Alexander Dupont de Ligonnès 3-Pack: $99 (includes one bottle of each wine below) 2019 "Kesse Comtesse" 2019 "Marquis von Momue" 2018 "Tausendsassa"
This 700-year-old vineyard was bought by the royal family of Saxony in the mid-18th century; one of the many princes wanted a country estate, thus the superbly elegant chapel next to the vines, pictured above.
If things were already in some decline, the first half of the 20th century was devastating: phylloxera, two world wars, the razing of this entire city. By the time this region was cut off from the west, the vineyard was already something closer to a chaotic garden, unkempt and in parts fallow.
Yet, during this time of ubiquitous neglect in East Germany, a small miracle took place in this vineyard: A group of passionate young people brought the site back to life, clearing away the dead vines and replanting what was necessary. Despite the steep slopes and demanding hand labor involved, despite the intimate scale (or perhaps because of it?), the vineyard was reborn.
There is very little documentation, yet it seems that for a vineyard less than one hectare in size, there were over ten individual growers(!), each working tiny parcels, each one planting whatever they could find. Amazingly, most of these tiny parcels have between 3 and 5 unique varieties planted, from Riesling to Muscat to Müller-Thurgau to Pinot Noir and back again. These were true labors of love; all most likely homebrews made for and by the families that worked the parcels.
This chaos - a lone, miniscule vineyard with over 15 varieties planted - is what the French-German Alexandre Dupont de Ligonnès found when he first saw, and first fell in love with the vineyard. Since 2016, he has been trying to tell this vineyard's story, to make some order from this chaos.
The resulting three wines - all on offer today - are like characters from a Wes Anderson movie, complete with the vague and slightly absurd aristocratic names and flourishes. (See more about the names below.)
The wines are also among the most delicious and provocative wines we have ever tasted from this northern region. They are kaleidoscopic, effusive, technicolor, complicated. There is no easy narrative here; the wines draw references from the sterner skin-contact growers of Italy's Friuli (think Gravner and Vodopivec), to Valentini in Abruzzo, to the wild, aromatic whites of southern France.
If in many ways Alexandre's wines are supremely classical - "beauty" and "deliciousness" are obvious concerns - they are also indescribably different.
The "Kesse Comtesse" is an assemblage of the Pinot varieties (Pinots Noir, Blanc and Gris); it is a satiny, herbal, red-fruited Rotling that feels like a cooler, more mineral-laden version of Valentini's Cerasuolo. The "Marquis von Momue" is structured and herbal, savory, saline and staining, with obvious Friulian references. It is an orange wine, to be sure, yet has real elegance and lift. Finally, the "Tausendsassa" is wildly perfumed and exotic with bright Riesling fruits and a flower garden exploding in spring, yet stylized.
All the wines have a fascinating push-pull, glycerin-rich, palate-staining flavors, yet they are also finessed with a serpentine grace. Baroque, yet defined - restrained?
All three wines are nearly impossible to describe; all three wines are also impossibly limited. We've been waiting for these since we first tasted them in the spring of 2019; we've had to wait out tariffs and a pandemic.
By the time we could organize an order, our wines on hold had been nearly depleted and so we have only a few cases of each wine. Thus we have only a few three-packs to offer. If you'd like, you may also order à la carte - the "Kesse Comtesse" is one of my favorite wines. We had to beg Alexandre to give us a few additional cases. I personally just love these sorts of light-reds, these winter rosés, textural, layered, yet with the mineral-lift of a white. So, buy a three-pack and add on as many "Kesse Comtesses" as you can, that would be my advice.
Either way, to take this leap of faith into the wines of Saxony, please order as soon as you can. As always, please reply to this email or contact us at email@example.com.
While we are beyond excited about this offer, we also acknowledge there is obviously little to no context for what the wines of Saxony are, or have been, or can be. This is the very first step. We have written a rather large treatise on what winemaking at this northern latitude is; please click here to read our article "So you wanna know about Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen, eh?" Some of you may remember this article in reference to the Konni & Evi offering from Saale-Unstrut we did some months ago. Either way, a few things are probably worth introducing, or reviewing, in this email.
First, while Saxony (Sachsen in German) is, along with Saale-Unstrut, the most northern winemaking region in Germany, it is really more east than it is north. As such, while it is cool, the temperatures here are not dramatically lower than that of say Trier (in the Mosel region) or Würzberg (in Franconia). What is different is the severity of the winters and the shortness of the growing season. Grapes that need longer growing seasons, like Riesling, are rarer in these northern haunts; grapes like Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner are much more common. While the Pinot varieties have been here for decades if not centuries, certainly they are becoming more and more fashionable and, with global warming, the fruit is ripening further, the wines are getting better.
