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)

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