“Some years ago I started looking for German Spätburgunder that didn’t look to Burgundy as a model but instead as an inspiration. Much of what I found was clean, polished, more or less “sweet” (in the Pinot way) and not especially interesting. And what was interesting was too often overpriced. But as soon as I tasted Ziereisen’s wines I felt I’d found what I wanted; individual, fingerprinted wines, countrified but not rustic, full of character, obsessively terroiré, redolent of heart and honesty. I advocated for them to be invited to IPNC, though I wasn’t their importer back then, because I wanted to show that German Pinot Noir could establish its own identity separate from Burgundy yet equivalently stamped with a particular identity. Finding the wonderful Chasselas was a bonus, though this variety has an old tradition in the Markgräflerland region of Baden (and on the other side of the border in Switzerland) and it’s always been a favorite of mine. In Hanspeter Ziereisen’s hands it runs the gamut from a delicate yet lusty quaffer to a yeast-saturated monster for which big White Burgundy is the nearest cognate.” – Terry Theise
Ziereisen is located in the very southern part of Baden in a town called Efringen-Kirchen, directly on the Rhine river at the border of Alsace and Switzerland. The area is called Markgräflerland; another name is the Dreiländereck – the “three country corner”: Basel, Switzerland is the closest city, just 15 kilometers south. Here, Hanspeter and his wife Edel produce outstanding Pinot noir and Chasselas (also called Gutedel or Fendant) as well as a bit of Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Blanc. We hear the same mantra at this domaine that we hear in all of the top estates that we work with: “Quality is made in the vineyard. We work with utmost care to create the conditions for high-class wines. In the cellar we only do the minimum of work necessary allowing the wines to rest and time to mature. The French swear by their terroir – in this respect I am a Frenchman.” Says Hanspeter Ziereisen
“Our philosophy is that wines should reflect their provenance as purely as possible. This is why we treat our vines and wines with great care by minimizing chemical treatments and filtration. In the vineyards we try to make use of the traditions that our ancestors passed along to us. We produce muscular wines. Not sumo wrestlers but decathletes; smooth, elegant, strong, and athletic. Strength and balance is our target. We aim to achieve a balance between acidity, tannin, alcohol, and aroma. Recipe winemaking is a horror for us. Individuality is the signature of Ziereisen.”
Of course, Burgundy is the homeland of pinot noir, as well as pinots blanc and gris and chardonnay. Efringen-Kirchen’s climactic conditions, coupled with limestone soils, correspond to the conditions of Burgundy. The average temperature (52®F) is similar to that of Burgundy. Chemical fertilizers and sprays are strictly avoided in the vineyard, though this estate is not certified organic. Work in these south facing vineyards is of paramount importance. “Handcrafted work is not exceptional for the Ziereisen family, it is standard.” writes Hanspeter. After an initial selection in the vineyard, grapes are sorted again in the cellar. Following this rigorous selection, fruit is fermented spontaneously in neutral wood for the top-quality wines and wines and stainless steel for others basic wines. For the red wines there is a 6-8 week maceration prior to pressing in a pneumatic press.The gutswein red wines are allowed to mature in 1200-3000L, old, neutral wooden barrels while the single vineyard Pinot Noirs from the better sites are transferred to mature in a mix of 30% new and 70% used 225L barriques. The oak at the domaine comes from the Assmann Büttnerei, a family-run cooperage Franken region. In the cellar, Hanspeter follows the philosophy of Hans Gunter Schwartz – “controlled idleness”. Generally, the red wines are on the fine lees for at least 20 months before they are racked and never filtered before bottlingThe more serious white wines (single vineyard Pinots Blanc and Gris, and Chasselas) are also raised in old, large neutral barrels. The white wines are also on the lees for as much as 20 months before bottling. Hanspeter uses regular battonage in order to obtain the concentration and body he’s looking for. As with the reds, the top white wines are bottled without filtration.
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