Great Clean Rieslings and Fascinating Spätburgunders.

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The following covers our Featured Wine Sale for the week of 9/17/18 - 9/24/18:

German wine is often summed up with one varietal - Riesling, and though they produce some of the more fascinating and beautiful Rieslings in the world, everyone always assumes that they are all obtrusively sweet and cheap. In the consumer dominated market of wine available in the United States, that’s often a death sentence for regions and winemakers who wish to be taken seriously.

It wasn’t so long ago that Italy had the same problem, with much of their wine exports to the United States geared towards this cheap and cheerful status. Now, though you can still find your bargain basics, Italy is a wine region resplendent in its complexity, and it’s more than Pinot Grigios, Chiantis, and Barolos that make a wine geek’s heart sing.

There is no doubt that a lot of these problems were self-inflicted for both Italy and Germany - but it is the nature of market dynamics. To gain a foothold in another country, you must produce wine en mass, and quantity is the traditional enemy of quality.

Certain regions, like the Mosel, were protected from this quality drop by the sheer level of difficulty required to produce any wines at all. In fact, if you are both a passionate free rock climber and a wine lover, we would suggest no better place to get your rocks off than the steep riverside cliffs of this esteemed region.

But for most of the 20th century, the larger wine regions of Germany were dominated by large cooperatives that were not shy about the use of chemical pesticides like Monsanto Round Up. This practice isn’t unique to Germany, its commonplace around the world except in areas that have Demeter level certification, or in regions that have the extraordinary luck of terroir to not need to worry about pests in the first place.

So what do we have to offer this week? Two stellar Rieslings and one heck of a beautiful Spätburgunder. Let’s get into it.

Karlsmühle QbA Feinherb Riesling:

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The Karlsmühle Estate is comprised of 12 hectares located on the Ruwer Lorenzhöf, a tributary of the Mosel River. The area here has a unique micro-climate, characterized by hot days and cool nights, with hills reaching up to 700 meters, rich in vineyards located close to the river bed that emits air cooling during the night. The vineyards Lorenzhöfer, which are largely made up of Riesling, are exclusive property of the estate Karlsmühle on the steepest of the whole valley of the Ruwer, and the soil is characterized by shale and clay, with layers of quartzite In the model of classic Italian Agri di Tourismos, Karlsmühle is fashioned as both a functioning winery and hotel, with the namesake estate printed on each bottle of wine they produce.

The wines here are managed by Peter Geiben, but the tradition of Riesling here reaches back to when Napoleon still ruled over most of Europe. Deep-rooted vines are a prized possession for any winemaker, and Geiben manages each parcel with a lot of care and precision.

The interesting thing to note about the Karlsmühle Riesling QbA Feinherb is that last bit of German, feinherb. German wine terminology is rigorous, built around the concept of grape must weight - which serves as an indicator of sweetness, the heavier the must, the higher presence of sugar in the grapes.

Feinherb is an unregulated term in the German literature, but it is usually deemed to be sweeter than trocken (dry) and slightly sweeter than halbtrocken (half dry). We tend to get a lot of notes of lime and lemon and a touch of apple crumb along with, perhaps Riesling’s most important component, mouthwatering acidity.

Karlsmühle QbA Feinherb Riesling: ̶$̶1̶4̶.̶9̶9̶ $13.49

Weingut Brand Pfalz Trocken Riesling:

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145 kilometers due west of Karlsmühle is the town of Bockenheim, where the Brand brothers are transforming the image of the Pfalz wine region into a cornucopia of Pet-Nats and other fascinating naturally driven wines.

The Pfalz extends over a distance of 70 kilometres along the slopes that lie between the Palatinate Forest and the Rhine River plain, from Monsheim in the north to the French border in the south.The Pfalz is made up of a large variety of different soil formations, ranging from new red sandstone through loam,  marl, keuper, shell limestone, porphyry and granite to slate.

Weingut Brand is located in Bockenheim, one of the more northern wine regions in the Pfalz, where the grapes ripen slower due to the cooler climate, no doubt assisted by the Donnersberg Mountain that is nearby. Most of their vineyards (about 12 hectares) fall on the Bockenheim Sonnenberg hills, where the altitude ranges from 150 to 350 meters.

The Weingut Brand Trocken Riesling is certainly trocken, with all of the pristine aromatics that makes Riesling so bright and lively. This is our favorite take home crushable wine. And should be yours too, especially in its liter format.

Weingut Brand Trocken Riesling: ̶$̶1̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ $17.99

Enderle & Moll Basis Pinot Noir:

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It’s no secret that Germany is north of its European neighbors France and Italy, but that slightly cooler climate plays dividends when it comes to the most intriguing red wine coming out of the country these days, Spätburgunder. Better known across the world as Pinot Noir, the red grape that originated in Burgundy is proving a great match for the German climate.

Baden is the southernmost of Germany's wine regions. It is primarily a long, slim strip of vineyards nestled between the hills of the Black Forest and the Rhine River, extending some 400 km from north to south. Comprised of nine districts, Baden has many soil types and grape varieties. Nearly half of the vineyards are planted with Burgunder varieties: Spätburgunder, yielding velvety to fiery red wine; Grauburgunder, a dry, food-compatible wine, or marketed under the synonym Ruländer to denote a richer, fuller-bodied (and sweeter) style; and Weißburgunder, neutral enough to accompany many foods.¹

In Ettenheim, two thirds up the 400 kilometer strip of the Baden wine region, Sven Enderle and Florian Moll have been working the old parcels of old vines grown on Buntsandstein (colored sandstone) and Muschelkalk (limestone) to make world class Pinot Noir. Their first vintage was in 2007, and the growth of their project has been complimented by the rise in high quality wine. Highly recommended by no less than Jancis Robinson, we’re proud to carry the entry level Pinot Noir from Enderle & Moll, Basis.

We don’t advocate expecting the rich, textured Burgundy of Clos Vougeot, but a remarkable unique specimen that balances the minerality of the limestone soils with playful balanced cherry fruit that make Basis both an excellent food wine and a palatable expression of what Germany has to offer with this classic grape.

Enderle & Moll Basis Pinot Noir: ̶$̶2̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ $26.99

Further Reading:

We featured some German wines earlier this summer

Eric Asimov of New York Times shined a light on German Pinot Noirs in 2010

Bertrand Celce has a great feature in Wine Terroirs on Enderle & Moll

Zachary Sussman from Punch Magazine takes on the concept of “Classic Riesling”