New Discovery: Natural Sauvignon Blanc from the Pfalz
If you’ve ever had the wonderful Sauvignon Blancs from Von Winning, you know that Germany’s Pfalz district (adjacent to Alsace in France) is very much capable of being a secret source of this noble grape. Today, we offer an alt version of Von Winning’s Sauvignon Blanc: an all natural gem made by Stefan Bietighofer.
Sauvignon Blanc is tricky. You need a site with good water retention. You also need a site where ripeness is perfectly achieved. Too little ripeness, and the wine’s green notes dominate (and people start to complain about “cat’s pee”). Too much ripeness, and people say that the wine tastes like something from New Zealand – usually meant as a complaint, in this context.
It’s perhaps no surprise that very few regions of Europe have succeeded in making great Sauvignon Blanc. There is Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, of course, as well as a few corners of Alpine Italy, but that’s about it. Now, however, a few corners of Germany are starting to discover that they can make pretty good Sauvignon Blanc too.
Or “re”-discovering it, we should say. The grape actually played a role in Germany’s vineyards in the early part of the 20th century, but the Nazis banned the grape declaring that it was an “enemy wine”. We are baffled.
In the Pfalz, as Von Winning has proven, the grape can achieve that perfect level of ripeness where the fruit can express itself with clarity, where the herbaceousness is there but not overpowering, and where there is still just enough tension in the wine to showcase its acidities and, most of all, its terroir.
Now it is the turn of Stefan Bietighofer to do the same. His tiny, all natural outfit produces a full range of local Pfalz wines, but his Sauvignong Blanc really stands out as something unique and unlike anything else we have ever tasted. It is “natural”, but without being cloudy and funky. It is structured and deep – thanks to aging in 500L barrels – and even has a serious side, almost like a sophisticated Pouilly Fumé. But the Sauvignon variety comes across clear as a day, through gooseberry and lemon grass and a gentle herbaceousness that tastes to us like shishito!
Imbued with complexity, the wine itself may not be such a simple pleasure, but the sheer joy of discovering something new like this surely is:
Bietighofer Sauvignon Blanc Grande Reserve 2021- $37.99
This story was originally featured in our newsletter, where it was offered at a special subscribers-only discount. Subscribers get special offers, the first look at new discoveries, invites to events, and stories about wines and the artisans that make them.