The Great German Pinot Noir Tasting

Pretty much every time I go to a Tasting of German wines we see a few reds tacked on to the end, and I suppose that’s how reds have been seen in the past when it comes to the UK market for German wine. This is not the case in Germany, of course. Though I’m loath to talk about the phenomenon in these terms, climate change has probably been kind to those wishing to produce red wine in Germany, and the ability to count on ripe grapes is increasingly feeding a culture that has transformed to drinking a lot more red wine at table.

There are many red varieties grown in Germany, from local varieties like Dornfelder, Lemberger and Frühburgunder to international grapes such as Syrah, and even pockets of Cabernet Sauvignon. But Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder (labelling is a personal choice, and some producers as we shall see use both) has long been Germany’s most promising red variety. It has also been grown in Germany for over 700 years, planted originally in Rheingau, by the same monastic orders who established the variety’s nobility in the Duchy of Burgundy.

Germany has one thing going for it perhaps above all others when it comes to Pinot Noir, and that is terroirs. I use the plural deliberately. In Burgundy, the Cru system of classification allows for nuance between similar plots and lieux-dits to show through. In Germany part of the fun is in comparing the same variety from different regions. Pinot Noir is often called the “Red Riesling” for its ability to adapt to different terroirs and to express those terroirs in the glass.

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Although a vast oversimplification, as well as the limestone of the Pfalz and much of Baden, you have major pockets of Pinot Noir grown on sandstone (Franken), volcanic bedrock covered in wind blown loess (Baden’s Kaiserstuhl Massif), and the Ahr Region’s famous slate, to name just a few highly diverse terroirs.

Another factor which I must bring up is clones. Dijon clones have increasingly been planted by serious producers of red wines, purely for qualitative reasons. That is not to put down the German clones, but the wines produced (even when taking into account terroirs), are usually very different. Some producers prefer French clones and some prefer the German ones (and even Swiss clones too, in the case of our final producer here).

And finally, another twist – a couple of the producers at this tasting have, like Fritz Becker who I visited last October in Schweigen (Pfalz), their finest Pinot Noir vineyards in France.

So when a taster asked a producer which Burgundy domaines he is trying to emulate (hopefully with his tongue in his cheek), you can imagine the answer. German Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, is distinctive.

So from this Tasting at Chandos House, off Oxford Street in London, a collaboration between Howard Ripley and ABS Wine Agencies, I think it is fair to say that people could take away a sense of that distinctive variety in German Pinot Noir, and also the leap in quality which producers have made across the board in the past decade. This, as far as I’m aware, was the first ever Tasting in the UK to consist only of German Pinot Noir. I think its time has arrived.

Eleven estates were showing their wines. Four from Baden, two from the Pfalz, and one each from Württemberg, Rheinhessen, Ahr, Franken and Ruwer. Almost a full house of red wine producing regions. There was not a single wine I did not like. I will save my own very personal favourite producer until last, one that ranks in my own top two producers of German red wine. The other wasn’t there, but if you’ve been reading carefully you will have deduced who that is.

MAXIMIN GRÜNHAUS (Mertesdorf, Ruwer)

I’ve known and loved Carl Von Schubert’s wines, with their equally attractive jugenstil labels, since the 1980s, but it is only in the past several years that I’ve been enjoying his reds. Carl’s Spätburgunder is grown in the centre of the Abtsberg, the estate’s finest site, on a plot where there is more topsoil, around a metre-and-a-half deep over the slate. He has a mix of German and French clones, and made his first harvest in 2010, when just a single barrique was produced. Yields are low, around 30 hl/ha, and the aim is to produce elegant wines which are mineral, and fresh.

Spätburgunder 2014 is a lovely wine with which to begin a Tasting, especially as the scent emanating from the glass is so beautiful. It’s a fragrant, lighter style, which one could call pretty, so long as that is not seen as damning with faint praise. It’s elegant as well…but definitely pretty too.

