Konni & Evi are among the only people here searching for these few remaining old timers - and taking the time to listen to their story.
This is perhaps the most unique offering we've been able to curate thus far, another obsession 2+ years in the making. This will be a longer write-up than normal - please be patient! We think it'll be well worth it.
Not only have these wines never been in the U.S. before, but we rarely see any wines at all from these two most northern German wine regions - Saale-Unstrut and its neighbor further east and closer to Dresden, Sachsen.
If it was true that there was little quality wine to find here ten years ago, this is no longer the case. The wines of Konni & Evi are a testament to what is possible here now.
Because there is truly no precedent or context for this region or these specific wines, let me throw out some like-minded reference points.
Those of you who were able to grab a few bottles from the Jonas Dostert offer in March and enjoyed the winter-briskness and cut of Dostert, well then these wines will be of serious interest.
Some broader references may be a bit more useful. How about the Sylvaners of Stefan Vetter in Franconia, or vin clair with some skin contact? Or think about de Moor and very lean Chablis from cool vintages of the 1980s, yet with more super-fine tannic grip. (As with parts of Vetter's vineyards and most of Chablis, here in Konni & Evi's Saale-Unstrut, limestone is king.)
Konni & Evi will pick quite early, so the wines have a thrilling mineral-driven acidity. Yet, unlike for example Dostert or Vetter, they also see skin contact for a few days. The resulting wines are denser, more compact and structured. In one way I suppose the two Silvaners could be called "orange wines," yet there is a clarity and rigor, a transparency and linear finesse that transcends this rather basic and ubiquitous-feeling category.
As for the two reds on offer: The Portugieser is an inky, dense and cool-toned red with fresh minerals and a high-toned lift; it is bone dry and 9.5%, which is semi-incomprehensible. The Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris blend called "Kasi" is a bit broader with fresh red fruits, soil tones and a striking linear drive.
There are four wines on offer today, two whites and two reds - complete tasting notes are below.
Honestly, I can't recommend one more than the others; all of them are inspiring, delicious and will provide incredible non-verbal insight into what this region is all about. All of them are very limited and will be a bit of work to find, but more on this below. We know you're up for the adventure.
Konrad (we can call him Konni) was born in Saale-Unstrut. He met Eva-Maria (we can call her Evi) and a parcel of vines less than a third of a hectare in size convinced them to begin their winemaking/history project. What’s important here is not the size of this specific parcel (small), but the vine age (old).
The first parcel they bought was planted some 20 years before East Germany existed, at a ridiculously high density, somewhere around 10,500 vines per hectare. This is the preindustrial texture of viticulture, making no concessions for machines. This stands in stark contrast to the vineyards planted during the GDR, where every concession was made to the machine. (For those of you who want to dig deeper into the fascinating viticultural history of this region, click here to read a short history of Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen on the vom Boden site.)
In the last five years Konni & Evi have managed to gather 18 more old-vine parcels. Keep in mind all of these parcels, in total, equal only about 3.5 hectares.
Konni & Evi are farming each and every parcel organically and biodynamically. During harvest they use a simple basket press; it can only process about 600 liters at a time. Press times are normally between 20 and 24 hours, just so you have a sense of the process here. Or at least, at the very vaguest level, you have a sense of how human this all is; how much work it all is.
After fermentation, if they find that a barrel is too reductive, they may decide not to top it up. With the Silvaners especially, a flor may develop – the yeast that forms on the surface of a wine, most famously occurring in Spain’s Jerez. Konni muses that this happens because the alcohols are so low in the wine, though he feels like something about Silvaner lends itself to this flor. The Portugieser barrels, also exceedingly low in alcohol, will seldom develop this flor.
The whole process is a fascinating play of reduction and oxidation: of going inward while pulling outward.
To make things even cooler, Konni and Evi use, exclusively, very dense oak barrels made with wood from the Harz, a forest about an hour north of their vineyards. The barrels are made by the last cooper in Saale-Unstrut, a man by the name of Carsten Romberg. They have a variety of sizes, from 200 up to 600 liters.
The project, the mission, the wines are beautiful. This is exactly the specificity and focus we want to celebrate and promote through Source Material. There are four wines on offer, each one has a unique dizzying complexity and fine-ness to it, as if Albrecht Dürer himself had etched these wines out of the Saale-Unstrut limestone.
Please reply to this email to order, as with any of our offerings!
However: You may notice the range of pricing, below. For this offer, when you order, we are going to give you an alphabetized list (as best we can!) of both the retailers and the restaurants around the country who are stocking these wines - therefore pricing may vary depending on state and geography.
We simply want to shine a light on the amazing network of people supporting this beautiful, singular project. We also want to bring into the discussion our friends in the restaurant business; it's been a tough year for them and it's time (if you're vaccinated) to get out there and support them.
We are here to help you with any questions or concerns you may have and we thank you, again, for the support!
2019 Konni & Evi Silvaner (dry white wine): ~$50-55 per bottle This is what we are about; salty lemonade-like citrus, complex and herbal with the skin contact giving the wine a delightful staining structure, a bit textural and glycerin-rich throughout the middle yet still lean and fine. Those traditional Silvaner notes are omnipresent with the classic light greenness and grassy notes flashing throughout the whole palate. The wine finishes grippy, salty, leaving you salivating for more. This is a classic 2019er, dense with extract and minerals; it’s as if the wine is packed with electrolytes (Saale-Unstrut’s own unique form of mineral cool-climate Gatorade!) that make you feel that this is almost nourishing, essential.
2019 Blauer Silvaner (dry white wine): ~$65-70 per bottle The color here is gorgeous; pink and blue with almost neon yellow shades; in ways it reminds me of the curious tones of fresh peach juice. The “blau” here refers to the blue-toned skins, a unique form of Silvaner that most simply blend into the more common green-skinned Silvaner — sometimes referred to as “Grüner Silvaner.” The nose here presents more crushed berry notes than the more savory regular (which is to say green-skinned) Silvaner. It is also a touch lighter in structure and higher toned, 11% alcohol with ripe yellow lemon acids. You sense the élevage here in a nice way; it frames and arranges the high tones. These wines are all very mineral and diminutive, in scale, at only 9-11% alcohol or so – yet they are dense with concentration. It’s an amazing push-pull.
2019 Portugieser: ~$50-55 per bottle The Portugieser is darker than the “Kasi,” showing a deeper purple imbued with violet tones. It is staining across the mid-palate with a fine grip, yet it has just a mere 9.5% alcohol. This is an ultra-fresh wine showing at moments rawness alongside streaks of northern Piedmont or Rhone structures. Finishes with warming spices, cinnamon and spearmint.
2019 "Kasi" (red blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris): ~$65-70 per bottle Named after a tiny parcel / vineyard owned by their friend “Kasi,” this wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, skin-fermented. It shows a beautiful nose – lifted with a dash of VA but nicely integrated, bringing freshness and verve to an array of crushed red fruit, blackberry and greens. Finally structured and pulsating, the wine is compact, dense, yet also lean and linear. This is a serious not-even-cool, but cold climate red wine at 11% – but it feels perfectly settled and content. This reminds me a lot of Jura reds: lightly sauvage, piquant and bright.