With the hindsight of some 13 years, nothing they did seems particularly outrageous or radical, and yet, for German Pinot Noir, their insistent focus on thoughtful farming, old vines, minimalist winemaking and a delicate elevage, was completely anathema to everything being done by most estates focusing on red wine in Germany at the time.
Their first vintage was so damn outrageous to the basic German ideology, that it was denied the appellation status (they are in Baden, just east of Alsace) because the color of the Pinot Noir was too light and delicate.
Let’s repeat that to emphasize the irony: a grape famed and cherished for its lightness and delicacy was denied its appellation because it was too light and delicate.
Sven and Florian have never looked back. Now, they are one of the most famed and culty producers in Germany (even Jancis Robison has called them “cult”) and they no longer even submit the wines for the appellation’s approval.
And though it’s the ultimate cliché to compare any Pinot Noir to Burgundy, the truth is their wines have more to do with Burgundy than Baden anyway.
For anyone interested in Pinot Noir as a looking glass into the soil, these are your wines. In the cool climates of Germany, the sun of 2018 was very welcome – this is surely one of the greatest red wine vintages of the last 20 years.
Yet, while these wines have a deep and perfumed ripeness, they are not heavy. In fact, they are astoundingly delicate and energetic wines. And they are a study in vine age, as the difference between the cuvées has nothing to do with winemaking, only the soil and the age of the vines.
The entry-level “Basis” has vines around 25-30 years of age, the Premier Cru-level “Liaison” vines of around 50 years old, and the Grand Cru “Muschelkalk” (limestone) and “Buntsandstein” (sandstone) vines of 60 years and older.
Tasted blind, there is no doubt these wines compete with Burgundy at 2x, 3x and more the price.
It's worth noting that the fact we can offer the "Grand Cru" wines is something of a perfect storm: 2018 was not only a great vintage, it was a generous one, so there are larger quantities than ever before. Pair that with a worldwide pandemic and, well, wines that were normally highly allocated are, for the moment at least, available.