On the Cistercian Trail with Bernhard Huber

You arrive at Huber’s winery in Malterdingen to be greeted by the ever affable, genuine and ‘hell bent of doing everything he can to make it the best’ character that is Bernhard Huber. Even though we’re more than an hour late thanks to a ‘solving the problems of the world’ session with Steffen Christmann! The Eurocave where the tasting bottles live is set to 15. The Riedel Burgundy glasses are at the ready. Welcome to a tasting that honours the 700 years of Pinot Noir tradition in the area! As far back as 1285 the cistercian monks brought Pinot Noir to Malterdingen. They planted there because the soils, they’d identified, were very similar to Chambolle Musigny. Clever chaps, clearly. Pinot has been grown there ever since. So if you thought that German Pinot Noir is a new idea, think again! What is newer though is individuals who are taking this history and brilliant terroirs, and putting it to good use. Enter Bernhard, who says Pinot Noir ‘should be dancing at the nose and on the tongue, not too much tannin, must be playful…’. Here’s to that. Forget about over extracted dry reds, these wines scream finesse, elegance, restraint.
Some days you get lucky, and today was one such day as Bengt and I are the first ‘outsiders’ to get to taste the just assembled 2010. I’ll say this now : no-one
yet realizes how great this producer is. I’ve been coming to Europe each year now for a decade but rarely have I been as blown away by a tasting as we were about to be at this one. In fact, the last time was the visit to Huber last year. This only served to confirm things!
Bernhard doesn’t like to taste or bottle wines on cold wet weather day, preferring to wait for high pressure warm weather when the yeasts are more dormant. Makes a lot of sense.
2010 in Baden was a late year, mid June flowering, which by the way ‘used to be normal’. The flowering time very cool, resulting in small berries, many without seeds, which is wonderful for Pinot Noir, and Bernhard says it reminds him of vintages like 1990, 93 and 2004.Wonderful potential! Yields were low – 25hl/ha in 2010, lower than normal, which is around healthy. Organic practices are used, massive rainfall region, 1000 litres per year, so huge fungal pressures. Biodynamics was trialled until 1994, but abandoned. Not say that he’s not considering it again though. To stand still is to go backwards.

2010 Pinot Noir
Vines between 3 and 11 years, 25 days in stainless steel, then a year or so in 2 or 3 year old oak. 15 to 20% whole bunch. Very bright nose, very fragrant, crisp acid, cherry fruits, plenty of juicy flavours, ultra-clean. Notes from last year still apply: Pure, ripe, bright acid. Strawberry and jam fruit notes. This is even better than the 2009 we shipped last year, and we’ll do everything in our power to secure a lot more. 

2010 Malterdinger
25% whole bunch, 12 to 25 year old vines, deeper rootstock.
More minerality, all second and third use oak. A slightly more open earthy nose, again lovely crisp acidity, chewy but ultimately supple palate, fresh strawberry, crimson earth, you could really smell this for ages and ages. There’s a lot going on here. Again exceedingly fine and pure fruit, racy acidity, oozing with purity and focus,super delicate but concentrated.
2010 Alte Reben Fassprobe
Yield: 35-38 hl/ha. 25 to 40 years old vines. Burgundy-like concentrated nose, showing a little oak, some mushroom under growth forest autumnal notes, quite stony and fine.Really intense fruit in the background here. And as a barrel sample already looks very complete. Who knew?

2010 Bienenberg GG
Oldest vines of all here, parcels planted in 1954, 1956 and 1961. Brilliant crimson hue, a little unfiltered looking. Pretty imposing powerful nose here. Brilliantly clean and fine. Always is the most tannic, muscular. This one is very complete. Bright acid, refined, sumptuous. This looks to have a very long life ahead of it. Very complete. Great fruit, roundness.

2010 Sommerhalde GG
From village of Bombach, 2.5 ks away from Malterdingen, closer to the mountain. Iron, and mussel-chalk, limestone soils. Hence the Chambolle link that the monks were all over. A little higher ph and the wine is a little sweeter.
40% whole bunch, but you see nothing of that, just heightened aromatics and complexity. ‘This is even more charming, with notes of truffle, red-earth so delicate and elegant, great minerality’. Again! Alluring coffee cake nose.

2010 Schlossberg
70% Whole Bunch. Mussel chalk. Very steep, vineyard with ‘Mosel’ feeling. Grapes picked early. Wine has a warmness inside. Given time this will be quite extraordinary, fragrant, supple and elegant as it is now. Very long, tight- fisted flavours at the moment, but real reminder of Chambolle, when it’s really good!

2010 Wildenstein
Hint of reduction in the barrel sample which Bernhardt says speaks really well for it’s future. Blows off. Really dense, Vosne-Romanee as opposed to Chambolle. This one has a savoury character not so present in the others. Spellbinding!

2009 Vintage
Bernhard says the 2009 vintage is ‘Everybody’s darling’! Plenty of ripeness, really lush wines, still showing terroir, but on the fuller side. A very complete vintage.

2009 Alte Reben
10 to 11 months in bottle before release, this is really imposing, plump on the palate, fragrant on the nose. Sensational hint of smoky oak just peppering the background. Wonderful intensity, clarity, focus.

2010 Bienenberg
You know, I dont think anyone has truly woken -up to just how great Bernhards wines are. I said that in the introduction to these notes and i say it again. Totally ethereal nose here, strawberries, cherries, earth, minerals, spice. Multilayered palate.

2009 Sommerhalde GG
More charming, a little wonderful reduction. Tasting Pinot Noir for 20 years and this would make a compete fool of me. I would be 100% in GC Burgundy if asked the question on this.

2009 Schlossberg GG
Also verb composed, balanced silky, very fine and long, fragrant and supple. Warning density. Mushroom filament. Tannins are a little firm. Again lovely bright acid, really singing. Fine mineral finish….very intense in it’s flavours. Stuart Piggot’s Wine of the Year.

2009 Wildenstein
In Bernhard view this is the best wine he’s ever produced, because of the ultra-intense minerality. In the glass it is intensely mineral, plump, fragrant, long in the glass, textural, a little meaty, some earth, and extremely pleasing to drink. Tasted this again at dinner, and even more layers emerged.

We also tasted, Pinot Blanc, Gris, Auxerrois and a couple of Chardonnays (one, the ’09 Schlossberg being the best ‘European-but-not-Burgundy’ example I’ve tried) but those are stories for another day. This one’s all about Pinot Noir.
These 2009s will arrive towards the end of the year, the 2010s to follow in 2013.
I can hardly wait….