Brand Petillant Naturel 2020
60% Pinot Blanc, 40% Sylvaner. One of our favorite releases every year has returned! The brothers Brand, Daniel, and Jonas have quickly brought attention to the far northern Pfalz, this cool-climate, limestone-rich, yet otherwise overlooked region. While we are only about five miles south of Keller’s village (Flörsheim-Dalsheim), in this short trip we cross from the Rheinhessen into the Pfalz, from fame to obscurity. The “famous” Pfalz, the Mittelhaardt region, is a good 45-minutes south. Here, however, in the north, in the Brand brother’s village of Bockenheim, well, things are a bit quieter; the historic and gilded estates of the south, with their tended gardens and bustling tourism, give way to a quieter, more gritty, working agricultural feel in the north. The Brand brothers are, however, electrifying their little town and this forgotten region. And they are doing so with huge smiles, a raucous joy – even downright excitement – in their role as stewards for the land. If in some way the brothers, and their unique, crystalline natural wines, seem to have come out of nowhere, there is a context here. Their father, Jürgen, was one of the first advocates for environmentally conscious agriculture, joining an important organic organization in 1994. However, it wasn’t until Daniel came into the winery in 2014 that they made the transition to organic viticulture. Starting with vintage 2018, they are certified organic. They are also pursuing parts of the biodynamic philosophies, with the very real desire to understand and integrate its principles, without necessarily blindly following the ideology. The brothers, for their own parts, have worked with a bevy of “who’s who” producers including Lise and Bertrand Jousset in the Loire, and Alwin Jurtschitsch in Austria’s Kamptal. As for the wines, the Pet Nat Blanc is so damn good – high-toned salty citrus notes, pink grapefruit zest, ocean breezes, a super-fine pulverized minerality, like oyster shells crushed into fine dust with a pinch of sea salt, fine fresh edgings of green herbs. These wines barely hold their liquid form, with so much lift and acidity they feel like they may just evaporate into a fresh mineral mist. Nothing of what the brothers are doing is simple, or easy to explain, or, for that matter, sound in judgment. But easy, logical decisions rarely make for soulful wines.