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the 2020 Pinot Noirs
and a Grand Cru Silvaner "Grauer Stein"

{For me these are among the top Pinot Noirs being made in Germany right now. }
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2020 Spätburgunder 

2020 Spätburgunder "Alte Reben" 

2020 Spätburgunder "R" 

2020 Spätburgunder Assmannshausen "La Premiere" 

2020 Spätburgunder Assmannshausen Hollenberg 

2020 Silvaner "Grauer Stein" 

It's a very curious situation to be put in for someone who wants to both express a very honest opinion, and (believe it or not), not over-hype or over-sell something.

It's at least a curious situation to be put in when the honest opinion is that these are some of the finest Pinot Noirs being made in Germany right now, period.

And this line for sure will feel like a salesy-zinger, but it is just the honest truth: I had the same feeling and general sense of boundaries being transcended with Saalwächter's 2020 Pinot Noirs as I did when John and I first tasted through the cellar at Wasenhaus. We looked at each other and didn't even have to say anything. We both knew.

These are simply extraordinary wines that I believe will soon be a very big part of the conversation regarding cool-climate Pinot Noir. I can't recommend these wines enough.

This is my oh-so-subtle way of saying buy these damn wines now, before they are widely known. We know what happens then.

As with the white wines we introduced to the U.S. in the spring of 2023, the Pinot Noirs are wines of amplitude and force. There is a certain swagger and even voluptuousness to the palates - a very serious concentration and depth - yet the wines have such energy, such incredible drive and transparency. I have been barrel tasting with Carsten since 2019 and even four years ago, with his first barrels and bottles, the wines had a very serious and authentic sense of style.

It isn't that often that a winemaker seems to just understand what they want to do, and then knows how to do it.

Every year the wines have gotten better and I quickly and easily said yes to the small allocation we are offering today.

But I wanted to wait to offer the wines until they had gotten here, until I had time to quietly taste through all of them. It occurred to me that I had never really just opened the Pinot Noirs to drink stateside. I had had them many times, from barrel and from bottle in Germany, but never here.

I had high expectations, but over the course of five days I tasted and re-tasted the wines, again and again, and was even more impressed. These wines absolutely floored me.

This is the first-ever U.S. offering of Saalwächter's Pinot Noirs; I've provided pretty detailed information on all the bottlings below. There are two main terroirs Carsten is farming: the cool, limestone-riddled vineyards of his hometown Ingelheim in the northern Rheinhessen. Second, Carsten also farms just a few tiny parcels (totaling only around one hectare) of the legendary Hollenberg vineyard in the village of Assmanshausen in the Rheingau, just across the river. This is a storied, near-mythical Pinot Noir vineyard with 70% inclines and an expansive view of the Rhein, see photo above.

We thought about offering some sort of mixed pack but in the end, there are so few bottles of everything we felt like it'd be better to just go à la carte. I honestly can't even wrap my head around what to recommend.

I guess my last piece of honest advice: Buy as much as you can of all of them, though note for some of the higher-end cuvées, because of very small quantities, we have limited the number of bottles you can purchase.

Let's spread the love around!

Thank you so much for the support and please do let us know what you think.

Stephen and Robert


2020 Silvaner "Grauer Stein" 
This is Carsten's top Silvaner bottling from the oldest Silvaner vines at the estate, around 70 years old. Only tiny quantities are made; it is released after two years in barrel and then additional bottle-aging. This is the only white wine on offer today and only a few bottles are available.

For all the grandiosity and fullness (albeit a disciplined fullness), the Silvaner "Grauer Stein" is broad-shouldered, yet taut and lean-feeling. There is so much salty density here, yet the wine is at once buoyant (upward looking) and incisive (downward looking). Carsten often talks about Silvaner as a phenolic grape, about the wine being as much about the architecture as the taste, and this is an uncanny flex into this aspect of the grape. Burly, fine, phenolic, elegant, deep, lean - none of this makes total sense, I admit, but this is the wine. While Carsten harvests neither particularly early nor very late, he does favor a very slow and serious pressing cycle - he wants the phenolics. The wines then see a mix of barrels, some new, some older and neutral, where they will normally age for a year - two years in this case. They are then blended into stainless steel tanks for about six months before they are bottled - a similar process is used at Wasenhaus and many more Burgundy-oriented estates.

The wine is still silly-young - cellar if you can otherwise decant or drink over a few days.

