"All we had were some old barrels and a basket press. It made us realise that you don’t need a lot of things to make good wine."
When Pinot Noir drops into a conversation, it’s likely that your mind will drift to the hallowed ground of Burgundy. But there’s a battalion of growers all around the world who are dedicated to creating soul-searching Pinots of their own.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, often this means they’re entering the boxing ring with the Burgundies. But rather than trying to copy their style - by following a certain protocol or by adding new oak - it’s often through simplicity that the most exciting examples are made.
Florian Moll and Sven Enderle have always been about simplicity; although at first, it was simplicity through necessity. They couldn’t afford a fancy crusher, but also — why buy a fancy crusher when you can stomp the grapes with your feet?
Meet Florian and Sven
Florian and Sven met at wine school in 2003. Neither had come from wine backgrounds, but both were passionate about organic wine; Florian had been working at an organic wine shop as a student and had tumbled headfirst down the wine rabbit hole. Sven, meanwhile, grew up in Baden; an area that’s just warm enough for Pinot Noir to ripen, and where it’s still possible to find old vines. Florian says,
“In 2006, Sven asked me if I’d like to help him to start a small winemaking project. We got the chance to work with some very old vines belonging to elderly people that couldn’t work their land anymore. Finding old vines is rare in Germany, as often the less productive older vines are replaced by powerful young vines that produce a higher quantity of grapes.”
In 2007, they made their first wine; just three barrels, made in a garage.
“We spent our first years in that very small cellar. All we had were some old barrels and a basket press. It made us realise that you don’t need a lot of things to make good wine. Now, we have ten hectares, but we haven’t really changed; there are no big machines or anything. We’re still hands off, like we were in the beginning.”
These days, unfortunately due to poor health, Sven has taken a hiatus from Enderle and Moll. Florian is now working with an enthusiastic duo named Manfred and Maxence. It’s the first time he’s had help other than his partnership with Sven, and listening to him speak you can tell it’s a weight off his shoulders. While the winemaking might be minimalistic, the vines themselves need a lot of attention, and we get the feeling that Florian might have bitten off more than he could chew since, well, the beginning:
“For the first six years we both had other jobs; we’d work 40-hour weeks and then work in the vineyards in the evenings and on weekends.”
Eventually, they had to decide whether to make the project smaller to keep it as a manageable hobby, or to take the plunge and ditch their jobs. When you’re as obsessed with wine as these two are, it was going to be the latter. And they couldn’t sell their beloved basket press, could they?!
Bit by bit they collected more parcels, to their grand total of thirteen today. They have two hectares of their own vineyards, and work across ten hectares altogether with Manfred.
The majority is Pinot Noir, but they also have scatterings of Pinot Gris and Müller Thurgau. The largest parcels are just half a hectare, and one is just 0.1 hectare, which Florian is particularly fond of. He says,
“That tiny parcel belonged to a very old lady. She worked it for 40 years, and before she died she wanted to make sure it would end up in good hands. Usually, people don’t want to take on a vineyard like that as it’s so small, and you can’t work it with a machine. So, we decided to take a look, and we found out it’s the oldest vineyard in the village. It was a very lucky, win-win situation for us.”
The region is still dominated by cooperative winemaking; in fact, in the village they’re based in there’s only one other grower who makes their own wine. Often, this means the old and difficult-to-work parcels are pulled out, to be replaced by something more productive and easier to manage. However, for Florian and Sven, they weren’t focused on quantity, but rather looking for quality, which meant old vine material that would give interesting flavours to their wine. They were in the right place at the right time: had they been a bit later to arrive, who knows if their vines would still be there?
Since the beginning, they’ve worked organically, and have experimented with aspects of biodynamics. Just before starting Enderle & Moll, Florian had spent some time in southern France (near Aix en Provence in the Var region), working with a winery named Domaine Duvivier that made several organic and biodynamic trials.
“I learnt so much. Many people say that they can’t ‘see’ biodynamics, so they don’t know if it works. But this domaine have been doing trials for years; working one vineyard half biodynamically and half organically, tasting the wine, analysing the wine…”
It was enough to convince Florian that he wanted to go in that direction, and now that he has a couple of extra hands, doing the full biodynamic approach is finally feasible, as it's very time consuming. They have begun spraying their compost preparations, and will bring sheep into the vineyards, aiming to do their first all-in vintage of biodynamic farming, starting this winter (2020).
“At the beginning, we had nothing really. We had little money, so we just had to work with less things. We loved the notion of slow winemaking, and the old natural way of making wine. Pushing the grapes with your feet... using your hands, it’s always been about not doing too much to the wines. We just let them be.”
Over the years, they were pleased with the results from making the wines in that way.
“The results were really good, so we never began working with machines. We don’t need them. We loved the Pinot we were making; something a little wild and rough, but with very fine fruit, and acid. We never liked that alcoholic, overly fruity style. Everything we did was focused on getting more elegance and finesse, but never something that was too soft, or too round.”
The most important aspects, they learnt, were to give the wines time, and to not move them around too much; particularly for Pinot, which is very sensitive to oxidation.
“Over the years, we just began to get a feeling for each wine. Then, you know what to do, or what not to do. We had no money, so it was more about learning a style.”
As their wines began to sell and gain notoriety, they also began to have a small amount of money, as opposed to none. This meant they could buy some better barrels; Florian was introduced to Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac, who sold him some of their old barrels. They also began to buy some other fermentation tanks, and eventually moved to a larger cellar. Aside from the vessel updates, it’s only been technique that’s changed.
A few years ago, their Pinot Gris and their Müller Thurgau were being made with 4-7 day maceration periods, but they began to feel that they expressed themselves too similarly. So for the past three years, Florian has been experimenting with maceration times in various containers; giving some more air, others less air. They also added some pét-nats to the stable two years ago, labelled under the name trub:stoff.
Florian is content with their current techniques (for now). Their Müller Thurgau has had a shorter maceration period of between two and three days, and the Pinot Gris for between four and five days. Then, the grapes are pressed, and part of the juice goes into a large tank, into which some of the skins are added back in. The other part of the juice is left to continue fermenting without skins in barrels. Then, they are blended.
“The wine that’s in the barrel ends up being rounder and smoother, and the wine that’s left with the skins has higher acidity and more freshness; that part always tastes fresh and young. I think skin fermentation keeps a wine youthful and gives it a crunchy element. When they come together, the two methods work really well.”
The Pinots are always fermented with some whole bunches, but the amount varies greatly from year to year. There is no recipe here.
“Sometimes parts are 100% whole bunch, others maybe 50%. That decision belongs to the year: it depends on the quality and the taste of the grapes.”
He’s been experimenting with a layering technique in 700L fermenters. He leaves one part untouched as whole bunches, then adds some whole bunches that they foot stomp gently, and then another layer of destemmed berries.
“So we end up with three styles in one container. Other wines we pump a little bit, and some we leave completely alone. It’s always very different from one container to the other. Then, we try the wines over months and months. It’s always very interesting to see how different they are, and then to create a blend that we like. So it’s impossible to say ‘we make Pinot this or that way,’ as it’s always different.”
None of the wines have sulphites added until very late in their lives; usually only at blending, before bottling.
“For our way of making wine, we feel it’s not good if you add sulphites too early. The wines need time and the ability to develop — to move. Sulphur makes the wine freeze. It might be better if you don’t want faults or certain flavours, but it doesn’t let the wine develop in the way it wants to.”
It’s the combination of meticulous, obsessive experimentation, with the simultaneous trust in nature — and their wines — that creates the strikingly characterful bottles of Enderle & Moll.