Pinot Noir 2015 is interesting. I only need to say once that 2015 was a hot vintage throughout Germany, as in France. But hot means different things when we are in some of Germany’s more marginal regions, and those of us who can recall the steely Rieslings from the Ruwer back in the day will know that this is not remotely a warm region to begin with. So there’s a deeper nose here and a bit more weight, but it’s not a big wine.

Pinot Noir 2016 was a cask sample, due to be bottled in May or June, and very promising.

I’ve not really made a quality assessment of these wines, have I. I am not going to argue that these are the most potentially complex wines of the day, but I will say that I like them a lot. There is always elegance here and, although the fruit is bright and fresh, there is subtlety too. I’ve written only positive things about the Grünhaus reds in the past, and tasting three together only served to reinforce my desire to drink them more often.

 

FÜRST (Bürgstadt, Franken)

The Fürsts began producing wine here in the Seventeenth Century, and that tradition carries on today. Weingut Rudolf Fürst is named after Sebastian Fürst’s grandfather. Sebastian now helps his parents, Paul and Monika, and their reputation grows by the year. This is based on attention to detail at the smallest level, and a recognition that they have some great terroirs to bring out.

Sebastian is now in charge of all the red wine production, having developed both his expertise and passion at Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss (Alsace) and Domaine L’Arlot      (Nuits). Despite a reasonably large holding of just under 20 ha of vineyard, production here is emphatically artisanal. Foot treading, barriques, minimal sulphuring, all aim to transfer the grapes into wines which display the nuance of the soils, mainly red bundsandstein with pockets of water-retaining clays, warm soils which assist ripening.

Spätburgunder Tradition 2016 comes from 100% estate fruit off 7.5ha of either younger vines, or lesser sites. Don’t discount it, it’s pleasant everyday drinking, and refreshingly light. Spätburgunder Bürgstadter 2014 is what they call their “village wine”. There’s a definite increase in depth and it represents good value at around £30 RRP.

There were three of the crus on show, conforming to the VDP Grosses Gewächs classification, which I suppose the organisation would like to be seen as a Grand Cru equivalent. Each of the next three wines represents a step up in quality.

Centgrafenberg Pinot Noir GG 2014 uses more whole bunches, and there’s great freshness here in 2014, as well as more depth and latent complexity. The GG wines do require ageing, perhaps at least a decade, and it is a big mistake to treat them as wines to open soon after bottling.

Schlossberg Spätburgunder GG 2014 comes from a walled vineyard, about three kilometres of walls protecting what is already a south facing site of red compressed sandstone. There is indeed a touch more ripeness, and the wine has a very appealing dusty or grainy texture.

Hundsrück Spätburgunder GG 2014 is made from fruit grown in the central part of the Centgrafenberg vineyard. When Germany botched its Wine Law in the 1970s, old sites like this were subsumed into the larger named vineyards, and Hundsrück had to be re-registered in recent years. But it is clearly a terroir of genuine class, again south facing, and producing ripe fruit with potential for great complexity. This is a fine 2014, but it should be given the respect of ageing, just like its Burgundian counterparts. Expect to be divested of around £115 for a bottle.

 

JEAN STODDEN (Rech, Ahr)

The River Ahr is a Rhine tributary, 50 km south of Köln. As it is such a northerly wine region, it surprises some that of all wine regions in Germany, it is the one whose fame lies mostly with red wine (indeed, Stodden is not just a “Weingut”, it is a “Rotweingut”). It is also the region which has the distinction of it’s famous Greywacke slate, on steeply terraced hillsides, where the ripeness of the fruit derives (as with Riesling in the Mosel) from the reflected and stored sunshine and heat of the river and the vineyard (assisted in part by the terrace walls made from the same material).

It’s so warm there that some authors have used the term “Mediterranean” to describe the climate. I’m not sure it is quite like Tuscany, or Priorat, (perhaps it is?) but the region does see more than 1,500 hours of sunlight in an average year, and an average temperature approaching 10 degree celsius. It’s also a dry region.

Gerhard and his son Alexander run one of the region’s most highly regarded estates (the other is Meyer-Näkel), farming around 6.5 ha near Rech, with many vines over 80 years in age, some (on the Sonnenberg GG) ungrafted. Alexander was one of the first in Germany to use new French barriques (currently Tronçais oak from François Frères), but it is only the exceptional sites and the ripeness they give which makes this possible.

