Wine tasting

  • Spätburgunder, Germany’s rising star

    Germany is so closely associated with white wine - especially Riesling - that it almost comes as a surprise that it is actually the world’s third biggest producer of Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder - as they call it in Germany. Not tried Spätburgunder yet? It's time to realize that Pinot Noir is not all about Burgundy!

    Vineyards in Pfalz - Photo Wolfgang Staudt Vineyards in Pfalz - Photo Wolfgang Staudt

    Key facts about German Spätburgunder

     Pinot Noir plantings

    • Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir after France and the US.
    • Germany grows more Pinot Noir than Australia and New Zealand combined.
    • Pinot Noir is the most planted black grape variety in Germany, accounting for 11.5% of total plantings. It has grown steadily since the 1980s when it accounted for less than 4% of German plantings.
    • Baden – Germany’s southernmost wine region – accounts for almost half of total Pinot Noir acreage in Germany. There are also significant plantings in Pfalz (one of the sunniest regions in Germany), Rheinhessen and Württemberg. Together these four regions account for 85% of Pinot Noir plantings in Germany.
    Spätburgunder vineyards - Photo Denkrahm Spätburgunder vineyards - Photo Denkrahm

    The keys to produce great Pinot Noir

    • Pinot Noir needs a “warm spot in an otherwise cool climate”. Steep, south-facing German vineyards are among the few places where Pinot Noir can thrive.
    • While the French almost exclusively favour limestone soils to grow Pinot Noir, in Germany this grape is grown in much more diverse soil types (limestone, schist, slate, sandstone, loam, volcanic soils, etc.) which results in a spectacular range of styles.
    • With so many variations in soils and winemaking, there is no such thing as one style of German Pinot Noir. However German Spätburgunder remains definitely “Old World” in style, with fresh red berry aromas and a vibrant, refreshing acidity.


    Spätburgunder flavour profile

    Pinot Noir flavour profile

    Appearance: pale to medium ruby colour

    Nose: Intense, bright aromas of fresh fruits: red and black berries such as raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, black cherry, mulberry and any other berries you can imagine. Floral hints with aromas of violet and rose petals. Sometimes complemented with oak aromas (vanilla, toast, smoke, cloves, cinnamon, etc.)

    Palate: Light and delicate on the palate with crisp, refreshing acidity that enhances the bright fruit flavours (raspberry, black cherry, etc.) Low level of ripe, silky tannins.


    A few of our favourite Spätburgunder

    Oliver Zeter Pinot Noir

    Oliver Zeter Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 - Pfalz (£25.00 RRP) - Intense aromas of perfectly ripe red berries, raspberry and red cherry, together with well-integrated oak (hints of toast and vanilla). Well-balanced and silky on the palate, with a refreshing acidity, fine-grained, ripe tannins and a rather long, juicy finish. A well-balanced, modern wine showing immediate appeal. Very good.

    Bernhard Huber Bienenberg Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs 2012 - Baden (£34.46 RRP) - Vibrant aromas of fresh red berries and spices. Well-balanced and delicate on the palate, with a solid acid backbone which makes it definitely German in style. Long vibrant finish. An outstanding wine from Germany's Pinot Noir "godfather".

    This blog post is based on Anne Krebiehl MW's seminar on "Germany’s rising red star – Pinot Noir" at G Major Trade Tasting organised by Wines of Germany.


    Want to know more about German Pinot Noir? Have a look at this interview of Anne Krebiehl MW (@AnneInVino)

  • Our top wines from Pouilly-Fuissé

    I have recently tasted more than a hundred Chardonnays from the Mâconnais region at Artisans Vignerons de Bourgogne du Sud  annual tasting. This small-scale wine fair – held annually at the Castle of Hurigny in Southern Burgundy – gathers “a small group of wine-growing friends in the Mâcon wine-growing region” who aim at producing wines “on the basis of small-scale, human, craftsman-based agriculture”.

