For most of us, it isn’t the fantastic and great wines of this world that are of particular interest. The chance to taste a top-end Burgundy is a treat, but a rare one: the affordable, everyday wines are the ones that matter and when they offer the potential to surprise with great quality at a fair price, that’s what the majority of drinkers are looking for.
Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is one of the Pfalz region’s best producers and their Grand Cru (Großes Gewächs) wines are some of the best in Germany. Their Kirchenstück Riesling is of world-class quality and one of Palatinate’s most sought-after wines. However, the attention to detail at Dr. Bürklin-Wolf goes right down to the Gutsweine – wines produced using vines owned by the producer all over the region – no single-vineyard stuff and not even sourced from one single commune. Whereas these wines might not showcase the individual site and terroir of one vineyard, they act as ambassadors for the region and are the wines that most people will drink.
Dr. Bürklin Wolf’s Estate Riesling is already fantastic, one of Germany’s best VDP Gutsweine (estate wines) and this Pinot Noir is just as good. I’ve said it a thousand times: most Pinot Noir in Germany is forgettable at best: unripe, sour, earthy and translucent; it offers good holiday drinking but, when you take a few bottles home, you realise that it was the heat-of-the-moment that forced you to enjoy the wine. This one and a small number of others are exceptions to the rule. German Pinot Noir can be brilliant and whilst this is almost guaranteed with the single-site wines for 30€ and upwards, it can be rare if you don’t know where to look if your budget isn’t quite that high.
Cherry red with a Barbie-pink hue.
The wine is rather expressive on the nose with plenty of red fruit: Cassis, black cherry and cranberry take on the major roles but are joined by a particularly pleasant red plum aroma. The earthy touch commonly associated with German Pinot is there but plays a largely background role. There is a touch of wood too, nothing dominant but extremely helpful in presenting the fruit.
The attack is a sweet berry mixture lead by the Cassis and cranberry but it also includes black fruit in the way of blackcurrant, black cherry and even blueberries. The body is nice and ripe: notes of red apple move onto a cleverly-created wooden finish with bite despite being mild and reserved. This shows off some nice cedar wood character with a touch of smoke.
Again, it’s the attention to detail that makes this wine so impressive. Rather than just make a Pfalz Pinot Noir, you can tell that a highly-skilled winemaker chose to craft this wine as if it were a more prestigious and expensive wine. The Pfalz-terroir is there and so too is the sense of German Spätburgunder but the exquisite use of Barrique is so balanced and neither prominent nor jobless in presenting the wine – just right. Priced at 13€ the value-for-money factor is excellent and, even if the wine were 10€ more expensive, it’d be a fair buy.
The Nahe is probably best known for its Riesling and yet a number of wineries also use the valley’s slate soils to grow Pinot vines. The combination of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grown on slate is quite interesting: you get the fuller Burgundy notes of Pinot but with a freshness and mineral structure found in cold-climate slate wines. Pinot Blanc expresses this perhaps best but Pinot Noir is also very good at making the most of slate soils – Pinot Noir is, like Riesling, one of the best varietals for showing off the soil it grows on and, when it is handled like a white wine (e.g. little to no skin contact), it can really be very good in presenting a region as a whole.
Tesch is a well-known producer in the Nahe valley and, like most other Nahe producers, the Rieslings are the wines that most people are looking for. However, alongside a range of other products, they also make this fabulous Blanc de Noir named ‘Deep Blue’ after the ocean that used to exist there 20 million years ago.
Pale salmon – more rosé gold than pink.
Very fresh in the nose with a fair amount going on: most noticeable are the red berries: cherries and raspberry that eventually lead onto a thick strawberries and cream aroma. There is a hint of wet rock in the background and fresh herbs too.
The attack is very smooth. Lots of berries dictate the start: raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and perhaps even a touch of sweetened plum. The body moves onto Rhubarb with a unique vanilla and cream touch: custard perhaps – even ice cream. The finish is crisp however and brings in those slate notes – they are slightly dampened by the power of the fruit, which is probably just as well, otherwise they might feel a touch out of place.