Four wines, in increasing price and complexity, were offered to taste. Spätburgunder 2016 is all estate fruit, aged in old wood. It’s pale and fragrant, simple and fruity. Like all the 2016s at the tasting, it was promising. Spätburgunder JS 2015 comes at quite a step up in price (from £24 to £38). It is aged in new oak and, although still a pale wine, it has a bigger, rounder, nose with more depth. You can feel the new wood but it isn’t too intrusive, although the ripeness of 2015 no doubt helps.

Recher Herrenberg Spätburgunder 2014 is fresher and benefits from an extra year’s age, but we are getting up to £50-a-bottle here. It still has a slatey intensity of dark fruits and their slight bitterness. Top of the range here was the almost £90 Neuenahrer Sonnenberg Spätburgunder 2015, one of Stodden’s Grosses Gewächs, but it’s quite a different wine. From lower down the river, where the valley is wider and there is more loess and less slate, it has a plumpness to it, and an extraordinary bouquet. It has a lot more body than I was expecting.

I generally find Stodden’s wines very different to those of Meyer-Näkel (which I know much better), but they are absolutely among the most interesting producers of Pinot Noir in Germany, and the Ahr style (to the degree one exists) is a benchmark contrast to much of the rest of the world’s efforts with this variety.

 

KELLER (Flörsheim-Dalsheim, Rheinhessen)

Klaus-Peter Keller needs no introduction, I’m sure. This estate was founded in the year of the French Revolution, but when I began drinking wine Rheinhessen seemed almost a sleepy backwater of industrial production. Now it is one of Germany’s most exciting regions. This is in large part down to Keller more than anyone else (without taking anything away from Philipp Wittmann in Westhofen).

Klaus-Peter is, of course, famous not for Spätburgunder, but for Riesling, some of Germany’s finest and most expensive. But as with Riesling (and the inexpensive Von der Fels), there is a red wine which offers amazing value. The red wine quality here is unsurprising when one realises that this Riesling genius interned at Domaines Armand Rousseau and Hubert Lignier, in Burgundy. His first barrels came from DRC.

There are Grosses Gewächs reds, and Klaus-Peter even grafted some Pinot Noir onto old Silvaner in his treasured Morstein vineyard six or seven years ago, but Spätburgunder “S” is eminently affordable and well worth tracking down. 2013 (£29 RRP) is a fragrant wine which should peak in five-or-so years. It isn’t what I’d call tannic, but it does have a spine of fresh acidity, which seems precise, within it. 2015 (£35) is riper but there are similarities between the two vintages, which I’d put down to freshness and elegance. I said “riper”, but clearly Keller is avoiding any hint of over ripe fruit in a hot year. Like his whites, he’s aiming for the stars. I have this back to 2012, which tells you what I think. They will keep, the best vintages for a good decade if you wish.

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WEINGUT BERNHART (Schweigen-Rechtenbach, Pfalz)

This is the first producer here whose wines I’d never tried, but the keen eyed reader will spot the fact that I know this village, having visited Fritz Becker here last October (yes, Fritz Becker is that other favourite German red winemaker). And if you read my article back in November you will also know that the producers of the border village of Schweigen farm their Pinot Noir, or certainly the best of it, on the hillside slopes over in France, in the former monastic vineyards of the Abbey of Wissembourg. Bernhart owns eleven hectares, of which 60% are over the border, in France.

There is a frustrating anomaly for producers of wine from these French sites. Although the grapes come from France, the wines are made in Germany and have to conform to German wine regulation. The German authorities won’t allow the producers to use the French vineyard names, vineyards which in France are arguably Grand Cru quality (were they under Alsace regulation). The growers of Schweigen have to find another way to label them. Some go for fantasy names, but the most common way is to use a single denoting letter.

There’s a basic wine here, labelled simply as Spätburgunder which in 2015 was very ripe, fruity and tastySchweigen Spätburgunder 2015 is the village wine, with a more high-toned bouquet, but again, fruity.