    Domaine Cornin Pouilly-Fuissé Domaine Cornin - Photo: Marie-Anne Onraed

    Even without some of the best-known names in the region such as Domaine Ferret or Belgian-born Jean-Marie Guffens, I have to say that I have been very impressed by the high quality level of most wines presented at the tasting. The Mâconnais is increasingly becoming the region of choice for those looking for excellent value white Burgundies. The most talented winemakers of the Mâconnais now produce complex and vibrant Chardonnays selling for little more than what you would pay for entry-level regional appellation wines from the far more famous Côte-d'Or in the heart of Burgundy.

    Here are our top five wines from Pouilly-Fuissé, the star appellation of the Mâconnais region (in no particular order). Other very good Pouilly-Fuissé tasted there include wines by rising-star Denis Jeandeau, Pierre Vessigaud or “natural wine” oriented producer Philippe Valette.

    Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards seen from the Rock of Solutré Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards seen from the Rock of Solutré - Photo: Sylvain Wellhoff

    Domaine Cornin Pouilly-Fuissé Les Chevrières 2012: this is a wine we know pretty well as Cornin’s Chevrières 2011 is the Chardonnay we have selected for Sip and Learn box #1. The 2012 – which was still a bit closed in previous tastings – is now showing very well, with elegant aromas of pear, citrus fruit, nuts, honeysuckle, together with hints of butter and vanilla. Round and perfectly balanced on the palate, in a more delicate style than Clos Reyssié (Cornin’s other single-vineyard Pouilly-Fuissé). Excellent (organic)

    Saumaize-Michelin Pouilly-Fuissé Clos sur La Roche 2013: “Sur La Roche” vineyard in the village of Vergisson is one of the most intriguing single-vineyards in the Pouilly-Fuissé area. As the name suggests, the vines are grown on the limestone soils of the Rock of Vergisson. At around 400 metres above sea level, this is a high-altitude vineyard by Burgundy standards. Probably not the most expressive wine of the tasting, but elegant and delicate, with excellent acidity and a strong mineral character. Good / Very good (organic).

    Château des Rontets Les Birbettes 2012: Château des Rontets wines will never be the showiest wines around when young but the 2012 Birbettes is surely one of the most elegant Pouilly-Fuissé of the vintage. White fruit flavours with delicate aromas of nuts, white flavours and just the slightest hint of vanilla. Not quite as big on the palate as many others wines, but perfectly balanced, with a long finish. Will need cellaring to unfurl fully. Excellent (organic)

    Domaine de Thalie Pouilly-Fuissé 2012: made from purchased grapes as this young winemaker – whose winery was established only five years ago – doesn’t own vineyards in Pouilly-Fuissé. Flavours of ripe peach, pear, vanilla with a slight iodine character. Not the most concentrated wine on the palate, but very well balanced. Rather long finish with orange marmalade notes. Well worth a try if you can get your hands on one of the only 1,500 bottles produced. Excellent value (organic).

    Frantz Chagnoleau Pouilly-Fuissé Pastoral 2013: Frantz Chagnoleau was born and raised in the Cognac region – not Burgundy. He established his winery five years ago, after working with Olivier Merlin, one of the best-known names in the Mâconnais region. His wife Caroline – a trained enologist who has worked in Napa Valley – is now working with him. This wine has been made from purchased grapes as Frantz Chagnoleau doesn’t own vineyards in Pouilly-Fuissé. Elegant aromas of citrus fruit, with a hint of reduction and toasted notes from oak ageing that will integrate over time. Rich, round and balanced on the palate. Frantz Chagnoleau is convinced that there is still plenty of room for improvement for this wine. Already very good (organic).

    Pouilly-Fuissé is only the tip of the iceberg of great wines produced in the Mâconnais region Coming soon: our top wines from the lesser-known appellation of Southern Burgundy (Saint-Véran, Viré-Clessé, Mâcon-Villages).

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