000 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Sapid prune and dried fig with a soda-like texture. Softer than most Amarone, with a gentle yet persistent flavor that builds and recedes like lapping evening waves. Really lovely, though I suspect that many fans of Amarone are going to want “more” of everything, in which case they should avoid this wine. (6/06)
Amarone is, essentially, dried Valpolicella. It’s the same grapes (corvina, plus two others that don’t much matter and are often semi-legally ignored or modified by the best producers), dried over the winter and then pressed, producing a much drier water-to-solids ratio and a more concentrated, intense wine with the expected raisined characteristics (which in Amarone are usually expressed as prune and/or fig, as here). These days, it’s usually so big that it can only go with the most extravagantly aggressive cheeses (salty or blue), but more balanced versions are especially fine with richly-sauced roasts and game. Closure: cork.