The quality leap comes with the single vineyard wines from the Sonnenberg, which range from £25 to £45 a bottle and, as such, are pretty good value. Spätburgunder “S” 2014 was described by Gerd Bernhart as an Erste Lage, a premier cru. It sees 50% new oak and has good mineral depth and a touch of salinity. Spätburgunder “R” 2013 is the reserve wine from the same site. It’s Gerd’s oldest parcel with vines planted in 1977. It sees 100% new oak, but that surprisingly doesn’t dominate, and there is lovely smooth fruit underneath.

Spätburgunder “Rg” 2014 is a parcel on the west of the steep slope which rises from the Abbey, called Rädling. This spends 18 months in new oak, and the oak here is more obvious. But the fruit is sweet, and the oak does enhance this.

I’m not so keen on 100% new oak with most Pinot Noir as a rule, but I can’t say that the wines here are not balanced. And they certainly represent good value.

 

WEINGUT JÜLG (Schweigen-Rechtenbach, Pfalz)

I’ve drunk Johannes Jülg’s red wines on several occasions, and it was the homely, atmospheric, Weinstube, which the family runs in the village, where we headed for lunch last year, after our morning with Fritz Becker. Whilst I think the previous producer, Bernhart, represents good value, I think I’d have to emphasise that value for money even more at this address. But it’s all personal choice.

Johannes is another German winemaker who fell under the influence of a Burgundian, in this case Thierry Brouin at Domaine des Lambrays. What he says he took from his time there was to look for elegance and complexity in his wines.

We begin, as at other addresses, with a Spätburgunder 2015, plain and simple (bottled under screwcap, like it Johannes!). Super fruity with a smidgen of spice, this is almost ridiculously priced with a RRP of £12.20 according to the sheet we were given. The reserve Spätburgunder “R” 2012 is from vines exclusively on the French side of the border. It sees a little new wood. A 2013 “R” hails from a cooler vintage, and I’d have to be tricked into using that old chestnut “mineral” here, despite that voice inside my head telling me I shouldn’t.

Pinot Noir 2012 is so-labelled  because these vines are French clones. The style is slightly meatier, but there’s great length and acidity to match. The 2013 version is noticeably different, slightly paler and brighter, as befitting a cooler vintage. The difference in labeling is wholly valid, and it’s nice in fact to see the two styles, “Pinot Noir” and “Spätburgunder”, side by side.

The Jülg wines may have less complexity than some, but they do have a vibrancy, and even with the oak, an approachability. The added bonus is that everything here comes at less than £40/bottle.

 

RAINER SCHNAITMANN (Fellbach, Württemburg)

Schnaitmann is a new addition to the ABS roster, and a relatively new member of the German VDP. Rainer is described as a dynamic young guy, “articulate, intelligent, caring, passionate, detailed (sic)”, a lot of praise. A shame I didn’t get to meet this former architecture student into music and art, as he shares some of my own interests outside of wine.

I’ve never tasted Rainer’s wines before, but the fame of this young man precedes him. Stephan Reinhardt wrote (in The Finest Wines of Germany, Aurum, 2012) that his Fellbach Lämmler Spätburgunder GG 2009 was rated by some opinion leaders “as highly as any other German Pinot Noir”, and describes him as “the most prominent and rapidly rising newcomer of the past decade”.

The wines really live up to that praise from Germany’s most knowledgeable wine writer. More than anything here, you get silky smooth wines with concentrated fruit, giving them instant appeal. Other tasters were impressed by their magic too.

Spätburgunder “Junge Reben” 2015 (£25) is from young vines in this ripe, warm, vintage. The colour is vibrant and the fruit is concentrated. Simonroth Spätburgunder 2014 is from older vines (45-50 years of age) from a single site. Again, the simple description “tasty” is all you need, really. There’s certainly a greater freshness here than with the Simonroth 2015, where the fruit is riper and the tannins softer. The opulence of the 2015 is really appealing, but then so is the freshness of the ’14. Both single vineyard wines here are recommended to be sold at £40, although I have mentioned the GG (not shown), which is presumably a little more upmarket in pricing.

