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As we move towards warmer weather, there's an undeniable pull towards red wines that have a freshness and verve to match our temperament (and cuisine). We've been fortunate to have a slew of Spätburgunder from Germany grace our shelves as of late, and wanted to put some focus on this oft-overlooked region for red wines.
Germany has become home to many red grape varieties including Lemberger, Trollinger, Portugieser, Zweigelt, Dornfelder, and the red with the most hectarage: Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). According to the Wines of Germany website, around 11.5% of the countries' vineyards are planted to the grape, from the slate soils of the Ahr down to the limestone and colored sandstone of Baden. Such a fragile and fickle variety takes well to the marginally (now) warming German climate, and winemakers have been working with the grape since the late ninth century, using clonal and massal selections from France as well as clones later developed within Germany, some more suited to warmer sites in the southern reaches of the wine-growing region.
As can be imagined, styles of German Pinot Noir can range from fresh, mineral and high-toned to over-oaked, over-extracted hot messes. We've chosen to focus on the lighter, fresher side of the spectrum. Today we are pleased to offer wines from new producers (to us): Benedikt Baltes in Franken and Julia Bertram in the Ahr, alongside perennial favorites from Baden: Enderle & Moll and Holger Koch. These wines all have their place on the table with fare ranging from salads with spring peas and goat cheese, roasted chicken and wild mushrooms, to even a rare tuna steak, and some should even find a place in your cellar! Cari Bernard
Benedikt hails from the Ahr, but in his search for vines, moved to the village of Klingenberg in Franken where he took over a cellar established in the fifteenth century (1601), as well as some choice vineyard plots. His two main sites are Klingenberger Schlossberg and Großheubacher Bischofsberg; the vines in the latter range from 20-40 years old, growing in red sandstone (Buntsandstein) on southern-facing steep terraces. Benedikt's vines are technically in the Churfranken, an area in northwest Franken where the lion's share of the hectarage is planted to red grapes. He is certified organic and also uses some biodynamic treatments to improve vineyard health. The grapes are hand-harvested, and always undergo spontaneous fermentation. Elevage is for 18 months in neutral German oak ranging from 225-500L and the wine is bottled without filtration. A touch tense upon opening, with wisps of bitter clove and tomato leaf. The wine opens up nicely after an hour or so, with notes of roses, fresh cherries, red apples, raspberry seeds, and herbs, medium bodied with ample acidity, and a lengthy finish. Hold for 3-5 years or decant before serving, this wine is showing great potential! Cari Bernard
'Handwerk' is the entry level offering from young winemaker Julia Bertram, based in Dernau, in the Ahr, one of the northernmost wine growing regions in Europe. Although Julia was initially focused on working with her family's best parcels of old vines, Handwerk is sourced from younger vines in multiple parcels located between the towns of Mayschloss and Ahrweiler (all estate fruit). The wine spends 12 months in neutral French oak barrels sourced from fellow Ahr winemaker, Meyer-Näkel (where Julia interned before enrolling in Geisenheim), followed by two months of settling in stainless steel tank. This is a bright and mineral Pinot, with juicy red cherries, blood orange zest, strawberries, sweet spice and red flowers on the medium-light palate—a fantastic introduction to Julia's style of winemaking. Cari Bernard
At last, the reds from Enderle & Moll in Baden have arrived! Sven Enderle and Florian Moll work their two hectares of vines organically with biodynamic treatments— a rare occurrence in their region, where quality often takes a backseat to quantity. Their care and attention in the vineyards and cellar is reflected vintage after vintage as compelling and beautiful wines. In a brighter, more red-fruited contrast to the savory intensity of the 2015 vintage, red florals flood the nose and the palate shimmers with high tones of sour cherry, red plum, raspberry seed, and cranberries. Delightful! Cari Bernard
'Liaison' is Sven Enderle and Florian Moll's Pinot Noir from 45 year-old vines grown on both Muschelkalk and Buntsandstein soils. The 2016 is lifted and beautifully aromatic with bright scents of cranberries and red cherries, interwoven with white blossoms. The high-toned, crunchy red fruits and florals of the Basis are layered with notes of Chinese five spice, blood orange, red peach, lychee, and pomegranate. A radiant and succulent Pinot Noir! Cari Bernard
Holger Koch makes some of the most elegant wines in the Baden region (located in southwest Germany). Working mostly with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, he's been making wines with a singular finesse in a region where the co-op is king. Grapes for the Herrenstück Pinot Noir are sourced from steep vineyards with meager volcanic soils, ferment spontaneously, and the wine ages in neutral 3000L wood barrels. Holger makes the distinction between the different selections of Pinot Noir he uses, choosing to use 'Spätburgunder' on the label when the wine is made from German clones (older vines) and 'Pinot Noir' when the vines are from selection massale cuttings sourced from vineyards in France. A lively wine, the energy on the palate comes through in a splash of juicy red cherries, tart red plums, pomegranate, with crunchy mineral cut and mouth-watering acidity. Cari Bernard