Benedikt Baltes Spätburgunder Klingenberg Alte Reben Reserve 2016

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Benedikt Baltes Spätburgunder Klingenberg Alte Reben Reserve 2016
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Country Germany
Region Franken
Appellation/Sub-Region Franken
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. These definitely demand decanting!

Ever since Baltes took over what had been the Klingenberg municipal vineyards a decade ago, the local wines have begun to garner well-deserved attention. Baltes brought with him deep expertise in the particularities of spätburgunder (pinot noir), as that is the primary grape grown in his native Ahr region. Now his focus is the steep red sandstone terraces overlooking a different tributary of the Rhine: the Main. Though the terraces have always crucially retained the heat of the sun during the day, the vines have newly flourished under the care of Baltes and his team. Baltes favors an approach that takes in the whole ecosystem and leads in the direction of complete self-sufficiency. Even the oak for the casks comes from the forests nearby. This cuvée constitutes the winery’s Klingenberg Ortswein (village-level) release, meaning it draws exclusively from the vineyards of Klingenberg. It presents a dense floral aroma of crushed rose, bursts of red berries, followed by sumptuous texture on the palate. Ripe black cherry and black pepper flavors emerge. A full-flavored pinot that will draw apt comparison to great village-level wines from the Côte de Beaune. Biodynamically grown, low-intervention/natural wine, vegan.