Most people associate German wines with Riesling. Germany is definitely Riesling’s main home, but out of 23 percent of the grapes grown, there is much more to it than that. Germany’s warmer southern wine regions, such as Baden and Württemberg, don’t always have the right slate soil to make great Riesling, and affluent white wines are often made from Pinots Blanc (Weißburgunder) and Gris (Grauburgunder). The last one in bunches of pink is Monk Gray, brought to Germany by Cistercian monks from Cîteaux in Burgundy in the Middle Ages. Monks were supposed to introduce Pinot Noir black wine as well, and after France and the United States, there is more Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) in Germany than anywhere else in the world. For obvious reasons, white, gray and black Pinots are known collectively as the Burgunder variety in Germany.
While rarely as luxurious as the greatest red of Côte de Nuits in Burgundy, the German Pinot Noir can be simply gorgeous. The best are produced in the northern region of Ahr, near the Cold War capital, Bonn, where they can be very tender and flowery. They are also a place of stock trading in and around Kaiserstuhl, the extinct volcano in Baden. These are the hottest places in Germany and here they tend to get fatter. Pinot Noir, however, is not limited to one more area: it is successfully planted in Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Nahe and Pfalz and with climate change, the results are getting better.
The problem with the top German Spätburgunder or Pinot Noir is that they can be expensive – sometimes almost as expensive as the best Burgundy. Not everyone can run to star Baden farmers like Hegers, Hubers, Kellers, Salweys or even personal favorite, Fritz Wassmer; or Fürst in Franconia, Knipser or Kuhn in Pfalz; August Kesseler at Rheingau; or Adeneuer, Kreuzberg, Mayer-Näkel, Nelles or Stodden in Ahr.
So I asked German expert David Motion, the owner of the flagship Wineries in Little Venice London (a second store opening soon on Parson’s Green) to provide some good-value Burgunders advice, and here are the results. With one exception they all come for under £ 20 per bottle.
Weißburgunders starts with 2019 from Borrell-Diehl in the south of the Palatinate or Pfalz (£ 12.99). It is very cheap for a handcrafted wine of this quality. It’s led with a smell of talc, apple and pear, and has good weight and a very long finish.
Next up is Walter’s simple, fresh and clean 2018 summer wine at Briedel on the Mosel (£ 14.99) – a stronghold of the German Riesling. From Gau-Odernheim in the middle of Rheinhessen there is a cool and juicy 2019 from Becker-Landgraf (£ 18.99). My favorite in-flight wine is Borrell-Diehl’s 2019 old wine (Alte Reben) Hainfelder Letten Grauburgunder (£ 16.99) with its delightful rosewater aroma and pronounced spiciness.
So for the reds: Borrell-Diehl Spätburgunder 2018 is a fun, light wine priced at £ 13.99. There was a smell of caramel / toffee on the nose and a hint of strawberry flavor on the palate. The Bischel Winery in Appenheim near Bingen in Rheinhessen is a new member of the VDP elite group which comprises most of Germany’s top plantations among its members. The 2017 Spätburgunder (£ 18.99) has lots of raspberries and cherries and a nice structure. Sinß is in Windesheim in Nahe, close to Bischel, but on the other side of the Nahe River. The Spätburgunder ‘S’ (£ 22.99) is concentrated, with lots of fiery fruit and a little chocolate; but my personal favorite is 2018 from Becker-Landgraf in Rheinhessen (£ 18.99). It’s not thunder at all, but a light, cool Pinot Noir with an authenticity taste that you’ll recognize anywhere as Pinot Noir.
One wine on the list doesn’t come from David’s shop: Sect. Provocateur Bibo Runge (or traditional sparkling wine). It comes from Oestrich-Winkel in Rheingau and combines three-year-old Riesling with a hint of red wine to make it pink. The result is a ripe salmon-colored Riesling wine with a bouquet of rose petals, dried herbs and orange zest. Oestrich-Winkel is close to the beautiful former Cisterician Kloster Eberbach monastery. It is ironic, perhaps, that the wine in Rheingau is so dominated by Riesling, and not by the Burgunders. which used to be a special gift to the monks.
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