Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2014
It’s getting on for 20 years since Ernst Loosen decided to broaden his winemaking palette by taking on the JL Wolf estate in the village of Wachenheim in the Pfalz. The region lies between the Haardt Mountains and the Rhine, directly north of Alsace. The protective influence of the mountains makes this one of the warmer, drier areas of Germany. As with his intense and powerful Mosel wines, Erni aims to preserve the traditional character of the region and the grape variety but with a further level of concentration and opulence. Typically, wines from the Pfalz are weightier and drier than their Mosel counterparts and have a style that’s rounder and more earthy. These are clean, focused wines with good body, full fruit flavours and a strong backbone.
Ernst Loosen is one of the great characters of the wine world. He was born into great winemaking tradition but it wasn't his first instinct to take it up himself. Instead he went off to study archaeology and it wasn't until the mid-1980s that he was spurred to take the plunge into wine. His father was ready to turn the estate over to the next generation but none of Erni's brothers or sisters was old enough or interested enough to take it on. Thankfully, Erni threw himself into it with characteristic fervour. He completed studies at Germany’s renowned winemaking school in Geisenheim and then launched into a self-directed review of the great wines of the world.
He travelled to Austria, Burgundy, Alsace, even California. He went wherever great wine was being made, seeking out the best winemakers to find out what they had in common. What he discovered was that they all share a dedication to producing intense, concentrated wines that boldly proclaim their heritage. They also have a worldly outlook that allows them to maintain respect for tradition while tempering it with reason. This gives them the freedom to acknowledge that not all traditions deserve to be doggedly observed, and allows judicious use of modern winemaking techniques when it will improve quality.
Erni took ownership of the estate in 1988. Ungrafted vines averaging 70 years of age, in some of Germany's best-rated vineyards, gave him the raw materials to create stunningly intense, world-class wines. To achieve this, he dramatically reduced his crop size and stopped all chemical fertilisation, preferring only moderate use of organic fertilisers. And, most importantly, he turned to gentler cellar practices that allow the wine to develop its full potential with a minimum of handling and technological meddling.
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir is warm and medium-bodied, with a firm acid structure. Its dark cherry fruit is juicy, ripe and forward, with a spicy mid-palate. Twelve months of barrique aging gives the wine a smoky depth and a nice touch of earthy tannins. This is a very grown-up Pinot Noir for the price, and an excellent wine for everyday dining.