by JONATHAN KEMP
Article written for Chambers Street Wines, view it here
Back in early April we offered these wines on pre-arrival. They are here and they are deserving of all, if not more, of our original enthusiasm. Overall, the wines have a magical grace and poise, an ethereal and delicate brightness that allows the terroir to come through with considerable clarity. However, harvests were not robust—at Immich-Batterieberg they were down by half compared to 2011—so we are making sure those of you who have not already purchased some get a fair warning before they are gone.
Gernot Kollmann began making wines without intervention while working at Van Volxem from 2000-2003 and took this approach to Weingut Knebel from 2004-2008, where he had an eager pupil in Matthias Knebel. Fermentations are spontaneous, crus are vinified separately, only old oak barrels are used, and sugar levels are determined naturally, depending on when fermentation comes to a stop. There is no use of chemicals in the cellar, no chaptalization, no acidification or de-acidification. Sulphur is kept to a minimum, and used only at bottling. Matthias Knebel’s embrace of Gernot’s instruction has resulted in a steadily growing appreciation for the Knebel estate, and his 2012ers are heady, transcendent, soulful, and unflinchingly pleasurable, taking Knebel's rising star to a new high.
At Immich-Batterieberg Gernot has been busy revitalizing an estate with a history dating back to A.D. 911 and a cellar to 870. 80% of the vines are ungrafted, and there are four different sites with distinct types of slate in each. Recent history was decidedly destructive to the winemaking traditions, favoring a more modern, but also lazier approach that threw all the grapes from separate crus together and inoculated with commercial yeasts to create fruity, reductive wines that eventually left the estate bankrupt and without customers. Kollmann is turning back the clock, once again expressing the remarkable vineyards through the wines. Sugar levels are generally low and the wines all finish fairly dry though each bottling is distinct. For instance in 2012 the basic C.A.I. bottling ended up with 14 grams/liter of residual sugar, the Escheburg with 5 grams/liter, and the single vineyard Zeppwingert with 17 grams. The differences are only natural, as they represent the nuance and subtlety of their respective sources. Despite differences in terroir—sunlight exposure, drainage, acidity, and must weight—all the wines share the same lively tension and sleek balance. They are astoundingly delicious and beautiful wines.
As 2013 will be an even smaller vintage than 2012, you are duly encouraged to grab these now.
Check Chambers Street Wines for availability.