Certainly a wine worth trying and one that fits excellently with fresh whitefish – not acid-driven as is often the case in both Nahe and Blanc de Noir wines, the body is big and warming whereas the overall feel is fresh and relaxed: the entire point in Blanc de Noir.
I too was impressed with the 2013 Riesling Brut from Reichsrat von Buhl (read my review here). After years of producing just another Winzersekt the 2013 Riesling Brut was the first large-scale proof that, after years of being otherwise mediocre, Riesling also works well in sparkling wine. With the bone-dry signature of new winemaker Mathieu Kauffmann, the Von Buhl series (in particular the still Rieslings) has come back out of the shadows and, alongside Dr. Bürklin-Wolf and Von Winning, is back at the forefront of Pfälzer Wein.
The 2013 Rosé Brut was released a few months after the Riesling Brut to much anticipation. Now sold-out, orders were limited to six bottles per customer – my handler was only able to sell me four bottles before he ran out as well, unable to replenish stocks.
The wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder in German). Aged for no less that 15 months on the yeast, the grapes are sourced from prime vineyards in the Pfalz region.
An elegant salmon pink with rose-gold gleam and a fine mousse.
Very fruity and yet incredibly discreet – nothing perfumed, nothing too bright and yet remarkably fresh: raspberry, strawberry and a hint of grapefruit with a toasty (although reserved) note.
The attack is both refreshing and yet not sharp: the sweeter side of grapefruit, raspberry and the strawberry in the nose are the first to appear and make up the body with the tarty appeal of rhubarb – no bitterness. The finesh is nice and toasty but in no way compromises either the freshness of the wine or the discreet appeal of the sweet red fruit. A touch of vanilla is perhaps there but plays a very background role.
A very well-made sparkling rosé and one of the best value-for-money bottles available in the pink bubbly sector altogether. Miles better than nearly all of the Champagne wines that retail for twice the 25€ price tag, the appeal is that it is so fresh. Whilst you might associate German Pinot Noir with earthy, Cassis-driven wines; this is clean, modern and very elegant.
If you can get hold of a bottle, you will not regret it. If you already have some in the cellar, it drinks beautifully now and will do for a long time yet.
The choice of James Bond in the earlier films and most probably the world’s most famous luxury and vintage Champagne, Dom Pérignon requires no introduction. Still....I’ll give it one anyway.
Whereas Pierre Pérignon is commonly named as the inventor of Champagne and the Méthode Champagnoise, he almost certainly wasn’t. I prefer the more modern term applied to the Benedictine monk: “the spiritual father of Champagne”. His Dom Péringon was a breakthrough product with quality, rather than production, in the foreground. Whilst DP might not be the finest Champagne Cuvée on the market anymore, it certainly belongs in the upper echelons.
Today’s Dom Pérignon is only produced in decent years – unlike a handful of other top producers’ entry-level wines, DP is always a vintage wine meaning that, if the grapes aren’t good enough in a certain year, they go into the wines labelled as “Moet & Chandon”, either vintage ones or not. Again, unlike several of the other luxury Champagne producers’ wines, Dom Perignon’s entry-level cuvée is made using grapes grown all over the region rather than only those from a declared individual site.
The 2003 wine is the second newest vintage on the market (after the 2004) and, whilst it will keep for decades, it offers lovely drinking right now.
Satin golf with a very fine mousse.
The nose was very reserved: more so than is typical for Champagne. There was a remarkable sense of fresh white peach and toasted white bread. Lemon peel was noticeable but only as a far-away aroma and not taking a foreground role in the slightest
The attack was of the finest lemon zest and delicate touch of stone fruit: the dusty peel of white peach and the sweeter notes of apricot were in there but they didn’t appear in the body. There was little juice but only the finest fruit-flesh. This made for very light drinking: hardly any harshness and yet the intensity of the flavour was in no way compromised. The finish carried on from the peach skin into a smoky, lightly wooded affair reminding one of the finish Burgundian, oak-aged Chardonnay. The yeast was very toast-like and I guess that a decent amount was used: it too is as reserved as the body and yet so unimaginably full of flavour.