 

KARL H JOHNER (Vogtsburg-Bischoffingen, Kaiserstuhl, Baden)

Karl Heinz and his wife Irene used to run Lamberhurst Vineyard in Kent, but they returned to Germany way back in 1985 to found their Baden domaine. Ever restless, in 2001 they also began farming in Wairarapa at the foot of North Island, in Neuseeland, where they spend about four-and-a-half months of their year.

Karl Heinz is one of the few German wine producers who openly admits his red wines aspire to emulate Burgundy, yet he is no copycat producer. In fact he’s fiercely independent, going his own way on so many issues. Their son Patrick is now working in the business and continues with the fine work being done here, especially with Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder.

Spätburgunder Kaiserstuhl 2014 is a fruit-driven entry level wine. Spätburgunder 2014 is off loess soils and is fresher. A 2016 cask sample of this wine (just ready for bottling) tasted very nice, with slightly more breadth. Spätburgunder 2015 (unfined, unfiltered, matured in wood, 20% new) was a richer version.

Pinot Noir Steinbuck 2013 is made from Burgundy Dijon clones, vines which yield bunches with lots of small berries, and which were planted in 1998. It has a slightly darker cherry colour, and still has some tannins.

The top wine on show was Spätburgunder “SJ” 2013. This is made from vines on the eastern side of the Kaiserstuhl, the volcanic massif which rises to just over 550 metres above sea level from the Rhine Graben, more or less opposite Colmar. This, says Karl Heinz, is their Grand Cru, though he’s way too independent to join any organisation which would allow him to label it as such. There’s a lot of concentration here, but there’s also a good degree of approachability.

 

HOLGER KOCH (Vogstburg-Bickensohl, Baden)

This is another estate at the heart of the Kaiserstuhl, where Holger farms 8.5 ha. His first love, when it comes to wine, was Bordeaux, thanks to a stage at Canon La Gaffelière under Stefan (Graf Von) Niepperg, in Saint-Emilion. Thankfully, Holger didn’t come home and graft all his vines over to Merlot. But he did return with a new found enthusiasm for terroir-driven wine, and he did replant the family vineyard with improved Pinot clones.

There is an interesting philosophy at work here, which differs from some of the estates making Pinot Noir in Germany today. It seems that Holger isn’t afraid of fashioning wines of power, although he looks for freshness too. Unlike some Saint-Emilion, the oak doesn’t dominate completely (which is just as well with Pinot Noir), and Holger has an experimental nature as well. The wines were shown by Holger’s wife, Gabriele.

Pinot Noir Herrenstück 2015 is one of the bigger entry level wines at this Tasting, and it has some structure too. The 2016 version of this wine was deliciously fruity. It’s also tighter and more precise, from what is shaping up to be a vintage of freshness all around Germany.

Pinot Noir * (one star) 2015 comes from a parcel within the Herrenstück, facing southwest. It’s quite different, with very acute freshness and concentration. Pinot Noir *** (three stars) 2015 is another step up. The parcel site here is at 370 metres altitude in a valley which is notably windy. As a result you seem to get the richness of the vintage from what is a south facing site, but tempered by freshness in the fruit, perhaps somehow the result of that wind. A nice wine. Nothing here appears to cost more than £40 (for the 2015 three star).

 

SHELTER WINERY (Kenzingen, Baden)

Hans-Berte Espe met his future wife Silke Wolf at Geisenheim. Hans-Berte cut his teeth in Oregon whilst Silke worked for the State Wine Institute in Freiburg, before they bought their Baden estate, which now comprises 5 ha.

Although this is not a “natural” wine producer, no insecticides nor herbicides are used on the vines. They believe in low yields and hand harvesting, with destemming, wood fermenting in cuve and ageing in a mix of new and old barriques.

Their five hectares is planted to 95% Pinot Noir, along with a little Chardonnay (the latter planted 2009), on soils of mainly loess over limestone. A young vine Spätburgunder 2015 starts us off. It sees oak, but 100% used, and it is still very fruit-driven. Pinot Noir 2014 gave a more elegant version of the grape variety, although there’s still a good degree of concentration. Pinot Noir 2015 has a high-toned bouquet and, for the vintage, is pretty elegant too. The cuvée labelled Pinot Noir is from their eldest vineyards, planted in 1977 and 1978.

