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To Drink or Not to Drink Spätburgunder

by Tom Chadwick (Trade Sales)

I must confess to never having been the wide-eyed boy, looking up in awe of the teacher from the front row in class – but within 5 minutes of our German Pinot Noir ‘lesson’ all eight of us were hooked and locked into every word we heard. You will no doubt be aware of the classic wine tasting evening – the one that starts off in silence and, as the wine flows, so the noise in the room increases with excitement; we too started off our educational evening like this. However it wasn’t the wine that intoxicated us (at least not to begin with) but rather the passionate knowledge that was being spoon fed to us like a mother bird feeding her young.

One might say if you don’t think you like the violin, go and see the Violin Concerto in D Major by Ludwig Van Beethoven. Likewise, if you don’t think you like Spätburgunder, book Anne Krebiehl MW in for a wine tasting...

Germany Tasting Anne Krebiehl MW

We were treated to seven wines, all hand-picked by Anne, and each bottle was welcomed with gusto. I confess, this was an area I knew absolutely nothing about but by the end of the evening, I left wanting to learn more, buy lots and spread the knowledge.

Why do none of us drink German Pinot Noir? Well I think the historic perception is echoed beautifully below by none other than Robert Parker, and pretty much sums up what many people think about this particular beverage:

“…a grotesque and ghastly wine that tastes akin to a defective, sweet, faded, diluted red Burgundy from an incompetent producer…” Robert Parker, Wine Buyer’s Guide 6th Ed.

This is, or rather was, the common misconception. Well, Mr Parker, you should have come to our tasting because German Pinot Noir – or Spätburgunder – needs a whole new reassessment.

German Pinot Noir Spatburgunder Ahr

A few facts for you:

Back in the 1930s, any research that was carried out in the vineyards was focused on achieving high yields. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the selection of loose, small-berried clones, the likes of which had proven so successful for premium production around the world, became a priority. Now, anyone who knows anything about Pinot Noir is aware of its thin skin and rot susceptibility in the vineyard – so one wonders what took them so long for the paradigm shift from quantity to quality. Specifically (here comes the geeky bit) clones 20-13GM and FR1801 were only registered as recently as 1999 and 2004 (did anyone reading this know that? I suspect not). Furthermore, did you know that as of 2006, Germany has become the world’s third-largest grower of Pinot Noir after France and the US respectively? This means Germany has more plantings of Pinot Noir than Australia and New Zealand put together.

If the scale of production is impressive, the range of styles is even more so. This is hardly surprising when one considers that Germany covers more than four degrees of latitude; when you think about how much fuss we make about the north-south differences in the Cote d’Or, a mere strip of land, you start to get the picture of how varied the options are with Spätburgunder. One quote which stands out from the night for me was how “Pinot loves a warm spot in a cool climate…..that is Germany!

Germany Pinot Noir Spatburgunder

Seismic changes have taken place in the last few years that are going to have HUGE and very positive repercussions over the coming vintages. The proof of the pudding is going to be the uncovering of many more stunning examples of Pinot Noir and I am very excited to watch this evolution. Wine lovers, YOU MUST sit up and take notice of this quiet revolution happening under our very noses.

A few weeks ago we offered a stunning array of wines from Egon Müller which sold out overnight… so watch this space for more Germanic offerings that will blow your mind!

German Pinot Noir Spatburgunder

Thank you Anne Krebiehl MW for a fascinating and hugely enjoyable evening.

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