While the history of viticulture here is deep and profound, the truth is that the 20th century marked a very severe watershed moment for this region. Even if viticulture wasn't on the brink of extinction here, things were very bad - exactly how bad is very difficult to document. The narratives that existed, they are being researched and explored. A young, eager generation is looking to the older vines and to the periods before communism, to rebuild this culture - perhaps even, in the case of Alexandre - to reshape this culture.
It is a very, very exciting time here in Saxony, and the story is just beginning. But taste for yourself.
Alexandre's wines have arrived and are in stock; to consolidate as many orders as possible, the wines will be available for shipping beginning the first week of November. We've provided more information on the wines below. As always, if you have any questions at all, just email us.
Thank you so much for the support.
2019 Dupont de Ligonnès "Kesse Comtesse" All three wines are sourced from the same tiny, .08-hectare vineyard, just outside of Dresden; these are the royal vineyards of Wachwitz. Most of the vines here are around 40 years old and planted on weathered granite, which is pretty common in the area, if a bit unique for Germany at large. I love, LOVE this wine - it reminds me of a more mineral-driven, more energetic Cerasuolo from Edoardo Valentini. This is a curated field blend, as it were, using Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Roughly 20% of the grapes were fermented on the skins for a shorter amount of time. In all cases, the red and white varieties were fermented together - in Germany this is called a "Rotling," a historic yet seldom-used method these days. The wine has beautiful dark-berry fruit, woven with fresh spice and dried herbs; it shows a haunting reduction, a fresh sawdust quality I just love. As with all the wines, the wine has good mid-palate heft, it is glycerin-rich and concentrated, yet the acidity is pushing and the wine is defined and energetic. To pay homage to the aristocratic history of the site, all the wines have been given invented names, the Wes Anderson thing of creating deeply strange characters. "Kesse" in German might be translated to "cheeky," thus we have here the cheeky Countess. As per the winemaking, Alexandre is farming organic and all the ferments are natural. The wines are unfiltered and sulfured slightly only at bottling.
2019 Dupont de Ligonnès "Marquis von Momue" All three wines are sourced from the same tiny, .08-hectare vineyard, just outside of Dresden; these are the royal vineyards of Wachwitz. Most of the vines here are around 40 years old and planted on weathered granite, which is pretty common in the area, if a bit unique for Germany at large. This wine is Friuli meets Dresden, filtered through the granite soils here. The wine is 80% Müller-Thurgau with the rest Morio Muskat; the wine saw nearly five weeks on the skins. And while this is most certainly an orange wine, it is finely structured, the tannins compact and somehow pulverized-feeling. Notes of deep melon, orange skin and dried herbs wash across the palate, along with a dense mineral core. As with all the wines, the wine has good mid-palate heft, it is glycerin-rich and concentrated, yet the acidity is pushing and the wine is defined and energetic. To pay homage to the aristocratic history of the site, all the wines have been given invented names, the Wes Anderson thing of creating deeply strange characters. Here, the Marquis is given the shorthand name of the two grapes used in the cuvee: "Mo" for the "Morio" and "Mue" for the "Müller-Thurgau" - in German the "ue" is a way of indicating the umlaut over the "u." As per the winemaking, Alexandre is farming organic and all the ferments are natural. The wines are unfiltered and sulfured slightly only at bottling.
2018 Dupont de Ligonnès "Tausendsassa" All three wines are sourced from the same tiny, .08-hectare vineyard, just outside of Dresden; these are the royal vineyards of Wachwitz. Most of the vines here are around 40 years old and planted on weathered granite, which is pretty common in the area, if a bit unique for Germany at large. This is the most exuberant of the wines; it is fantastically aromatic, floral. If all the wines seem to show references to other regions or wine styles, this is unabashedly a wine of the south (remember, this northern region is not necessarily much cooler than many of Germany's other winemaking regions; the growing season is simply shorter, see our article "So you wanna know about Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen, eh?") - the floral quality is more fresh than the garrigue of the south of France, but there is a warm generosity to the wine that speaks of an easier landscape. The "Tausendsassa" is perhaps the most elegant, most finessed and not linear, but drawn-out of the wine. It has immense length, billowy satin shaped from polished granite - something like that. To pay homage to the aristocratic history of the site, all the wines have been given invented names, the Wes Anderson thing of creating deeply strange characters. This bottling is perhaps the most Wes Anderson: "Tausendsassa" is an outdated word, used, Alexandre told me, by his grandmother (who was from the south in Bavaria) who would lovingly call the grandchildren this. It's hard to translate, but it means in a way a "jack of all trades," someone both energetic and skilled, yet also a bit mischievous. As per the winemaking, Alexandre is farming organic and all the ferments are natural. The wines are unfiltered and sulfured slightly only at bottling.