Claus Schneider, Spätburgunder “Vom Kalkstein”
Claus Schneider, Spätburgunder “Vom Kalkstein”

Claus Schneider, Spätburgunder “Vom Kalkstein”

Baden, Germany 2018 (750mL)
Regular price$28.00

Claus Schneider, Spätburgunder “Vom Kalkstein”

Poll a room of sommeliers, collectors, and critics on how they fill their cellar now that so much Burgundy is outrageously expensive, and they’ll probably all tell you the same thing: Baden Pinot Noir. Why? Because of bottles like Claus Schneider’s Spätburgunder “Vom Kalkstein.” This dark-fruited, mineral, powerful-yet-beautifully lithe Pinot performs much like top-flight Gevrey-Chambertin, yet carries a price tag well under half that of any respectable cuvée from that village. And this is no simple substitute or cash-grab by an opportunistic estate; “Vom Kalkstein” carries with it more history and artisanal mastery than most Burgundy three times its price. The Schneider family has been farming these majestic limestone slopes for over six generations. If you, like us, feel priced out of so many great Burgundy experiences these days, Baden is where you have to look. I can think of no better, nor more value-loaded, introduction to the region’s majesty and magic than “Vom Kalkstein.” Load up before the rest of the world catches on!

Over the past 10 years, German Pinot Noir has risen from an interesting yet inconsistent curiosity to a must-know category. The Spätburgunders (German for Pinot Noir) grown in Baden were the prime movers for that change. Pinot has a past in Baden almost as long as in Burgundy, but the wines from here have long been overlooked outside of their home country. A new generation of extraordinarily driven winemakers aims to correct that, and the Schneider family is at the forefront of the movement. Unlike the other German regions, red wines rule the roost here. Indeed, for every acre of Riesling planted, there’s five of Spät. No one knows exactly when the grape arrived here, but there’s strong evidence it was brought by the same Cistercian monks responsible for its propagation in Burgundy. Regardless of its source, Spätburgunder has grown here for centuries, in what’s become an ideal climate for sensuous yet structured wines.

Baden sits at Germany’s southern tip, just over the border from Switzerland. In fact, the Schneider family farms the southernmost vineyards in the whole country. They work organically, and have begun to introduce biodynamic practices. Their 70+ individual parcels—actually inside a nature preserve—are located in the Markgräflerland subregion. This is Germany’s answer to the Côte d’Or. The limestone outcropping runs east-west, with the vineyards facing south, a situation perfect for the big day-night temperature swings that marry succulent fruit to rigorous structure. And of course the clay over limestone soils here almost perfectly mirror those of Burgundy. The Cistercians may not have been trying to set up Baden for a Burgundy takeover, but they couldn’t have done any better if they had.

Sixth-generation winemaker Johannes Schneider sources the fruit for his “Vom Kalkstein” bottling from 15 different plots across the Markgräferland. He de-stems the berries, ferments spontaneously, ages in mostly neutral barrels, then bottles with minimal sulfur. The result is a stunningly pure, deep, complex Pinot. A rush of black and red fruits leads the nose—black raspberry, redcurrant, pomegranate syrup, crushed Bing cherry—followed by anise seed, clove, forest floor, struck flint, and mushroomy earth. The palate is medium-bodied and voluminous, deeply fruited, the dark fruits resonant, with a deep throughline of crushed rock minerality and very fine-grained tannins. It’s a long, beautifully balanced experience, an incredible dance between perfume and tension. This would be great Burgundy if it cost two or three times as much, but considering its source and its price, it’s one of the great Pinot bargains you’ll find. Grab as much as you can, and it probably still won’t be enough!

Claus Schneider, Spätburgunder “Vom Kalkstein”

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