A Message from the Gods

On the picture, it looks like debris on the lens, some tiny grey spots against a hazy sky. That afternoon in March, the dots were part of a magical scenery. We stood on the top of the Kleine Kalmit and looked out over the rolling landscape in the backlight of a glittering sun. A glass of Siegrist Kalmit Pinot Noir in our hands. The debris slowly moving around. There are many of them, paragliders around the top of the mountain in the Palatine Forest. Calm silence, crispy air and charming wine. It was as if the gods of happiness hovered over the hill.

View from Kalmit

Probably is our association to the gods of happiness not that strange. We are now on the top of the Ilbesheimer Kalmit in German Pfalz, but a short while ago we were in Weingut Siegrist’s winery in the neighbouring village Leinsweiler.

In the winery entrance stands the Greek god Hermes and greets the visitors. The Siegrists are not just passionate about wine, they love the beautiful. Sometimes artists join their events. Hermes came to Siegrist on one of those occasions and he chose to stay.

“We think wine is a message from the winemaker to the world, just as Hermes is the messenger of the gods,” explains Monika Dapprich who welcomed us to Weingut Siegrist. “Hermes has become our logo, you meet him on all our wines.”

Hermes

We started to taste Siegrist’s white wines, an exploration of four levels of elegance, the hallmark of Siegrist. Now we head for the red side. When Thomas Siegrist started 40 years ago he declared early on that he wanted to go for the red wines. The older generation advised against, but he defied them. We are glad that he did.

Thomas Siegrist became a pioneer, inspired by travels around the world and not least Burgundy. He has turned ideas, such as serious red wines, use of barriques and organic grape growing, into reality. Vision and quality ambitions have come true and are now carried forward by the next generation, Thomas daughter Kerstin and her husband Bruno Schimpf, the cellarmaster of Weingut Siegrist.

Thomas still travels around the world to learn and get inspiration. He travels with his friends, winemakers from the southern Pfalz. They call themselves the “Fünf Freunde”, the Five Friends: Becker in Schweigen, Münzberg in Godramstein, Rebholz in Siebeldingen, Siegrist in Leinsweiler and Wehrheim in Birkweiler. All of them also VDP-members. They inspire and learn from each other, and they sometimes make wine together. The “Amici V” wines are cuvées with wine from each of the five friends.

Thomas Siegrist
Thomas Siegrist

Red wines are today around 30% of Siegrist production. Pinot Noir is the main grape, but other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Dornfelder and Merlot are also found in the vineyards. We focus on the Pinot Noirs, which are exciting to explore. Exquisite wines, where different soils give different expressions.

The southern Pfalz is a multitude of different soils from different ages. Not strange as the area is a continuation of the Vosges in Alsace, wellknown for its many types of soil. Here in Pfalz you can in just one kilometer find clay, then loess and then calcareous marl. Fascinating.

Siegrist’s 15 hectars of vineyards is divided on 70(!) plots. Not something unusual in this region. The very small plots is a result of the inheritance laws, just as in Burgundy. If the farmer had three sons, the land was divided among them, and so on, for generations.

“Sometimes we have like three rows. If you have ten, your are the king,” says Monika Dapprich. “Of course, it is a lot of logistics and sometimes our apprentices even get lost. On the good side is the spread of risk, for example with hail.”

Pinot Noir in barrique Siegrist cellarSiegrist approach to vinification is described as being based in tradition with the addition of modern technology. The grapes and must are handled with care. Gentle pressing, no pumping. Open fermentation of the reds. The reds usually get 18 months in barrique, normally without racking.

The result then, you wonder? Well, it is a jump directly into Pinot heaven.

The mid-line Concretus Pinot Noir 2011 is made of grapes from limestone. Lovely aromas of forest floor, compost, red berries and well integrated oak. Nice texture and fine grained tannins. The Siegrist hallmark of elegance is very present. Fabulous wine, fabulous value.

The grand cru originates from the Leinsweiler Sonnenberg slope, with its calcareous soil. Sonnenberg Pinot Noir Grosses Gewächs 2008, gives a hint of how beautifully these wines will age. It has still a long life to live.

A sniff and a sip of the Sonnenberg and we dive into a deep clear well of multifacetted finess. The delicate complexity, the texture, the velvety tannins. The perfect balance, the clearness, the elegance.  Surely one of the most amazing Pinots we have tasted.

Siegriest wines

However, the Lössriedel Pinot Noir 2009 turns out to be a great contender to the Sonnenberg. Monika explains that the grapes come from a special clone of Pinot Noir with small berries that give a powerful, extractful wine. The deep dusty loess soil contributes with a delicious creaminess.

It is stunning. Delicate, complex Pinot aromas spiced by a light touch of toasted oak. Fruity with exact acidity. And that creamy texture and velvety tannins… The notebook says “you are in heaven”. Seduced by the gods.

We could have sat in the tasting room and meditated over the wines for hours, but it is time to move on. We will go and see some of the vineyards with Thomas and Monika. First to the Leinsweiler Sonnenberg and then to the neighbouring village Ilbesheim and the Kalmit.

View from the grand cru Sonnenberg to the Kleine Kalmit with its white chapel.
View from the grand cru Sonnenberg to the Kleine Kalmit hill with its little chapel, the white dot on top of the hill.

The view is beautiful from the Kleine Kalmit. The glittering sun through the hazy sky. The paragliders in the sky. The little white chapel. Vineyards around us, row after row of vines. Here, on top of the Kalmit, we taste the last of the Pinot Noirs.

Kalmit 2011 is young and beautiful. The wine is a bit cold, as the afternoon despite the sun has become a bit chilly. But we warm the glasses with our hands and feel the harmony and energy.

No notes taken. Solely enjoyment. Even so, we can’t miss the unmistakeable message from the winemaker and the gods: this is the essence of elegance.

Siegrist Kalmit Pinot Noir 2011

Do the gods send tearful messages? To be continued…

You first read the story about “A message from the gods” on Lovely Wine Grapes All posts on Lovely Wine Grapes about our visit to Weingut Siegrist in March 2015:

Links to Weingut Siegrist homepage and on Facebook.

View from Kleine Kalmit a magic afternoon in March.

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