On the Pinot Noirs...
Carsten Saalwächter is working two general terroirs with his Pinot Noirs: The first is in and around his hometown of Ingelheim, in the northern-most part of the Rheinhessen - essentially across the river from the Rheingau. The first three Pinot Noirs on offer come from this cool, limestone-rich place: The Spätburgunder, Spätburgunder "alte Reben" (old vines) and the Spätburgunder "R," presumably meaning "Reserve."

The second terroir is from the vaunted Spätburgunder village of Assmanshausen in the far-western Rheingau, right around the corner and downstream from Rüdesheim. While texts from the mid-twentieth century and the post-war period speak of the reds of Assmannshausen in glorious terms, for sure some of the luster and acclaim - and even awareness of this village's history and reputation - has faded in the last few decades. I have to be honest that I have tasted many Pinot Noirs from this village over the last 20 years and always felt some sense of disappointment. They never seemed to live up to their historical reputations. Tasting through Carsten's two bottlings from Assmanshausen were honestly some of the first Pinot Noirs from this place to simply floor me. He is farming only around one hectare in these steep, slate-riddled slopes; do not miss these wines!

2020 Spätburgunder 
This is sourced from vineyards in and around Ingelheim - so we're talking limestone. This is Carsten's "basic" bottling, which is crazy - it's both expressive and obviously appealing, yet pretty serious too in terms of its fine-ness and elegance. The wine opens with a pungent and expressive cherry nose, with bright red fruits gaining in complexity and dimension as the wine breathes. On the palate it is saturating, bright and tart – punchy and sharp. I love the feel of this wine, super-intense fruit yet also petite - it has something of the play of a white wine in its energy and briskness. Amazing herbal detail wrapped in fine layers of fruit. Damn this is good. It reminds me of Wasenhaus – for sure the closest German Pinot that hits that same textural finesse and vivid, red-fruit tones with a similar transparency and energy. The two estates are sharing some of the same magic radio waves. 12% abv.

2020 Spätburgunder “Alte Reben” 
This is the second Pinot sourced from vineyards in and around Ingelheim - again we're talking limestone. This is the deepest of the wines, with the most obvious and forward-facing layers of red fruit. This comes from old vines, as the name suggests, with the smallest yields and you can taste the density and concentration. This is a crowd pleaser while being super serious. Such energy and delineation. 12.5% abv.

2020 Spätburgunder “R” 
This is the third and top Pinot sourced from the vineyards in and around Ingelheim - again we're talking limestone. This specific bottling is sourced from one of the parcels that is most isolated and the coolest, with old vines that push up against an old forest. And you taste that, in a way. This is for sure the most serious of the Ingelheim group. This is very structured and right away has a more forceful herbal edging with a very serious tannic structure. It is dark-fruited and inward looking, brooding almost. Lots of forest floor notes and great resin details on the layers of dark, mineral-driven fruit. Damn this is a mysterious and engaging wine, both a bottle for serious Burgheads but also in a way for Riesling drinkers, in the compact, herbal-mineral density and the wine's transparency. 12% abv

2020 Spätburgunder Assmannshausen “La Premiere” 
And now we come to the first bottling from the historic Rheingau village of Assmannshausen, see the photograph below. This is sourced from their highest parcel in Assmannshausen, with slate and quartz soils. This is super lean and finessed, with a slinky density to it. While the Ingelheimers (the Pinots from Ingelheim) show more tart red fruit, this flaunts a wildly perfumed strawberry fruit with soaring green minty notes. There is definitely a much different feel to these wines (both this and the Grand Cru Hollenberg, below), a totally different architecture. This feels slim and sleek and incisive. Forgive me for falling into the Burgundy trap, but if the Ingelheimers are more Gevrey, this is more Chambolle or Volnay. Either way, this is super polished and so damn good. 12.5%

2020 Spätburgunder Assmannshausen “Höllenberg” 
And now we come to the final bottling from the historic Rheingau village of Assmannshausen - this from the Grand Cru and very famous vineyard Hollenberg, photographed below. This wine is showing super restrained and tense, with a very airy and juicy strawberry fruit. Somehow this is the deepest and also maybe the freshest and most perfumed of the wines. It has a such a long mid-palate, with epically multidimensional fruit, shimmering and juicy and sleek and bright, lovely acids and a bit more structured than the “La Premiere,” but still has that essential sleekness. This is fucking superb honestly. 12.5%

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