There may be no other country in the world that is synonymous with a single grape the way Germany and its wines are associated with Riesling. The fact is that there are plenty of other white varieties that do well in Germany, but there is little doubt that Riesling is its gift to the wine world.
White wines in Germany account for nearly 70% of total wine production, and it’s not just Riesling, grapes likeMüller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Silvaner and even Chardonnay go into a number of outstanding blends. There are red wines produced in Germany and they are really, really delicious. The two leading grapes are one you know, and one you may not.
Pinot Noir, in Germany is called by the German name, Spätburgunder, they are German after all. Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder makes up more than 10% of total wine production in Germany and not too far behind is Dornfelder. Red wines grow in a few of Germany’s different wine regions, but most notably the Ahr Valley, as well as Baden and Württemberg. However red varieties are planted throughout Germany because well, variety is the spice of life.
If you’re into pure expression of Pinot Noir, this wine fits the bill from vineyards in the town of Oppenheim. From a fairly new estate, established in 1999, the Dr. Heyden Weingut wines are lithe and expressive. This Spätburgunder will make you a believer in German Pinot Noir and the price is hard to argue. The aromatics are earth and mineral driven, with aromas of mushrooms, turned earth, black tea and red currant. The palate is light, lively and brisk. Flavors of black tea, brambleberry and lots of minerality issue forth a really expressive wine for a bargain price. If you’re into exploring what Pinot can do in different sites, I urge you to track this wine down, you feel well rewarded.
This is a tremendous wine experience for $12. Dornfelder is a hybrid grape, that is far younger than the seven generation Schneider winery operation. Dornfelder was actually created just for the German wine climate. While white wines have always done well, red wines have struggled in the cool, northern climate. Dornfelder, with its dark hue and round body was a wine Germans could really get behind as a home grown red. Lush, full bodied, and loaded with flavor. Still, Dornfelder comes off with substantive acidity, so it still does really well as a food wine, and some styles tend toward a sweet red fruit component.
The Schneider Dornfelder makes a very strong case at 7 years old. It’s lush, but still very fresh, with aromas of baking spice, cola and loads of berry fruit. The palate is mouth filling but not heavy, you get a fruit driven flavor profile with freshness and and complex fruit flavors. If you were served this wine blind you could easily mistake it for a Pinot Noir, or Gamay from Beaujolais.