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|Grapes||Spätburgunder aka Pinot Noir|
|Vineyard/Cellar Practices||Biodynamically Grown, Low-Intervention/Natural Wine, Vegan|
Benedikt Baltes may be the undisputed champion of spätburgunder (pinot noir); his laser-like focus on the varietal grounds his revitalization of the vineyards and cellars of the Franconian city of Klingenberg. Benedikt originally hails from the Ahr, where his family grew grapes for the local co-op, but after studying enology and economics, and interning in Austria, Hungary, and Portugal, he sought to branch out with vineyards of his own. He ended up back in Germany at Weingut Stadt Klingenberg, which was founded in 1912. (Winemaking in this region stretches back to the 12th century.)
In 2010 Benedict purchased the old municipal winery, which boasts 12 hectares of old vines planted on steep, red sandstone terraces, now all protected historic monuments. He seized the opportunity to start fresh, unfettered by traditions or expectations, and revitalized the old vineyards. Converting to organic farming (certified organic as of 2018), fermenting with native yeasts, and aging in local oak all further highlight the distinctive identity of spätburgunder. He doesn’t own a tractor, instead harvesting everything by hand. A flock of Dwarf Breton sheep graze, aerate, and fertilize the soil, while the estate also grows its own stinging nettle to use in antifungal teas.
A staunch advocate for spätburgunder’s “autonomous identity,” Benedikt follows an approach less akin to that of other red wines, such as Burgundy, taking inspiration instead from Germany’s iconic rieslings. The vineyards’ steep red sandstone terraces retain crucial heat, insulating the pinot vines during overnight temperature dips, and imparting a distinctive iron-driven minerality. (This is essential for pinot noir since Klingenberg sits close to 50 degrees north latitude!) These dramatic diurnal temperature shifts give the wines a cool, taut, elegant character, with tremendous detail and depth. Delicate aromatics and fruit are balanced by nervy acidity and grip.
This is the village-level wine from the Bichofsberg vineyard, planted on southern-facing terraced red sandstone that produces a concentrated, intense expression of pinot noir. Comparisons to the Côte de Nuits wouldn’t be out of place, but like all of Baltes’ wines, this spätburgunder possesses a character and sense of place all its own. Aged for 18 months in Halbstück, neutral 300-500L oak barrels from the nearby Klingenberg forest, it is bottled unfiltered, with no chemical additions whatsoever. Here we begin to see the true potential in pinot at 50° north: a deep ripeness in the fruit, a darker fruit character with a touch of dried cherry, balsam fir, rosemary, and a floral tone that might transport you to the Piedmont alps. The Grossheubach is more sumptuous than the Buntsandstein and squarely medium bodied with a delectably silky tannin. Biodynamically grown, low-intervention/natural wine, vegan.