Germany may not be among the first countries that come to mind when you think of Pinot Noir, but it’s the world’s third-largest producer of the variety (France and the United States are the top two). Pinot Noir accounted for less than 2,000 hectares in 1964, but its popularity has grown over the years, having benefitted from climate change and Germans’ growing desire for fine red wine.
Located in Kallstadt, in Germany’s Pfalz region, the Koehler-Ruprecht estate has been around since the 1700s, yet it’s only in the past 30 years that the winery’s reputation has gained in stature, largely because of the work of Bernd Phillipi. The wines reflect an attitude of winemaking more akin to the 1900s than the 2000s. In the vineyard, no irrigation or herbicides are ever used. In the cellar, long spontaneous fermentations occur in large, old German oak barrels with extended lees contact. Nothing is ever added to or subtracted from the wine, and sulfur is only added moderately after alcoholic fermentation and before bottling.
Since 2008, Dominik Sona has been in charge of viticulture and cellar duties at the winery, and he was joined a few years later by Franziska Schmitt; both are omnipresent, but Franzi has over the years taken charge in the cellar. The estate has 10.5 hectares of vines, principally in Riesling (50%) but also in Pinot Noir (20%), Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Scheurebe.
These are extremely old-school wines from an estate making Trocken (dry) wines before it was trendy. In fact, the estate cleaves to the old labeling practice of putting both the Pradikät and the Trocken designation on each wine (e.g., Auslese Trocken), which the VDP no longer allows; it was one reason Koehler-Ruprecht left the consortium after 80 years of membership. It’s often noted that there are no other wines like these made in Germany—or anywhere.
The grapes for this bottling were sourced primarily from a mix of sites in Kallstadt and one in Bad Dürkheim, planted to Pinot Noir in 2008, in light, sandy soils. The grapes were handpicked, destemmed, and fermented in stainless steel, then pressed after 4-6 weeks and aged for two years in one new Doppelstück (2400 liter) and some old Halbstück (600 liter) barrels.
More earthy and rustic in style than a Pinot Noir from California or Oregon, this wine has high-toned aromas of red fruits like strawberry and cranberry, with hibiscus, black tea, and fresh earth. The tannins are well integrated and moderate, and the bright, energetic acidity provides a lingering finish.
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