2016 Ziereisen Talrain Spätburgunder

Wow. What a wine. This had to be amongst the earthiest and meatiest Pinot Noirs that I’ve ever had, one that would work well with even beef dishes, I remember thinking.

The Ziereisen wines hail from a nook in the southwestern corner of Baden called Markgräflerland. It is the southernmost district of Baden and is at borders with both France and Switzerland. Compared to the better known Baden district Kaiserstuhl, the Markgräflerland has a cooler climate and is dominated by soils of loam and loess, with some limestone.

There may be about 10 wineries in the Markgräflerland with notable production, most of which are run by some motivated individuals, some of whom are especially young, like the brothers behind Weingut Claus Schneider who are showing plenty of promise, and the bearded duo behind Weingut Scherer-Zimmer, producing only Landwein. Master of Wine Jürgen von der Mark farms about 4 hectares of vines in the town of Bad Bellingen producing wines under his eponymous winery, experimenting also with some pretty odd varieties like Orleans and Petit Manseng in his field blends.

The Ziereisens however, are on a whole other level of non-conformity. They are considered to be the founders of the Landwein movement in Baden, and as part of their commitment, initiated the annual Landweinmarkt event in Müllheim that allows only Landwein producing estates to showcase their wines. The Ziereisen are outspoken about the current wine regulations in Germany and consider it to be limiting and detrimental to the potential diversity and quality of the local wines.

It is not some well-kept secret that wine regulations can be prohibitive to creativity, diversity. Since the times when appellation controls were set upon wine producing regions, originally intended to discourage what was at the time, rampant fraudulent blending, has now turned into a powerful system of perceived hierarchical classification. However more and more, appellation systems seem to be listening the winemakers that it swore to protect, and no longer take 30-40 years before a single modification is made. Changes to appellation laws now however, do seem to take place with more immediacy, especially when it comes to addressing major issues like climate change.

Without digressing any further…

The Ziereisens are a winery to watch, if you haven’t been already for the past 30 years that they’ve been around for. This is my first time tasting the wines and am truly blown away. The Talrain was deep, smoky, earthy and animal. The words ‘elegant’ and ‘finesse’, words that I’d normally use to describe the subtlety of Pinot Noir, will not apply here. The wine definitely had a richer velvety texture than a 2017 Pommard I was having earlier, with greater grip as well. The acidity was fresh as ever, considering also that it has been planted on one of the highest vineyards in Germany, at 500 metres above sea-level. 30% of the fruit was not de-stemmed and the wines were aged in large old barrels for 24 months. Trust me, you have to try this.

It was a welcome slap to the face and a reminder to not concede your idea of great Pinot Noir to the style of Burgundy. Burgundy, no matter how great, will continue to be Burgundy. But the rest of the world still wants a shot at Pinot Noir, no country more so than Germany. Already acquainted with the elegant and mineral style of the Bernard Huber wines of Baden’s Breisgau and Meyer-Näkel’s old-school, well-oaked Burgundian approach in the Ahr, I can tell you that you need to keep an eye out of German Pinot Noirs, or you’re bound to miss out on this quiet revolution that is taking place.