PINOT NOIR’S NEW ACCENT
THE 2007 VINTAGE DISPLAYED A YOUTHFUL, RUBY SHADE. IT WAS LIGHT- BODIED, STRUCTURED AND A WELL- RIPENED WINE WITH CONCENTRATED FRUIT AND BERRY FLAVOURS
Given that it’s Germany, wouldn’t it be too cold to grow red grapes there?’ – Such bewilderment is a normal reaction when someone mentions red wines and Germany. A picture of steep- sloped river- facing, sunbathing yet sunstarved Riesling bunches in the terraced vineyards of Mosel come to mind when one pictures the German countryside. To superimpose that imagery with even the thought of sites and climes that could go on to produce polished reds is quite unsettling for most vinos, since the image does not really fit. However, Spätburgunder, the local name for Pinot Noir and synonymous with reds in the region, has existed in these very vineyards from the turn of 20th century.
Despite its generational presence though, it is only in the past three decades that it has grown to this stature and continues to enjoy an elevated place on the rapidly expanding wine map of the world.
Spätburgunder is believed to be Burgundian Pinot Noir’s late- ripening ( spät) cousin who backpacked his way to the other side of the border. It’s true that the early examples of its wines were, pale, thin, and intimidatingly sweet- sour in taste, however, the combination of heat, persistence of German winemakers, the influx of French technology post the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the development in palates led to an appreciation of this style of wine. Today, experts and academicians claim that German pinots are the wine- world’s best- guarded secret.
Recently, I drew a sip of an enticing Spätburgunder from the house of Bernhard Huber, who, I later realised, is a pioneer in German pinot production. Located in Baden ( south) the fruit for their Scholssberg range arrives from what is regarded as the best vineyard in the region and thus labelled as ‘ Grosses Gewachs’, representing the pinnacle of the German quality wine pyramid ( meaning Grand cru). The 2007 vintage displayed a youthful ruby shade. It was light- bodied, structured, and a well- ripened wine, with concentrated flavours of red cherries, strawberries, pomegranate, rhubarb, violet perfume, hint of minty freshness, finishing with a sweet oak lift of baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Tannins were supple and minerality- driven acidity was quite surreal making it the perfect companion to a hearty Indian meal.
The German Rieslings are undoubtedly most respected in the connoisseur realms. It would now seem that this part of Europe has successfully managed to bring a similar level of focused devotion to the Spätburgunders. Today, the wine world seems to be coming to agreement over the fact that German winemakers are gradually making wines that are competitive and sit comfortably besides top Burgundian, Oregon, and New Zealander drops in blind- tastings. It seems to be only a matter of time before they’ll be rated highly on our local wine lists too. Till then, to the respectful Späts of Rudolf Früst and Bernhard Huber, we raise a welldeserved toast. Jubel!