It’s interesting that Kenzingen is over on the eastern side of the region and to the north of the Kaiserstuhl, close to the backdrop of the Black Forest. Here, they get quite cold winds which not only reduce the threat of disease, but also seem somehow to keep a certain freshness in the wines.

 

ZIEREISEN (Efringen-Kirchen, Baden)

The three Baden names we’ve tasted so far are probably not among the most famous in the region. Wine is a personal thing. There are some very well known and highly regarded names in Baden, mainly producers who group around the Kaiserstuhl. I’m thinking of Huber, Bercher, Dr Heger, and Franz Keller of Schwarzer Adler fame. But of all of them, Ziereisen is my own favourite.

Hanspeter Ziereisen and his wife, Edel, are only just Baden producers. Their 15 ha estate is only 4km from Switzerland, with vineyards actually overlooking the city of Basel. Hanspeter is a convert to a different way of doing things. He speaks with horror of how he used to chaptalise his wines, and his wines today generally have a good 2% lower alcohol than they reached in the 1990s.

Pinot Noir is a mainstay here, and indeed my introduction to these wines could not have been better, via one of the Jaspis Pinots many years ago. There are other varieties equally worth exploring, though. Hanspeter makes a really excellent Syrah in the Jaspis range (Jaspis is a selection of the best barrels for each wine), from vines planted in 1999. It has a Northern Rhône quality to it, a freshness.

Hanspeter’s vines are relatively protected from the north by the forests around Basel, but he places a lot of importance on the role of the Belfort Gap to the south, which allows ventilating winds to sweep up and over the vines, which grow at between 250 to 400 metres. These cooling winds slow down the ripening process. Seek out the Syrah if you can.

Also seek out Hanspeter’s Chasselas (known as Gutedel in these parts), which is a really thought-provoking wine, made with just short of a year on lees in large old wood. Chasselas is underrated, but its relatively poor reputation is largely justified in this part of Germany and over the border in Switzerland. Yet it is capable of something finer, whether on the terraces of Lavaux, in the finest Fendant of the Valais, or indeed in the hands of Dominique Lucas at the up-and-coming Vignes de Paradis estate south of Lac Léman, near Geneva (see my next article on Recent Wines). But here, it produces something different again, with quite rich stone fruit flavours and a touch of herbiness, allied to a frisky salinity.

But I digress, do I not! We are here for the Pinot. Spätburgunder Tschuppen 2012 is, for me at least, one of the very best sub-£20 reds you’ll fnd anywhere in Germany. A great every day wine.

We get a bit more serious with Spätburgunder Schulen 2015. Hanspeter achieves genuine freshness in a hot vintage, but it’s not just the wind. He told me that the thing they really learnt from the scorcher that was 2003 was canopy management. “The grapes should see the sun but the sun shouldn’t see the grapes”. 50-55% whole bunches also helped retain freshness, as did very gentle extraction, and this wine has just 13% abv.

Spätburgunder Rhini 2015, like Schulen, is off limestone, but in a part of the vineyard with plenty of clay and iron. In 2015 the wine is bigger than in the recent past, a little meaty even (in flavour as much as weight), but is still remarkably fine.

When we get to the three Jaspis wines on show we can see a very clear step up in quality, but don’t let that put anyone off the Schulen and Rhini, which fall into the £20 to £30 range, more or less. Jaspis Spätburgunder 2010 is a fine wine made from old vines (planted in 1958). 2010 was a cool year here in Southern Baden, but this is maturing nicely with a superb bouquet and spicy fruit. Jaspis Spätburgunder Alte Reben 2009 was my favourite wine of the day. It gets an extra three years ageing before bottling over the other version. There is a mere 12.5% alcohol here and it is simply gorgeous.

But what do I know? Hanspeter’s favourite is Jaspis Pinot Noir Alte Reben 2013. To me it was just less developed, but then I know the wines far less intimately than their creator. It’s still bloody brilliant though!

