A few weeks back I posted a review of Holger Koch’s entry-level Spätburgunder (here) and hinted at the idea of a split in Germany’s handling of their favourite red grape: Pinot Noir.
I said there are two types of wine and that I split them into the following categories: Spätburgunder and Pinot Noir. The former is a German regional wine, pleasant and vivid but not exactly fine winemaking – nothing worthy of a mention abroad but nevertheless an interesting drink which reflects the communes that grow wine in Germany in the most realistic and honest way. The latter are wines of international promise – well-crafted Pinot Noirs with attention paid to the quality of the wine rather than whether it reflects the ‘old-fashioned’ style of German wine making. These wines are often grown on prime slate soils and handled with French oak – these are the true headline-makers, wines that will eventually compete with those of the Bourgogne.
The majority of winemakers in Germany are more interested in producing the former – there are a lot of people in Germany who enjoy such wines and their companionship with both regional and national cuisine is undisputed – Spätburgunder wines are great, if you like that kind of thing. Only a handful of Germany’s wineries creates proper Pinot Noir and only a few of them have really gotten it right – eliminating the earthy, tangy German edge and replacing it with a streamlined, Barrique-laden aroma worthy of the finest dinner tables all over the world.
Of course red isn’t what Germany’s wineries are famous for. Some of the best whites in the world originate from Germany’s 13 production regions and Riesling is a word known and mentioned in many millions of households all over the world on a regular basis. But what would you say if I said that Pinot Noir is, without doubt, the most exciting grape grown in Germany at the moment?
Leaving aside the wines I like to label as ‘Spätburgunder’, many of Germany’s wineries have even won awards abroad for their wines – beating off stiff (and very, very established competition) from the world’s favourite production region of Pinot Noir: Burgundy.
Wines from Baden, particularly in the Markgräflerland and Kaiserstuhl, make up the majority of the qualitatively-high Germanic red portfolio and the Pinot family has a long growing tradition in the regions – known for their love of food, drink and particularly red wine. Wineries such as Koch’s and those closeby in the other sub-regions of Baden: Huber, Heger, Blankenhorn and Villa Heynberg produce high-quality, internationally-driven reds full of both classic Pinot Noir character but also a splash of local culture.
Another region famous for its production of red is Württemberg – unfortunately the majority of reds from here are based on the otherwise unpopular Lemberger (Blaufränkisch) and Trollinger varietals – these are very light, often half-dry and sometimes devoid of out-of-the-region appeal. There are however a number of wineries producing fantastic Pinot Noir – Rainer Schnaittmann, Graf Neipperg and many other wineries make lovely Pinot Noirs – often aged in Barrique bringing more depth of flavour, colour and robust quality.
My favourite Pinot Noir wines from Germany though originate from the Ahr Valley. The wineries of the region were some of the pioneers of the German Barrique Forum (here) and some of the first to use French winemaking know-how in Germany – to much criticism at first. The Ahr is surprisingly Northern for a production area of red wine. It lies to the North of the Mosel and Nahe valleys making it one of Germany’s and therefore Europe’s most northerly winegrowing regions. Wineries such as Meyer-Näkel, Adeneuer, Deutzterhof and several others produce what I consider to be the best red wines coming out of Germany.
After a short trip to the region in late summer last year I was given the chance to sample most of the wines from the Meyer-Näkel winery and can honestly attest that their GG wines (Grand Cru) are, at least, on the same level to wines of a similar price category from the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits – not to mention those from Baden.
I will, one day, upload my ratings on all wines in the Meyer-Näkel portfolio but until then leave you with the following recommendations: all wines can be purchased from the Wine Barn (here) in the UK. Needless to say, all are widely available in Germany.