The Maximin Grünhaus Estate: A legend along the Ruwer. First mentioned in 966, it was initially part of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maximin in Trier until secularization following the French Revolution. Carl Ferdinand Freiherr von Stumm-Halberg acquired Maximin Grünhaus in 1882, laying the foundation for the estate’s current renown. Today, it is led by Maximin and Amelie von Schubert, now in its sixth generation. While their Grand Cru Rieslings have been drawing significant attention for decades, they have now achieved another sensation. The VDP.Mosel-Saar-Ruwer association has decided that the 2022 Grünhaus Pinot Noir from the Abtsberg vineyard will be the first in the Mosel region to carry the VDP.GG designation.

Max Kaindl, 12. May 2024
Reading time about 5 minutes

Abtsberg Pinot Noir GG:
Premiere at the Mosel

At the end of April, I was invited to a unique event at the renowned Maximin Grünhaus estate – the presentation of the first Pinot Noir VDP.GROSSES.GEWÄCHS (GG) in the Mosel region. Upon the exclusive guest list were international wine merchants, top sommeliers, renowned wine critics, and authors. I embarked on the journey to the Ruwer with a sense of anticipation, yet also some thoughtful contemplation. Why? Firstly, many wine regions in Germany had been recently affected by devastating frosts, including Maximin Grünhaus along the Ruwer. Secondly, I had rarely tasted Pinot Noir from the Mosel region before. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect.

Grünhäuser Pinot Noir GG Premiere Lunch

My concerns quickly dissipated as Maximin and Amelie von Schubert warmly greeted me with a glass of 2021 Abtsberg Riesling Kabinett from a 3L Jeroboam bottle. The event took place in the historic manor house of the estate — a striking setting fitting for this special occasion.

Maximin von Schubert guided us through a total of four exciting wine flights:

Vertical of Riesling Fusion (2009, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2020)
Pinot Noir from the more elegant vintages (2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2022 1G)
Pinot Noir from the more concentrated vintages (2012, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2022 GG)
Vertical of Abtsberg Riesling Auslese (1989 Nr. 137, 1993 Nr. 83, 2009 Nr. 149, 2010 Nr. 21, 2018 Nr. 88)

Throughout each flight, the team from Schlemmereule in Trier, led by the talented young chef Johannes Kneip, delighted us with perfectly paired dishes. Their creations were subtly rich, understated yet always present, and completely devoid of pretension. It was fine dining at its most enjoyable and made the tasting experience exceptional.

The way towards the Grünhäuser Pinot Noir

Alongside us, Maximin’s father, Carl von Schubert, shared intriguing anecdotes about the history of Pinot Noir at Maximin Grünhaus. After careful consideration he decided to plant the first Pinot Noir clones on one hectare in the heart of Grünhaus Abtsberg in 2007. This was followed by an additional 0.4 hectares in Herrenberg in 2008. The Grünhaus Pinot Noir made its debut on the market with the 2010 vintage. Finally, after 12 years, the VDP.Mosel-Saar-Ruwer association decided that the 2022 Grünhaus Pinot Noir from Abtsberg would be the first in the Mosel region to carry the prestigious VDP.GG designation.

Pinot Noir on the Ruwer: Madness or Stroke of Genius?

But how did this rapid development come about? In the timeline of the wine world, 12 years is just a blink of an eye. Certainly, several factors played a role. Crucial was the symbiosis of a visionary winemaker, climatic conditions, and vineyard potential. The first is likely the decisive component. After all, only a genius or daring winemaker would risk planting one of the best parcels of his world-famous Riesling vineyard, the Abtsberg, with Pinot Noir. Initially, many chuckled at Carl von Schubert for this seemingly crazy decision.

Let’s discuss the climatic conditions. The impact of climate change is noticeable along the Mosel River as well. Where Riesling has predominantly been cultivated in the past, the south-facing slate slopes are now becoming warm enough to also grow Pinot Noir. However, thanks to cool nights, it doesn’t get excessively hot, allowing this very sensitive grape variety to ripen evenly, preserving its finesse and delicacy.

Pinot Noir, when carefully tended to in both vineyard and cellar, can express the terroir’s character just as well as Riesling. This is also true for the Grünhäuser Berg. But why is this vineyard, particularly the Abtsberg site, so suitable for Pinot Noir?

The Mystery of the Vineyard

The Abtsberg is undoubtedly the most prestigious vineyard site at Maximin Grünhaus. Its soil is primarily composed of bluish Devonian slate. The rounded summit faces from southeast to southwest, with slopes reaching up to 75%. The best parcels of the estate are situated at the center of this summit, where the vines for the Abtsberg Pinot Noir GG also thrive. The soil here tends to be shallower and more stony/slaty compared to the neighboring Herrenberg vineyard, which is perfect for Pinot Noir due to its preference for lean soils. During the tasting, I could clearly discern the wines’ pronounced spiciness and mineral character, which distinctly reflected the influence of the soil.

While the Rieslings from this 14-hectare site are known for their longevity, it remains to be seen if the same holds true for the Pinot Noirs. I got a sense of the required aging potential from the sampled Pinot Noirs from the vintages of 2012, 2016, or 2019.

Adaption as key to success

However, it’s important to consider that the Pinot Noir style of the winery has evolved significantly since the inaugural vintage in 2010. The vintages up to 2017 were, in part, characterized by what I felt were somewhat predominant oak influences from barrique aging. Maximin von Schubert has been using much finer French barrels and casks made from oak sourced from his own forest in recent years, as he explained to me during a brief cellar tour. As the von Schuberts refine their use of oak, the Pinots gain in focus and elegance. The 2019 vintage and the upcoming 2022 GG release exemplify this beautifully.

In 2019, I noticed an impressive balance between freshness, spice, red fruit, power, and depth. The 2022 sample from barrel showed even more refinement — ethereal, with darker tones, a lingering finish, and invigorating juiciness. After these promising initial impressions, I eagerly anticipate experiencing how the bottled 2022 GG will present itself at the VDP GG presentation in Wiesbaden at the end of August.

Remaining Thoughts

The Maximin Grünhaus estate is undoubtedly a place with a fascinating history and an exciting future. The premiere of the first Mosel Pinot Noir VDP.GG not only marks a milestone for the estate but also a significant moment for the entire Mosel region. The early decision to plant Pinot Noir in one of the best parcels of the Abtsberg showcases the winery’s visionary approach.

Following the tasting, my impression was that the more mature and powerful vintages suit the Grünhaus Pinot Noir better than the cooler ones. This demonstrates that despite climatic changes, the Ruwer remains a cool climate region.

I’m curious to see how the Pinot Noir from the Abtsberg will continue to evolve and how it will compare to the estate’s legendary Rieslings. It’s refreshing to witness how tradition and innovation go hand in hand at Maximin Grünhaus, contributing to advancing the world of Mosel wines.

Reading Recommendation:
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Pinot Noir in the Mosel region, I recommend checking out Issue No. 69 of the Mosel Fine Wine Magazine. Jean Fisch and David Rayer provide an impressive overview of this topic. Additionally, Christoph Raffelt has written a highly insightful article on Modern Mosel Pinot Noir in a recent issue of Trink Magazine, which is well worth reading.

Pictures: © The Art of Riesling – Maximilian Kaindl

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