Slate-Inspired Mosel Pinot Noir
2011 Stein Spätburgunder
Steep Slope Mosel Pinot
The lift of Bourgogne Rouge or even Marsannay Rouge cut with the dark-toned minerality of Mosel slate.
There is a raciness, an energy, a cut to Ulli Stein's Pinot Noir that makes the allusion to "red Riesling" not as far a stretch as you might think.
This is an expression of Pinot Noir that is utterly unique.
While this may be the perfect bottle for August refreshment (it can be slightly chilled) or for the Burgundy fan looking for a new experience (and/or just a crazy value), the nervous structure and joyous energy of the wine will remind many of the great mountain reds of Italy's far north - think Carema, Gattinara, Ghemme.
And yet, while you don't have to have your nose in the glass for long to realize this is undeniably Pinot Noir, there is also something mysterious, something that feels just out of reach, just beyond description.
And then you realize: it's the slate.
The expression of Pinot Noir on slate is so different, offering the grape a red fruit that can be curiously spicy, iron-rich. Yet what distinguishes Pinot Noir on slate is the darker minerality, a stoniness edged with dried, almost dusty soil tones.
It's hard to articulate; it's also hard to miss.
The curiosity of it all does make one realize how intertwined, how almost inseparable the profile of Pinot Noir is with the limestone of the Côte d'Or, of Burgundy. Take the limestone away and you have something very different.
Yet, despite the very serious differences in terroir, it still seems that so many winemakers in Germany appear to want little more than to mimic Burgundy, through ripeness or with barriques or cellar tricks.
Ulli Stein, one of the most independent thinkers in the Mosel, most definitely does not.
In fact, this Pinot Noir is very much about slate tones and lightness and its heritage owes a lot to the 15 months spent in old, traditional "Moselfuders" - the 1,000-liter barrels that you find in the most old school Mosel cellars.
If the vinification is Riesling-esque, the vineyard work is Mosel work. We are on steep, Mosel slopes and so everything, everything, must be done by hand. When it comes to viticulture like this, there are no shortcuts, no easy ways to make a wine like this.
At a price that flirts with the very bottom of pricing for Bourgogne Rouge and even entry-level domestic Pinot Noir, this has to be thought of as more than just a beautiful rarity, more than a delicious expression of a nearly forgotten wine culture...
...it should also be thought of as a value.
Stein's 2011 Pinot Noir has arrived. While we have a good stock now and should be able to satisfy most reasonable orders, this is one drop for the U.S. and then we wait for the next vintage.
If you have the space, stock up. While this will reward short-term cellaring, you'll likely need a four-pack just to get through August!
To order, reply to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463.
Crush Wine & Spirits
2011 Stein Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
David Schildknecht: "Dr. Ulrich Stein is infamous for such lost causes as serious Pinot and Cabernet on the Lower Mosel; the reclamation of abandoned, frighteningly steep sites; nurturing ancient vines with a fertilizer-free, organic regimen and pruning artistry; and battling the entrenched German Wine Law and powers that be. He is however more David than Don Quixote, because he keeps winning: his reds routinely stump the stars in blind tastings; he has almost single-handedly rescued some of the Terrassenmosel’s most exciting acreage."