German Mavericks: The Pinot Noirs of Enderle & Moll

5/14/15 -

(Sven Enderle grew up in Ettenheim and is now among the few working these old vine parcels)

When Sven Enderle was growing up in the foothills of the Black Forest, his favorite place to play was in the breezy slopes around Ettenheim, roughly equidistant from Freiburg in Germany and Strasbourg in Alsatian France. Apple trees and grapevines peppered the fields under the protective watch of the tall pines atop the surrounding ridges.

Sadly, much has changed in the decades since, with many of the fruit trees not being maintained, and a shift towards producing high quantities of wine for the lowest costs possible. Of course, this brought lots of Monsanto’s RoundUp, to the great detriment of the soil. Sven and his partner Florian Moll have taken on the meticulous cultivation of as many parcels of older vines as they can manage, doing much of the work by hand and without synthetic chemicals. However, their work has not exactly won them many friends in the nearby villages, as their methods are in conflict with the power structure of the Ettenheimer Winzergenossenschaft, the local cooperative that dominates the region.

Their winemaking style is also viewed with suspicion by locals who have spent much of the past few decades investing in modern winemaking technology. Enderle and Moll do little to their wines beyond foot-stomping the grapes and de-stemming some of the clusters. In 2013, there was no chaptalization. Most of the reds have a 2-3 week period of maceration/fermentation and then spend a year in used barrique they purchase from Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. However, their Pinot Noirs are not Burgundian in style. They are world class by merit of the fact that they are not trying to imitate but rather to carefully render the complexity and personality of old vines grown on Buntsandstein (colored sandstone) and Muschelkalk (limestone). If anything they are more reminiscent of the playfulness and finesse of American Pinot Noirs from Kenny Likitprakong or Joe Pedicini, though reflecting the cooler climate of Baden.

Betrand Celce of Wine Terroirs did a terrific feature on Enderle and Moll a few years ago and in March they received a lot of attention at the Wein Salon Natürel in Cologne, the alternative wine fair to ProWein. Their first vintage was in 2007, and most agree that the wines are just getting better. For those who haven’t tried them since they were first available a few years ago, they will certainly be impressed. The wines are as transparent as ever, clearly translating the under-appreciated terroir or Baden. Of course, this all means that the wines are in greater demand, so the quantities are limited.

Though they are still not well-known or celebrated in Germany, hopefully the success of Enderle and Moll elsewhere in Europe and in the US will motivate other German winemakers to take up the cause of restoring the old vines in Baden to make wines as unique and lovely as those of Sven and Florian. Jonathan Kemp

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