Spätburgunder New Wave German Pinot Noir
There has been something of a slow revolution in German winemaking over the last thirty to forty years with increasing interest in both dry whites and, particularly, domestically produced red wines. Production of Pinot Noir, known locally as Spätburgunder, has gained a lot of traction recently as people discover how much has changed, qualitatively speaking, over the last 20 years.
The history of the vine in Germany leads us back to the Roman conquests over two thousand years ago and, of course, fashions and grapes have changed over the centuries. Spätburgunder was first recorded in German vineyards in 884, planted in southern Germany’s Baden region, which remains the most prolific producer of quality Spätburgunder to this day. Never the less, Spätburgunder is seen today as Germany’s hot new wine and rising star; many factors have come together over the past two decades that have allowed German Spätburgunder to change from (let’s be honest here) a relative frog into something more akin to a prinz. Climate, experiments with different clones, judicious wood ageing, and above all consumer demand has driven change in techniques and attitude at the winery.
There’s also no denying that we at Ten-Acre have been a little conservative in our approach to Spätburgunder, anyone that has memories of Spätburgunder from 2 or 3 decades ago would be obliged to hesitate before declaring red the new black in Germany so we thought it was time to take a long, hard look at some of the hot new producers and wines and whilst there were a few disappointments, and certainly occasions where one had to wonder if we were tasting the same wine when comparing our notes with a particular review, there is no doubt in our minds that Spätburgunder has moved on dramatically and now offers a different and quite delicious take on Pinot Noir.
This is our selection of what we consider to be the best value for money.Price is per 6 x 75cl inclusive of VAT, delivery is free over £200.10% discount on 24 bottles or more, maybe mixed.
The original home of Spätburgunder, the Ahr consists of slate and greywacke (muddy sandstone formed through decomposition) soils on steep-sided slopes either side of the river. The wines tend to be paler and browner than those from further south, but this is not reflected in the flavour. Whether because of the soil or the climate, acidity levels remain quite high, even when the grapes are fully ripe, making them more aromatic than the wines from Pfalz and Baden.
Weingut Meyer-Näkel, Dernau
Run by two sisters, Meike and Dörte, the granddaughters of one of the first growers to pioneer the production of dry red wines in the Ahr. 2018 Spätburgunder – £141 Aged in large oak barrels in the traditional manner. Easily the best Spätburgunder I have tasted at this sort of price level.Ruby red. Still a little closed on the nose; cherry, red fruit, pine resin. Fruit more evident on the palate; good structure, with soft, ripe tannins and nice acidity. Medium long finish, fruity but clean. Will improve with a couple of years in cellar..
2017 Blauschiefer Spätburgunder – £201 ‘Blauschiefer’ means ‘blue slate’, a common theme in the region. This wine has been a consistent appearance in Carsten Henn’s ‘111 Deutsche Weine, die man getrunken haben muss’ (111 German wines that you have to have drunk), a guide to the best that Germany can offer for under 25 € (sorry we can’t match the price but it’s still very good value). Aged in used French oak barriques.
Deep brick red; quite aromatic, although still quite closed. Smoky, red fruit, plum and cherry compote and fruit stone, liquorice, bay leaf, pepper. Plenty of ripe tannin, soft with little acidity but still well balanced. Long finish, clean but slightly peppery.
Josten & Klein, Mayschoss
The other end of the spectrum. A new estate formed by two friends who decided to stop sending their grapes to the cooperative and instead produce their own wine (it has to be said, with excellent results).
2016 Schiefer Pinot Noir £149.70
They own several sites along the Ahr valley, and this is a blend from most of them. They’re producing wines of real character, and this one is already drinking well.
Fairly pale garnet robe. Quite aromatic, with cherry, kirsch, blackcurrant, plum, clove, pepper, dry forest floor. Cherry, clove and pepper on the palate and the finish. Good balance with ripe tannins, and peppery mouthfeel. Finish medium long, clean but again peppery. Probably needs quite spicy food (can see it going well with smoked pork and sauerkraut).
2015 Mayschoss Pinot Noir – £189
Exclusively from vines on slate soils around the town of Mayschoss, where most of their vineyards are situated, including the famous Mönchberg and Burgberg. Fermented in stainless steel, followed by malolactic in barrel and aging for 18 months in 225- and 500-litre new and used oak barrels. You won’t find anything better under £50.
Medium garnet colour. Very aromatic, though still quite closed at first. Red fruit, cherry, plum, pine resin, vanilla, roasted nuts, mushroom, a hint of chocolate. Complex on the palate with a very good structure; firm but ripe tannins, good acidity and a juicy ripeness. Long finish, clean but fruity. Excellent with grilled or roast meat and game (had it with venison) but does need food.
Weingut Friedrich Becker, Schweigen, PfalzA long-established estate that is highly rated. Their vineyards lie at the extreme south of the Pfalz, on either side of the German-French border. The Alsatian part is, however, clearly a continuation of the Pfalz vineyard and quite separate from the Alsatian vineyards, which only start to the south of Strasbourg, so there is some logic there.
2016 Schweigen Pinot Noir, VDP.Ortswein – £195
Produced from vines of 26 to 51 years of age on limestone soils at the very southern tip of the Pfalz, on both German and French sides of the border. Selected grapes were destemmed and fermented in open oak vats, followed by 17 months in small, French and German oak barrels. Very good, the most ‘drinkable’ of all the Spätburgunders I’ve tried, in that it doesn’t need food.
Deep peony red. Aromatic with ripe aromas; floral notes, rose, blackberry, cherry, coffee, wood smoke. Plenty of fruit in the mouth, concentrated and structured, with ripe tannins and very good balance. Long finish, clean.
Weingut Bercher, BurkheimThis is another estate that owns some top sites and has a good reputation for continued excellence. The most ‘Burgundian’ of all the Spätburgunders I’ve tasted, but without the finesse.
2015 Sasbacher Limburg Spätburgunder, VDP.Erste Lage – £209.70A wine from a single, named vineyard (Erste Lage = ‘Premier Cru’). Aged for 18 months in oak barriques.Very deep peony red. Very aromatic but not the most complex: cherry, redcurrant, plum, coffee. Fruit and old wood on the palate. Good structure with concentrated, ripe tannins. Long, fruity finish, quite firm tannins