The wines of Benedikt Baltes are about to lob onto Antipodean shores and make their way to good wine lists and shelves, though are likely to disappear just as quickly as they arrived. Baltes descends from a long line of grapegrowers and winemakers and set out rather early in life to carve his own path. Aged 26, he found himself in an old town in the Franken region of Germany called Klingenberg and he purchased what was then known as the Stadt Klingenberg winery, an investment that came with holdings of steep old spätburgunder vines.
The winery was eponymously renamed and the 10 hectares of vineyards planted primarily to spätburgunder certified biodynamic in 2016. The wines are fascinatingly authentic and have a sense of purity and restraint that speak to the vine age but also to Baltes’ admirable pursuit of terroir and a respect for the history and tradition he acquired. These are highly distinctive wines. The 2016 vintage really shines, as does the Terra 1261 bottling from 2014. Expect to see these beauties at a tasting group near you very soon!
The 2016 Klingenberg Portugieser, Franken (A$48) offers a bright, dark and brambly cassis and cherry fruit nose with a slate-like stony edge to the palate. Rich black fruits and cedary oak are knit with a smoky nuance to close. The 2015 Klingenberg Alte Reben Spätburgunder, Franken (A$129) has an array of fresh wild cherry fruits with raspberry and cassis notes. The palate has a sleek, fluid and attractively juicy feel with well-defined tannins and good length.
The 2016 Großheubach Alte Reben Spätburgunder, Franken (A$195) is a firm and silky pinot with lovely dried strawberry, citrus rind and dried flower aromas that follow through to a medium- to full-bodied palate with promisingly vibrant texture. You can drink this now or cellar for five or more years. The 2016 Spätburgunder Franken Großheubach Bischofsberg is a strikingly refined and tightly woven wine with strawberry, sappy red cherry and hints of chocolate. The palate has complex textural appeal and layers of fine, crisply carved tannin. Beautifully resolved and drinking well already.
The 2016 Schlossberg Klingenberg Großes Gewächs Spätburgunder, Franken (A$287) is the most charming of the 2016s with fresh strawberry and sappy, brambly appeal as well as fresh red flowers. The tannins are seamlessly knit together, smoothly honed and very precise. An older Klingenberger Schlossberg GG bottling from 2012 shows a beautifully deep and soulful pinot that has a wealth of gently earthy ripe red berries and a mellow array of fine-boned, yet long tannin on the palate. This has a succulent array of fine, elegant and fresh fruit that pushes long.
And a delicious bottle of the 2014 Terra 1261 Spätburgunder, Franken (A$445) impresses with such attractive fresh wild cherry fruit and a blueberry streak too. Super fresh, the palate has fine-boned tannins yet electricity and energy in terms of the structure here. Superb depth, purity and elegant red cherries abound. Super fine. Drink now or hold.
The 2017 vintage in Beaujolais is bountiful in terms of quality and has delivered wines that are intense, fresh and concentrated. A riper year than 2016 but not marked by the ultra-luscious ripeness of 2015, the wines have plenty of weight and power. Jean Foillard’s trio of wines recently shipped and are currently flying off the shelves and wine list pages around the country. Yet, consumers are troubled by a great dilemma that is often on the fore for many wine appreciators and aficionados alike: drink it now or drink it later?
The depth to the flagship 2017 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py (A$75) is a real statement and here’s a wine that manages to cram so much flavour in and not compromise the silky, drinkable and deliciousness that means a second bottle should probably be on the way by the time you’ve finished reading this sentence. Deep dark red fruits, lighter pink berries, slate, some exotic florals as well as a wrap of springy, vibrant tannin and you’re pretty much in la-la land.
The grey labelled 2017 Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette (A$75) is from a parcel of old vines (80+ years) that grow on sandstone as opposed to the schist of the Côte du Py. It has a very silky blue-fruited set of aromas and flavours and delivers a palate texture that is silky smooth and quite pastry like. This is suave Beaujolais and has a softer touch. This practically drinks itself!
If you see a bottle of the 2017 Jean Foillard Morgon Eponym ‘Charmes’ (A$75) do not pass it up. This is a rare bottling of the highest parcel in the appellation and it has a very distinctive and darker-fruited style with emphasis on very smooth honed, but assertive, long tannins. A more contemplative bottling and one that will relish a few years in a cool cellar.
These wines must be stored well, preferably below 12°C.
Egon Müller’s rather phenomenal rieslings are alight with weighty fruit, rippling with acidity and balanced to a knife’s edge of sharpness. The 2016 and 2017 vintages are around and about and if you haven’t hit the checkout with one of these wines in a while you might be shocked at the price. They’re far from cheap, yet far from ordinary. In fact, these are arguably the greatest off-dry riesling wines on the planet.
The 2016 and 2017 vintages are available (depending on your retailer) and you’ll find greater depth of vintages on the best wine lists that stock Müller’s wines. They age superbly, slowly and reliably, and they are off-dry wines to ponder, rather than to slam down for refreshment.
The 2016 Scharzhof Qualitats Riesling (A$75) is the most smashable of the lot with white peach, apple and lime, plenty of fragrance and a none-too-sweet and balanced palate that always delivers lip-smacking refreshment.
The Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett is where these wines start to really stand out from the merely good producers, with extra dimensions of flavour and weight. The 2017 (A$170) vintage offers chamomile and sweetly ripe and flinty lime, white peach and nectarine. There’s good richness and freshness with a core of white peach in a smoothly fleshy style sealed tight with bracing acidity.
The 2016 (A$145) is of a similar quality ilk with more of a fresh herbal edge and very fine flinty minerals with fresh lime, apple and peach. It has a crisply focused palate that has great cut and drives to dry at the finish. Long and sleek.
The Spätlese level is where I often find the most electrifying apex of sugar and acid interplay for Müller and the apex hits some real heights in the 2017 Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese (A$330). A big rich peach fruit nose sets the mouth watering along with a super fresh lemon and lime zest edge that has strong appeal. The palate has a very plush, powerful and ethereally balanced feel in a long, beautifully crisp, and yet so smoothly textured, mode. This is an exquisite wine that deserves a handful of years to rest.