German Mavericks: The Pinot Noirs of Enderle & Moll

Article written for Chambers Street Wines, view it here

Sven Enderle grew up in Ettenheim and is now among the few working these old vine parcels (photo by J. Kemp)

When Sven Enderle was growing up in the foothills of the Black Forest, his favorite place to play was in the breezy slopes around Ettenheim, roughly equidistant from Freiburg in Germany and Strasbourg in Alsatian France. Apple trees and grapevines peppered the fields under the protective watch of the tall pines atop the surrounding ridges.

Sadly, much has changed in the decades since, with many of the fruit trees not being maintained, and a shift towards producing high quantities of wine for the lowest costs possible. Of course, this brought lots of Monsanto’s RoundUp, to the great detriment of the soil. Sven and his partner Florian Moll have taken on the meticulous cultivation of as many parcels of older vines as they can manage, doing much of the work by hand and without synthetic chemicals. However, their work has not exactly won them many friends in the nearby villages, as their methods are in conflict with the power structure of the Ettenheimer Winzergenossenschaft, the local cooperative that dominates the region.

Their winemaking style is also viewed with suspicion by locals who have spent much of the past few decades investing in modern winemaking technology. Enderle and Moll do little to their wines beyond foot-stomping the grapes and de-stemming some of the clusters. In 2013, there was no chaptalization. Most of the reds have a 2-3 week period of maceration/fermentation and then spend a year in used barrique they purchase from Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. However, their Pinot Noirs are not Burgundian in style. They are world class by merit of the fact that they are not trying to imitate but rather to carefully render the complexity and personality of old vines grown onBuntsandstein (colored sandstone) and Muschelkalk (limestone). If anything they are more reminiscent of the playfulness and finesse of American Pinot Noirs from Kenny Likitprakong or Joe Pedicini, though reflecting the cooler climate of Baden.

Betrand Celce of Wine Terroirs did a terrific feature on Enderle and Moll a few years ago and in March they received a lot of attention at the Wein Salon Natürel in Cologne, the alternative wine fair to ProWein. Their first vintage was in 2007, and most agree that the wines are just getting better. For those who haven’t tried them since they were first available a few years ago, they will certainly be impressed. The wines are as transparent as ever, clearly translating the under-appreciated terroir or Baden. Of course, this all means that the wines are in greater demand, so the quantities are limited.

Though they are still not well-known or celebrated in Germany, hopefully the success of Enderle and Moll elsewhere in Europe and in the US will motivate other German winemakers to take up the cause of restoring the old vines in Baden to make wines as unique and lovely as those of Sven and Florian. Jonathan Kemp

Enderle and Moll 2013 Baden Pinot Noir 'Basis'

As the name implies, this is their entry-level wine, but it is hardly any less appealing for this distinction.There are two barrels that are combined to make the wine, one is from grapes that are foot-stomped, whole clusters, and the other barrel is 30% whole clusters. The wine has a blue, rosy hue. Savory, mushroom-y, and dark. Very clean, full of personality and charm. Good concentration that is bolstered by fresh acidity and an earthiness that provides some structure, finesse, and balance without being tannic. A distinctive Pinot Noir that manages to be expressive of the terroir of Baden, honest, and devoid of any flashiness or pretense or attempts to be Burgundy. It's also delicious.

Enderle and Moll 2013 Baden Pinot Noir 'Liaison'

This comes from 45 year-old vines on colored sandstone or Buntsandstein. It has a dustier, mineral feel that is elegant and detailed but still friendly and very approachable for drinking now. Subtle, complex, with blackberry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a light dusting of tannin. Lots of nuance and freshness, it has lovely acidity and some pretty floral notes coming out on the finish.

Enderle and Moll 2013 Baden Pinot Noir Buntsandstein

A step up in terms of structure and detail from the Liaison, which is also planted on Buntsandstein. There is definitely more energy and lift, though it manages to be lean and lovely, a step up in elegance instead of power and alcohol. A bit more chewiness and tannin but great balance overall. Really exceptional. Vines planted in 1954.

Enderle and Moll 2013 Baden Pinot Noir 'Ida'

Waxy, with violets and black cherry aromas. Lots of soft, pretty fruit, with a touch of orange peel and subtle, chewy texture. Understated and earthy. The Ida is from a small parcel of 40 year-old vines Sven and Florian recently purchased from an older woman named Ida, who was farming organically. It's not contiguous to the rest of their Buntsandstein parcels, and this is the first vintage, but it is the most feminine and ethereal of their lineup. Very drinkable now but will certainly develop with time in the bottle.

Enderle and Moll 2013 Baden Pinot Noir Muschelkalk

Planted in 1953 on Muschelkalk (limestone), these vines are the oldest in the village. Most of the older vines were more difficult to work and were sadly ripped out in the 1970s and 80s, but this luckily remains. There is a finer tannic structure here, with a lot of detail and layers. While retaining the elegant balance of the wines from colored sandstone, it is darker and more focused but also tighter. It will warrant some more time in bottle or a good decant, but it will be well worth the effort.