2016 Weingut Kunstler, Spatburgunder Trocken, Tradition, Rheingau Germany.
I usually rave about Gunter Kunstler’s Rieslings, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that he also produces some fantastic Pinot Noir, especially his Grand Cru offerings, like his fabulous Hollenberg Assmannshausen GG, as well as this wonderfully detailed cuvee Tradition, which is also a great value with layered red fruits, delicate spices, mineral tones and smooth textural charm. The Kunstler estate, one of Germany’s finest wineries, was established when Gunter’s father Franz Künstler in 1965 re-established the Weingut Künstler in Hochheim, which is in the Rheingau between the Main and Rhein Rivers, after his family was relocated out of South Moravian region in modern day Czech Republic. In 1992 Gunter took over the estate and in 1994 the estate was admitted to the VDP, marking that the estate had started on a path to greatness and was beginning its run of crafting a series of stunning dry Rieslings, putting Gunter’s wines in a select group of elite winegrowers. Generally in this zone of the Rheingau, it is warm and slightly humid with soils made up mostly of loess, clay, sand, loam, marl and limestone, more like the Pfalz and or Burgundy, and while Riesling is regal and elegant there is also success with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The greatest sites in Hochheim, as noted by Riesling guru Terry Theise, are Domdechaney, Kirchenstück and my favorite Hölle, which can make Rieslings seem like Batard-Montrachet!

The Kunstler 2016 Tradition Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) from a cool damp vintage that saw a brilliant vintage saving burst of sunshine in September that allowed this wine to become a lovely and polished effort with a subtle perfume, gentle smokiness and a well balanced medium bodied palate showing opulent array of black cherry, bright plum, raspberry, cranberry and strawberry red fruits along with a hint of cedar, orange marmalade, light tea notes, baking spices and a cool crisp mineral element. This wine, made to enjoy in its first 3 to 5 years after release is Kunstler’s teaser wine, offering a glimpse of what to expect from his top Cru wines, but being more fresh and open in style. Germany is fast becoming a place to get great Pinot Noir, with some these wines rivaling the world’s best examples, in particular for me are the wines of Meyer-Nakel, Becker, Diel and Kunstler of which are distinctive terroir driven wines of exceptional quality. The dry Spatburgunder is blend of different vineyard lots and made in 1,000-liter oak casks, with Kunstler using mainly the de-classified lots from his single Crus. This a nice way to dig into Germany Pinots and it is wonderfully food friendly and can be enjoyed with a bit of chill too for warm evening meals or picnics. The texture gets more lush with time in the glass and over all you feeling of completeness from this lovely ruby/garnet colored wine. All of Kunstler’s latest releases are worth collecting and the last three vintages from 2016 through 2018 are very compelling and I hear 2019 is a year that raises the bar even higher, I can’t wait to try Gunter’s versions in the year ahead.
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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