Approach: We compared 12 Pinot Noirs in a blind tasting to evaluate quality, find differences and see whether we were able to distinguish between Spätburgunder (Germany) and Pinot Noir (Burgundy). Therefore, we poured flights of two and compared, by that, always one with the other:
Kesseler – Spätburgunder Höllenberg 1993
From the slate, quartzite soils of one of Germany´s oldest sites for reds comes this Spätburgunder. It approaches you with distinct aromatics of decent oak and light fruit of cherries and some strawberries. Elegant and smooth on the tongue. Nothing exciting, but harmonious, elegant and still of little freshness. Very drinkable, but lacking depth and complexity. Good length though (89 pts.).
Louis Trapet – Gevrey-Chambertin 2001
It was a wet, cool and cloudy year in Burgundy. This Gevrey-Chambertin started off quite funky with wine gum and burned rubber, but settled after a while with fine, light-red fruit, coolness and freshness of herbs and earthy notes. Darker on the palate, but of grippy tannins and little, austere greenness. After a recently tasted amazing 2006, this was certainly not a perfect bottle (90pts.)
Fürst – Spätburgunder Centgrafenberg 2003 Elegant, but relatively ripe wine with dark fruits, mixed herbs, toasty oak and citrus freshness. Lactic notes. Nevertheless, vibrant on the palate with dark drive. A little diluted esp. when considering the 2003 vintage characteristics (90pts.)
Bouchard Pere et Fils – Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers 1999
Deep, dark red in the glass and full of fresh, dark-red fruit (black cherries), prunes, earth, black tea and herbs. Approachable and medium complex, yet robust wine of concentration drive and extract (92pts.)
Huber – Spätburgunder Reserve 2001
The rocky shell-limestone soils of the Bienenberg vineyard created fresh, quite youthful and complex wine of sour cherry, red berries, tobacco sweetness, leather and little peppery spiciness. Present acidity and little green tannins.
Showing real potential, yet already drinking beautifully (92pts.)
Domaine de L’Arlot – Nuit St. Georges 1er Cru les Forets 2003
Concentrated and muscular, but balanced wine of ripe black fruits, creamy sweetness, prune, little tobacco, autumn forest and some florals. Smoothly textured, even juicy with present alcohol, integrated tannins and fine acidity. Quite a powerhouse lacking refinement (90pts.)
Knipser – Spätburgunder Kirschgarten 2003
grows on soils of loam and chalk. The wine is dense, deep and complex full of ripe black cherries and blackberries, dried herbs, some road tar and oak. Smooth, but present on the palate with fine acidity and integrated tannins. Textbook 2003, elegant and relatively ripe, yet a real surprise (94pts.)!
Confuron-Cotetidot – Vosne Romanée 1er Cru, Les Suchots 2003
Nice fruit forward, burned rupper, licorice on the nose. Expressive, even wild aromatics. Weakly structured and bumpy on the palate. Something went wrong with this one. The weakest wine of the night (84pts.)
Rebholz – Spätburgunder Im Sonnenschein R 2000
2000 was a very wet and difficult vintage and you were able to find the typical vintage characteristics in this wine: Mild as a dove with aromatics of ripe, dark fruit, violets, almonds, present oak and warm spices. Broad without substance and past its prime (86pts.).
Nicolas Potel – Latricieres Chambertin Grand Cru 2004
Aromatics of dark berries and black cherries, earthy notes, mushrooms and herbal freshness in a precise, youthful and complex wine from infertile soils south of Chambertin. Youthfully structured with only very little ladybug greenness.
Great length and freshness. Maybe lacking some flesh (94pts.)
Keller – Spätburgunder Bürgel 2002
The 2002 vintage provided high ripeness levels and fine acidity. Klaus-Peter Keller´s Bürgel shows clean with beautiful fruit of dark berries and black cherries with little sweetness, intriguing minerality and herbal spiciness and curry aromas. Among the best wines of the night with density, complexity and perfect balance (95pts.)
Jean Jacques Confuron – Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 1996
J.J. Confuron owns 0,52 ha in the Clos de Vougeot vineyard in the area considered best (close to the Chateau).The 96 shines of red fruits, raspberry and even gooseberry, figs, forest floor and minerality. It´s beautifully precise and vibrant with present acidity, few remaining tannins and freshness on the palate. Finishes long and focused with darkest fruit, leather and anise spiciness. Still a little tight, but elegant, complex and fascinating wine. Wine of the night (96pts.)
Results: It is (often) very easy to pick out the German Spätburgunder due to its distinct aromatics of light, red fruit, present oak and less substance. Nevertheless, the overall quality in Germany is very good. Especially when considering that the making of serious Pinot Noir of finesse is a relatively new trend in many regions of Germany.
Even though some Spätburgunder were able to wine their duels, all tasters agreed that the Burgundian wines delivered more fascination, depth, excitement and character.
And don´t forget that the wines tasted from Germany represent the pinnacle of Spätburgunder at the moment while the wines from Burgundy in this tasting were about average.
It´s still comparing apples and oranges, but the uplift in quality of German Pinot Noir over the last years is promising. Wines of recent vintages underline this development. Therefore, I can only recommend keeping an open eye for these light reds from Germany.
Photo by @weinfurore