PINOT NOIR’S NEW AC­CENT

India Today - - WINE - Ga­gan Sharma is a cer­ti­fied som­me­lier and wine ed­u­ca­tor based in New Delhi

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!

GA­GAN SHARMA

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