These wines are all wonderful. I know I’m rating this estate above some more famous producers, but I think that the enthusiasm, knowledge, experience, and sheer personality of Hanspeter and Edel do a lot to foster my preference. I’ve loved these wines for years, and this Tasting only served to cement my opinion. I’d love to get down to Efringen-Kirchen one day. Especially as I hear Hanspeter has some Chasselas under flor (is this true?).

 

I’ve no doubt that I have shown a degree of enthusiasm here for the Pinot Noirs of Germany which might raise an eyebrow or two among some (perhaps older) readers. Yet (and it’s not the first time I’ve banged on about this) German red wine in general is in the process of a transformation.

There are plenty of tasty, fruity reds from several varieties, and from pretty much all of Germany’s regions…yes, even the Mosel. There are also some very fine wines being crafted from Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder. They are never cheap, but then when compared to fine Pinot from around the world, they are often surprisingly good value. Please go out and try them, but do give the best of them the honour of some cellar time before you drink them.

My own, wholly personal, selection from the estates tasted would be Ziereisen, Keller and Maximin Grünhaus, from which one can purchase a spread of different wines at different levels, with a variety of drinking dates. In addition, I do want to explore the wines of Rainer Schnaitmann, and to drink some more from Johannes Jülg. Let’s also not forget Fürst, whose wines I’m inclined to pick off the shelf somewhere like Fortnums, as I’m innocently passing through the basement wine department.

I will finally mention that London-based German MW Anne Krebiehl delivered a couple of booked-out masterclasses during the Tasting on Monday afternoon. I was sadly unable to attend one. I’d have loved to hear her speak. Her MW Dissertation was on “The Future of Premium German Pinot Noir” and there is no stronger, nor more compelling, advocate for the German iteration of this variety. In my humble opinion, the future for German Pinot is very bright indeed.

Fürst, Stodden, Schnaitmann and Johner are imported by ABS Wine Agencies. Contact kd@abswineagencies.co.uk

The remaining producers are imported via Howard Ripley Ltd. Contact Sebastian.Thomas@howardripley.com

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About dccrossley

Writing here and elsewhere mainly about the outer reaches of the wine universe and the availability of wonderful, characterful, wines from all over the globe. Very wide interests but a soft spot for Jura, Austria and Champagne, with a general preference for low intervention in vineyard and winery. Other passions include music (equally wide tastes) and travel. Co-organiser of the Oddities wine lunches.
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5 Responses to The Great German Pinot Noir Tasting

  1. Mark Carrington says:

    Interesting read. Despite my default scepticism, there are a couple (over & above the excellent Keller) which appear interesting. I suspect it will all end in tears for me, again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dccrossley says:

      I suspect it will, Mark. I question my sanity, but then I look at other proponents of German Pinot Noir and take comfort that I’m not a lone voice.

      They key is to find a region whose style you like, and as I said, to age any wine above entry level. I can see how, for example, a Burgundy drinker might not like the Ahr wines. Also, the German clones are noticeably different to the Dijon clones some are planting…berry size, ripening and everything.

      Like

  2. kupers says:

    Waw, looks like a great tasting! I would have to go to all sides of the country to taste half of those, and to Germany for the rest sadly enough. I tasted the Grunhaus pinots a while back and was not that impressed, maybe also because there are more and more producers in the Mosel Valley producing interesting red wines (if you can get your hands on it, try Steinmetz for instance). I was pleasantly surprised by Stodden this year, normally the wines here are much firmer and tough in their youth, but the 15s were already quite open. Definitely would need to revisit Julg, also produces magnificent white burgunder wines.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dccrossley says:

    I tend to like the Grünhaus reds partly because of my nostalgia for this estate, I’ll admit that, but also because I like their style, which I admit is possibly light for some tasters.

    I do think that German reds get more impressive, though I wouldn’t compare them with the Rieslings. It was a great tasting.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Ripples Become Waves – Howard Ripley German 2017 GG and Reds | David Crossley's Wide World of Wine

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