Removing value-for-money from the equation for a second, this is a fabulous wine – utterly awesome in fact. It is about as perfect as I can imagine Champagne to be and so incredibly different to the non-vintage, branded wines I’ve tried before – it has more appeal, more taste, more class and a different depth than basic wines are able to offer. However, you can buy up to four bottles of Moët’s basic Brut for the same price and whilst that product is hardly a Champagne highlight, it’s better than 25% as good – far from (I think I awarded the non-vintage Moët 80 points a few years ago). Still, this is a must-try for anyone into wine and Champagne lovers….I’m hooked at least.
German Pinot Noir is a mixed business – there are some fantastic wines out that at least rival the decent stuff from Burgundy. Whilst top-par might still be a few years away, the best German Pinot is just as good as some of the stuff that fetches hundreds of euros in France, however it costs only about half the price.
Not all Pinot is good though, in fact the vast majority is worth forgetting – whilst the wines could never be labelled as bad: their international appeal is low: they're often clumsy and sometimes feel unripe. They fulfill a purpose though: people buy them in supermarkets and they offer decent value for money.
The wines that stand out often come from producers that are pretty much only bothered with the Pinot varietals: seldom do Riesling wineries create excellent Pinot although it does happen, just not so often. In Germany’s Baden and Ahr valleys are where Pinot Noir is at its most focused. Whereas a handful of Pfalz wineries do create excellent Pinot Noir, I genuinely believe the best wines come from the Ahr and Baden.
One such winery that has recently sprung to attention is the Huber winery in Malterdingen. Alongside a handful of entry-level, varietal wines, the producer is famed for its single-vineyard Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) wines. This Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder as it is locally known) from the Hecklingen vineyard of Sommerhalde is one such wine. The vineyard is at the foot of the Black Forest which offers some of the finest limestone and iron-laden soil in all of Baden.
Cherry red – translucent.
Lots and lots of fresh red berries on the nose: Cassis is very prominent but so too are a whole compote of forest fruits: wild strawberries, blackcurrant and raspberry but also cranberry. There is a toasty, earthy aroma on the nose that reminds slightly of smoke.
This youthful wine starts with tart and refined black and red berries. The sharper notes of Cassis and blackcurrant are the most noticeable and they slowly lead on to a body dominated by raspberry, cranberry, strawberry and even watermelon. The finish is rather long, contains a touch of chalk, a hint of smoke and a typically-German earthy bite.
The fruit was still in its infancy: a few years in the cellar might round off that sharpness (although I found it gave the wine some character). Unfortunately though, the finish wasn’t half as rewarding as the rest of the drink: something was missing – oak perhaps? Everything else about the wine was worthy of the Grand Cru quality the wine proudly boasts– the finish let the wine down in my opinion however the winery caters for a whole host of styles and it is refreshing to see a winery making high-quality Pinot Noir without just copying the guys in Burgundy. The driven fruit however is some of the best I’ve ever experienced in a German Pinot.
The Ahr Valley is one of Germany’s smallest production areas and one of the Northernmost too – interestingly it isn’t so well-known for the production of white wine but rather the red stuff. Thanks to a unique micro-climate helped by the steep valley sides and the slate soils which are able to store warmth: the Ahr is home to some of the best Pinot Noir Germany has to offer with a fuller flavour than is possible in many other areas.
One of the region’s largest producers is its vintners’ cooperative: Dagernova which also markets its wines under the ‘Ahr Winzer’ brand. Alongside a whole host of varietal wines in every variation imaginable, the winery also makes a series of premium reds such as this one, based on Pinot Noir.
Pomegranate red with a pinky, clear hue.
Cassis and cranberry were the first things to note but eventually an earthy, woody sense poked through as well: this brought a vegetative feel to the whole nose.
The Cassis on the attack was closed and rather woody. It didn’t really open up and, when the other berries came through (blackcurrant, strawberry), it vanished: never to return. The body was slightly sour, juicy but also very earthy. The finish was crisp and reminded of soil, pine-wood and stone.
This was one of those typical German reds of the olden days: little wood on the finish meant that the unmistakable note of just-ripe Pinot Noir was allowed to escape and kind of bring the whole wine out of balance. There was nothing unpleasant and the whole affair was round and complete, just unrefined and a bit messy. A brilliant food wine nonetheless: game dishes such as roast boar or venison fit wonderfully with this kind of wine.
Nationally regarded as one of the country’s best red wine production areas, the Ahr is a miniature spec on the face of world winemaking. Its 520 hectares of viticulture are dominated by Pinot Noir (62.2%) and many speculate that the best Spätburgunders of Germany are made in the Ahr Valley.
Situated in Rheinland-Pfalz, the Ahr valley’s Southern Slopes are protected by the Eifel Mountains close by. With an average yearly temperature of 9.5˚C, it has a Mediterranean-style microclimate that is perfect for the cultivation of red grapes and particularly those that thrive in cooler environments.
Meyer-Näkel is one of Ahr’s biggest names and although they produce some wines that retail for well over 50€ a bottle, they also have a range of entry level reds that are moderately priced between 10 and 15 euros. This wine is a simple Qualitätswein simply named “Spätburgunder 2010” and is aged in large oak barrels for around six months. With 13.5% alcohol by volume, this dry, attractively-packaged wine is a simple Spätburgunder that greatly reflects the region's potential.
Cherry red, clear, browny hue.
Big notes of fresh cherries greet the nose and other wild and sour berries are in there as well. Gooseberries, blackberries and even a refreshing burst of sweet raspberry are also to detect but these are expertly combined with a mild sense of acidity.
The taste is dominated by sweet-sour cherry and a milder, more-rounded sense of raspberry. There appears to exist a faint sense of vanilla which takes the sour edge off of the berries . Although wood isn’t too far off, it is somewhat overshadowed by a slight sense of earth in the wine and fairly powerful minerals. The finish is long and is characterised by the lightly balanced acidity in the red fruit.
Not just a great German wine but a good wine altogether. A real feeling of grandeur is expressed by the wine from the elegant packaging right up until the finish of the last sip. Although there are better Pinot Noir wines out there for the same money, this is a superb example of just how good German red wine can be. Although fairly pricey in comparison to other Spätburgunder wines from the same country, the wine still represents good value for money and makes a perfect companion to game dishes
As Germany’s warmest wine producing region with the highest yearly temperatures and most sunshine hours, Baden seems to be the perfect place to grow Pinot Noir and any other red varietals for that matter. Baden accounts for about half of the total Spätburgunder production in Germany and its reds are widely available all over the country. Usually simpler in style, Baden wines are often very expressive of the ground they are grown in and certainly reflect the warmer climate towards the Southern end of the Rhine.
In Northern Baden, many producers favour the Burgundy grapes, white and red, and are thought to be the driving force behind Germany’s “Pinot Revolution” – the increasing popularity of all wines based on Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling), Auxerrois, Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder), Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder) and, of course, Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder).
Blankenhorn is a popular producer in the Markgräflerland - one of the most southerly parts of Baden. Famed for its low-acid Chasselas (Gutedel) white wines, it is also seen by many as one of Baden’s better producers of Pinot Noir and a new(ish) movement has seen the winery experiment with putting wine produced from the better, older vines into Barriques, true to the way most top end Burgundy is made a few hundred kilometres to the South West.
Bright translucent red with a pink/violet hue.
Lots of fresh Cassis on the nose with a whole compote full of fresh forest fruits: blackcurrants, wild strawberries, redcurrants and even some lovely cranberry. This is a lovely toasty, woody vanilla in the nose too.
The Cassis on the attack is very composed but also rather sharp and sweet – it quickly gives way to a forest fruit-driven body with an underlying vanilla edge. The finish is smoky, reminds of high-quality tobacco and the oak is very exquisitely done.
An astonishingly ripe and well-made Pinot Noir whereby, despite being the defining characteristic of the wine, the Barrique touch is worked-in rather than worked-around. Seldom do German Pinots work so well with so much wood. This is a great wine for game, lamb dishes and even more powerful roast beef dishes thanks to the fuller flavour from the wood.
English wine is hard to find in Germany so imagine my surprise when I saw Hattingley Valley for sale at my local supermarket. I’ll admit, I hadn’t tried anything from the producer before so it wasn’t long before a bottle of Classic Cuvee made its way into my shopping basket.
Hattingley Valley’s winery is situated in Lower Wield, right in the middle of Hampshire in Southern England. The 2010 vintage was the winery’s first and the grapes are grown in the producer’s own vineyard of over 24 hectares. The head winemaker is Emma Rice who has recently been awarded with the United Kingdom Vineyards Association ‘Winemaker of the year’ title – you might recognise her name from her days at Nyetimber – probably England’s most famous sparkling wine producer.
This wine is made of the classic Champagne varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir and 25% of the total blend was aged in old Burgundy barrels. 2011 was a particularly good vintage for English wine thanks to the warm late summer period meaning that the grapes achieved a high level of ripeness.
A lovely peach-toned colour with a bright, off-gold appearance. Fine and composed bubble structure.
A very fragrant fruit note is the first thing to notice about this wine, alongside the typical citrus and orchard fruit exists a sense of something red – raspberries perhaps but this is so faint it disappears as soon as the brioche notes appear with a unique feel of oak at the end of the nose.
Very fresh on the attack with notes of apples and pears, it soon made way to a zesty lemon and floral body which eventually goes on to a brioche taste and a light smoky feel on an oak-tinted finish (an interesting touch rather than overdoing it as is so often the case)
A very good but also very individual wine – a lot of English wines are Champagne copycats but this one, despite opting for the same varietals, takes a unique approach with those fresh apples and pears and the oak on the finish. I like that in a wine, particularly in English wine – I believe this to be the future rather than creating a style of wine that already exists.
Les Folies de la Marquetterie is a terroir Champagne from world-famous brand Taittinger. The grapes used (45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir) are sourced only from the Folies vineyard, a slope that overlooks the Château de la Marquetterie – the origin of the Taittinger Champagne brand.
Only the must from the first pressing is used to create the wine, which is produced in small batches and some of the base wines are aged in large oak casks before the second fermentation.
Taittinger is one of the largest and best-known Champagne brands from Reims, as one of only a handful of brands still privately owned, its wines are available worldwide and, alongside its standard Brut Reserve line and its renowned Comtes de Champagne vintage series, the house has a selection of limited-edition specialities: les Folies de la Marquetterie is one of these.
Deep golden yellow with a fine, consistent and delicate mousse.
A delicate undertone of fresh fruit defines the wine at all times: whilst there is a certain amount of citrus: particularly sweet lemon and pink grapefruit, the deciding characteristics are of stone fruits: mostly white peach and sweet, juicy apricots. A fresh sense of green apple was also to detect as well as a sense of toasty sweet pastry and a faint sense of Cognac.
After a fairly long, sweet-sour attack in which both the peach and lemon played a role came a big yellow-fruit body which brought with it brioche, fresh toast and a faint sense of wood. Whilst the body was pleasant and relatively large, it was composed and clean and a slight mineral touch consisting of iron and slate finishing off the wine cleanly without a long finish.
A very appealing sparkling wine – whilst it possessed all of the notes typically attributed to Champagne, it was all very compact and tidy. The body was large and yet delicate – not a note out of place and strong enough not to disappoint. It felt a little more exclusive than its price tag would suggest and I was pretty sure that the Chardonnay came through a lot better than the Pinot Noir despite it being of a smaller quantity.
Serve with white fish starters, Raclette or simply as an aperitif to a light meal.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry