2016 Schlossgut Diel, Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Trocken, “C” Cuvee Caroline, Nahe Germany.
Armin and daughter Caroline Diel’s Schlossgut Diel in the Nahe region of German are renown for their amazing Rieslings, especially their Trockens (dry wines) but there are two things you must never miss trying from this famous estate, their ultra luxurious Brut sparkling wines that rival anything that Krug or Vilmart make and Caroline’s exceptional Pinot Noir, that regardless of sounding cliche, rivals some top names in Burgundy. I was lucky enough to be at Schlossgut Diel at harvest time in 2016, when the grapes for this gorgeous Cuvee Caroline or “C” Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) came in to cellar from the vines, so it was with personal fascination and meaning to me to see how things turned out and I mean wow, this is just utterly delicious and serious stuff with pure class showing from start to finish. The Nahe is a treasure trove of great wine estates and the region has a amazing array of terroirs for one of the smallest in Germany, sitting to the west of the Rheinhessen and to the south (and southwest) of the Rheingau it has mostly eastern facing steep slopes that capture lots of sun, making for ripe grapes, and while not a large area is dedicated to Pinot Noir, it can produce special wines as this one proves.
German Pinot Noir has been a thing now for more than a decade with top producers like Friedrich Becker, in the Pfalz and Meyer-Nakel in the Ahr making lots of headlines, along with some vintages from August Kesseler too, from his Assmannshausen Hollenberg cru in the Rheingau, but in more recent vintages I have been really impressed if not absolutely blown away with upper Rheingau grown Gunter Kuntzler’s GG Hochheimer Reichestal and this Diel, which is a stellar Nahe Pinot Noir. Beautifully balanced and stunning in the glass this 2016, with its beautiful dark garnet and ruby edges, gives a top notch performance on the palate reminding me of something like a favorite Chambolle-Musigny or a Clos Saint-Denis even, though still with its own unique personality that comes from the combination of soils that includes gravel, clay, slate and quartz that highlight mineral tones and radiant red fruits found here. Silky and mouth filling this Cuvee Caroline, named obviously after the winemaker and her signature red wine is already drinking fabulously with a layered form with dense cherry, strawberry and wild plum fruits that coming bursting on to the palate before some darker, almost black fruit, comes through with hints of violets, spice and smoky in the background, wrapped around blackberry, tangy currant, cranberry and toasty wood notes.
Caroline, who once did a stint at the fabled Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, is very hands on in the vineyards and meticulous in the cellar with the fruit for this premium Pinot Noir cuvée being carefully selected exclusively from her finest Pinot Noir plots, with all the grapes being rigorously eye balled and hand sorted for the utmost quality. All the clusters of these deeply color grapes, from a multi-pass manual harvest, were de-stemmed by hand and then fed into open wooden fermenting vats. Caroline adds that eight days of maceration followed, after which the wine began its wild ferment with native yeasts. She also notes that during this primary fermentation, the cap is foot-stomped in gentle, (very) controlled punch-downs. Then after a four week settling period, the young wine is gravity-fed into small oak barrels for its secondary or malolactic fermentation, where it is raised for about 20 months in total, using mostly new oak, but also with a small portion of reconditioned barrels that are rotated in each year. 2016 which was an interesting if not frightening vintage with a cool wet mid-summer before an extended Indian summer saved the year providing grapes with lush ripeness, but with lovely freshness too, this is a year to look for in both Diel’s outstanding Rieslings and this Pinot Noir.
($130 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive