Germany – the third- largest producer of Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) in the World
TEXT & PHOTOS: IRIS ELLMANN
In Germany, Spätburgunder is to red wine what Riesling is to white wine – widely considered the cream of the crop. In fact, Germany is the world’s third- largest producer of Pinot Noir. The German name for the grape, Spätburgunder, translates as late (spät) ripening pinot (burgunder).
Sensitive to climate and soil, Spätburgunder grapes need warmth, but not intense heat, to thrive and do well in chalky soils. As the name implies, it ripens late in the season (spät) and was brought to Germany from Burgundy, where it has probably been cultivated since at least the fourth century (first documented, however, in the 14th century). In France, the grape is called Pinot Noir and produces elegant, velvety wines with a distinctive bouquet reminiscent of bitter almonds or blackberries.
Germany’s traditional style of Spätburgunder is lighter in colour, body and tannic acidity than its counterparts from warmer climates. However, many contemporary winemakers are producing Spätburgunders that are more international in style – fuller-bodied, deep red and with higher tannin levels. Often the wines take on more depth and complexity, as well as a light vanilla tone, if they are aged in small oak barrels. Spätburgunder grapes are grown in around 11 per cent (11,800 hectares in 2019) of Germany’s vineyards – primarily in the southern regions of Baden and Württemberg, as well as in the northerly regions of the Ahr valley, where the grapes account for over 65 per cent vineyard area. There are also smaller, but well- known vineyards in Pfalz, Rheingau and other regions.
“My favourite time of year is winter, and a great Pinot Noir is the manifestation of everything I love about this season. With its hauntingly complex bouquet of cherries and violets, sometimes roses with undertones of frosty trees and forest floor, mushrooms and young, freshly waxed leather, it is lively but at the same time hints at the ephemeral quality of life. It carries a beautiful melancholic melody. Pinot Noir whispers rather than shouts and it makes you quiet, wanting to sit and listen to what it’s got to say. And it will tell you of connectedness, artisanality, attention and place. German Pinot Noirs are among the best in the world and can easily compete with the best 1er and Grand Crus from Burgundy,” says Anna D’Alessandro, sommeliere at New Street Wine Shop (D&D Group) in London.
Multi-award-winning wine merchant – The WineBarn – was the first wine merchant to bring Spätburgunder to the UK. Their wines are listed in Michelin-star restaurants, are stocked by high-end retailers and are available via their website.
The WineBarn recommend three of their most popular Spätburgunders;
1. Becker – 2016 “Becker Family” Spätburgunder QbA dry
An excellent entry-level Pinot from the Pfalz region, it is a pleasant, clear ruby-red wine. In the nose, it has scents of wild berries, tobacco, spices and forest floor. On the palate it is juicy and elegant, with excellent length and structure.
£17.30 per bottle
2. Dr Heger – 2015 Ihringer Vorderer Winklerberg Spätburgunder Grand Cru
From the Baden region, this Spätburgunder has aromas of dark raspberries, sloe berries, spicy morello cherries, red plums and a subtle touch of smokiness, spice, bitter chocolate and mocha. It has an extraordinarily tight- knit, complex bouquet, with a very fine minerality. A marvellously balanced body, with aromatic richness on the palate, it has a fine acidity that adds a discreet freshness. Dense, perfectly balanced and with an upright backbone, this wine has an impressively long- lasting finish.
£60.50 per bottle
3. Kranz – 2017 Arzheimer am Fürstenweg Spätburgunder Premier Cru dry
Kranz is an organic wine producer based in the Pfalz region of Germany. It is committed to sustainable, quality-orientated viticulture that produces VDP-standard wines. This juicy, elegant Spätburgunder Premier Cru has well- integrated fine tannins and cool, precise cherry-fruity, herbal and spicy aromas. It creates a tension on the palate and has a fine bite.
£26.20 per bottle
To find your new favourite German wine, you can contact the award-winning merchant The WineBarn now.
Iris Ellmann is the managing director of The WineBarn, a multi-award-winning wine merchant that has been importing premium German wines to the UK for over 20 years. The WineBarn team lives, breathes and loves wine. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany, Switzerland & Austria.
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