Spätburgunder vs. Pinot Noir

pinotvsspaetÄ                                                                                                                                                                                                               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

Keller Abtserde Vertical 2013 – 2006

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Located in Germany´s Rheinhessen region just east of the Morstein vineyard, Abtserde probably defines the best parcels of the Brunnenhäuschen vineyard, where, due to higher altitude, the average growing season is slightly longer than in the surrounding area. Marly clay soils with a lot of limestone and, in parts, embedded iron create intense Rieslings of juiciness and chalky minerality.
It´s been a while since Klaus-Peter Keller created the first wine from these parcels back in 2006.
Therefore, it´s about time to take a closer look and to discuss Abtserde typicity:

Abtserde 2013 is wild, dynamic and punchy. Reluctant aromatics of green herbs, ethereal freshness, flintstone spiciness and yellow as well as tropical fruit. Powerful and mouthfilling on the palate. Present, deep and long with clear, precise drive, racy acidity and salty minerality. An exceptional Abtserde of endless power and potential.

2012 shows more delicate and fine with smooth juicyness.
Harmonious with clear fruit (apricot!), apple tart and orange zest. Yet, baroque with obvious ripeness, the wine is perfectly balanced, harmonious and joyful. Evaporates very fast 🙂

First signs of evolution with little firn and fine petrol can be found in 2011.
Showing typical characteristics of the warm 2011 vintage. Ripe stone fruit, honey, wax and blood orange as well as dark fruit of red currant and raspberry. Freshly-cut herbs and decent spicyness provide vitality and tension. Already approachable and full of drinking pleasure. Solidly build with fine acidity and tons of fruit promising a bright future.
Great combination of refinement and ripeness.

Intensity instead of lushness is the result of the coolness of 2010.
The wine ist fresh, crystal-clear and cool with citrus, lime, fresh herbs and delicate floral nuances. Wet stone, salty minerality and present acidity create a wine full of tension and presence on the palate. Youthful and harmonious, elegant and complex. A rather quiet wine of depth, facination and great potential.Fine but intense.

Abtserde 2009 is a sleeping beauty at the moment.
In spite of the ripe expression of the 2009 vintage, the wine shows quiet and shy, compact and closed – hardly any ripeness or substance. Cool chalkiness, little orange zest, fresh herbs (eucalypt) and phenolic layers dominate. Only hints of creamyness and lacking drive and length. Keep!

Abtserde 2008 marches to a different drum
with dark, earthy nuances, green pepper, moss, (unripe) walnut and raisins. Whipped cream and little red fruit come along. Though the wine´s showing power, freshness and length, it´s the most dissonant in this tasting. A little bumpy and little drive. When tasting this wine on a different occasion in March it showed similar. Thus, the bottle wasn´t flawed.
2008 is just a little different Abtserde.

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Abtserde 2007 shines brightest!
Light as a feather, super-fine, youthful, full of tension and dynamics. Pure minerality, delicate sweetness, citrus, oranges and raspberry in a perfect wine! Creamy and mouthfilling around a robust structure of harmoniously integrated acidity and substance. Vital and long with herbal and peppery spiciness. Sophisticated greatness in a delicate wine of fascination, drinking pleasure and sheer endless potential.

Our tasting closes with Keller´s first Abtserde from 2006 – a vintage generally under the radar and hardly valued.
But the Abtserde is singing! It becomes obvious that there was a distinct Abtserde characteristic right from the start. With characteristics that all wine (except 2008) have in common:
Immense presence and complexity with density, chalky minerality, flintstone and traces of orange zest. This can already be seen in the 2006 bottling. Stone fruit and red currant, delicate (white) florals, some petrol, almond and little iodine in a juicy and solid package with noticeable acidity. A wine of perfect balance still on its way up.

Keller`s Abtserde is among the very best dry Rieslings on earth. Period.

Große Gewächse 2012 – Best of Dry German Riesling

While chances are high that this year´s vintage will turn out “average” in Germany, the last two years sure were exceptional. With lower yields than 2011, 2012 delivered perfectly ripe and concentrated fruit and, thereby, outstanding wines on both levels- dry and sweet.
In the following I´d like to focus on the dry tier and its premium wines:
The Grand Cru level, which is called “Großes Gewächs” (GG) in Germany. Shortly after the release of these wines in the beginning of September, I had the chance to taste the results from some of the very best producers of dry Riesling and would like to share a selection of my brief tasting notes with you:

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1. Fritz Haag 2012 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr GG
Certainly among the Mosel´s best producers for sweet Riesling and famous for his Auslesen from the Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr site, Fritz Haag shifted his focus more and more on dry Riesling over the last years as well.
His 2012 Großes Gewächs shines light yellow in the glass.
Fine, but vibrant aromas of Citrus and Tropical Fruits. Some Apple with little Sweetness.
Flavors of Citrus and Orange (Zest) plus an interesting play of Acidity and Minerality.
Nice, even a little salty, finish.
Beautifully structured, fresh and very approachable already.

2. A.J. Adam 2012 Goldtröpfchen
Andreas Adam is a young producer who started his winery by re-cultivating the old and abandoned vineyards from his grandfather. The winery is located in Dhron, near Bernkastel, in Germany´s Mosel appellation. Today he runs two sites, Hofberger and Goldtröpfchen, with partially old vines on their original rootstock.
The 2012 Goldtröpfchen comes with powerful aromas of Pineapple, Citrus and Honey, which are repeated on the palate. Round, but heavy. Present Acidity and a strong finish with some bitterness.
A very opulent wine, unfortunately lacking some excitement and refinement.

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3. Dönnhoff 2012 Dellchen GG
Certainly Helmut Dönnhoff is one of the most famous German winemakers and might be the best on earth when it comes to Riesling. He creates wines that strictly reflect the vintage and vineyard and always come with great future potential.
His Dellchen takes off with juicy and lush aromas of Mango, Passion Fruit, ripe Peach and Apricot. Floral characters.
Exotic flavors of mostly Passion Fruit and sweet Mango with little Peach.
Finishes with sweet Fruit and bright acidity and precise minerality. Great!

4. Dönnhoff 2012 Hermannshöhle GG
The Hermannshöhle vineyard is the top-rated vineyard in the Nahe appellation and probably one of the best sites for Riesling worldwide. South facing with very old slate soils with layers of volcanic, lime stone and porphyry soils.
The 2012 Hermannshöhle delivers a lot of Fruit aromas- Pineapple, Pear, Citrus- but also beautiful Minerality with Graphite and Crushed Rock. Freshness and some traces of Honey.
Very intense, but precise and multi-layered!
Great juicy, but minerality-driven mouthfeel with beautiful fruit.
Finishes long with great finesse, dancing acidity and little spiciness. Fantastic wine, which combines the extremes of precision and juicyness!!

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5. Gut Hermannsberg 2012 Kupfergrube GG
Grown on porose, weathered volcanic soil which is rich in minerals and contains layers of copper, this Riesling is loaded with aromas of Flintstone and Minerals. Herbal and Yellow Fruit characters. Traces of Sulfur.
Round on the palate with dominant Mineral and salty flavors. Little Citrus.
Really dense and complex.

6. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2012 Kupfergrube GG
Same vineyard, different winemaker.
Again, powerful aromas of Flintstone. Herbal characters and Roast.
Little Fruit, Grapefruit and Citrus, in the mouth. Present smoky, mineral and salty notes!
A powerful, intense and headstrong Riesling, which reflects the vineyard.
It´s always interesting to compare wines that come from the same vineyard source and are made by different winemakers. In this case the distinct characteristics of the Kupfergrube really shine in both wines, especially in the fascinating minerality and flintstone aromatics.

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7. Von Winning 2012 Pechstein GG
Von Winning in Deidesheim is the shooting star winery of the last years in Germany. Winemaker Stephan Attman has spent a lot of time Burgundy and adopted the French techniques into his winemaking, e.g. aging his Riesling in small oak barrels.
The Pechstein shows great and powerful aromas of Ripe, Yellow and Tropical Fruit.
Nuttily and Sweet Traces. Pastries. Rich, but harmonious.
You can´t deny the oak influence. Cremy and opulent on the palate.
Nice Fruit with mostly Pears and Passionfruit. Straightforward, exciting and multi-layered.

8. Von Winning 2012 Kirchenstück GG
The Kirchenstück vineyard shows a stronger mineral note.
Reluctant Fruit aroma of Citrus and Lychee, but a lot of Minerality and Crushed Rock.
Saltiness. Complex and precise!
More Minerality with Vibrant Acidity. Now more Fruit- Pear, Passionfruit and Ripe Apples.
Depth, opulence and nice salty traces on the finish.

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9. Wittmann 2012 Kirchspiel GG
All following wines from the Rheinhessen appellation are grown on lime soil or at least lime dominated soils. The Kirchspiel site opens up towards River Rhine like an arena or amphitheater and protects the vines from direct wind.
Again, we compare two wines from the same vineyard.
Wittmann´s Kirchspiel shows a Fruit-driven nose with Fine Yellow Fruit-
Passionfruit, Mango and Peach. Little Orange Zest and Strawberry (!).
Flavors of more Yellow Fruit. Even some Cassis.
Very filigree and light, but juicy. Wonderful balance!

10. Keller 2012 Kirchspiel GG
Keller´s Kirchspiel comes very reluctant and introvert, but with great structure and finesse.
Fine aromas of Citrus, Lychee, Pear and more Yellow Fruit. Little Chocolate.
Dancing minerality.
Fresh and juicy flavors. Salty traces. Finishes with Citrus and Orange Zest.
Made for the future.

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11. Wittmann 2012 Morstein GG
Grown on lime stone with clay marl.
Light aromas of Yellow and some Red Fruits. Interesting Coolness. Fresh!
Fruit core on the palate with mostly Citrus and Peach.
Great play of Acidity and Sweet Flavors.
Powerful with great structure and Minerality.

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12. Keller 2011 Abtserde GG
This was the only wine from the 2011 vintage, which was great, too (shorter growing season than 2012, but perfect ripeness and great fruit characteristics).
Beautiful golden-yellow in the glass.
Tight, but soft and very filigree nose with Stone Fruits, Citrus, Orange, some Apple and Lemongrass. Beautiful Minerality. Floral notes and some Rosemary.
Fruit-driven palate. Apples, Pears and Peach.
Very dense, but less juicy. Beautiful acidity. Finishes very long.
Puristic, fine and still young. Keep this one for many years!
A great wine!

While all wines drink quite nicely now, they will start showing their real potential after 5+ years.
Whereas the most “easy to drink” and approachable wine was Haag´s GG, you can only guess the greatness and complexity most of the other wines will be capable of.
Cheers & a special thanks to NobleWine Munich!

Tasting Note: Keller 2003 Bürgel Spätburgunder Felix

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1. Introduction:
Klaus Peter Keller is famous for his Riesling wines from Germany´s Rheinhessen appellation. Especially his Riesling “G-Max” is among Germany´s best dry wines every year and considered to be one of the very few cult wines from Germany.
With his idea of Pinot Noir as “Red Riesling” Keller strives for Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) wines of finesse, minerality and elegance.
Today´s 2003 Bürgel is in perfect condition with a healthy cork.

2. Appearance:
Vital deep dark crimson. Surprisingly dark- colored for a Pinot Noir from Germany!
Hardly any signs of aging, but little lighter edges.

3. Nose:
Intense aromas of Cherries and Fruit in Rum followed by Tobacco and Oak.
Floral characteristics, mostly Roses. Eucalypt and Vanilla.
Beautiful and inviting!

4. Taste:
A lot of fruit- mostly Cherries! Cloves paired with Eucalypt.
Finishes well-balanced and medium-long with beautiful Fruit, acidity and minerality.

5. Opinion:
A rich, but elegant wine with nice fruit and great finesse from the challenging and hot vintage of 2003! It drinks quite nicely now, but it good for many years of cellaring.
In my opinion Keller´s Spätburgunder wines are in a positive way out of character compared to other “more typical” Pinots from Germany.
His wines are richer and have more fruit and minerality and are, thereby, less thin- without lacking complexity or finesse!
To me, one of the best Pinot Noirs from Germany.

Tasting Note: Keller 2003 Hubacker Riesling

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1. Introduction:
The Dalsheimer Hubacker is owned by the Keller family since 1789. It is probably the best vineyard in the Rheinhessen appellation.
With its skeleton structured lime soils it delivers expressive Rieslings with acidity and fruit and subtle minerality.
Let´s have a look at our 2003 Hubacker Riesling from a vintage that was heavily influenced by a very hot summer.

2. Appearance:
Brilliant golden-yellow in the glass.

3. Nose:
Dominant floral aromas of Viola and Sunflower paired with Hey.
Some warm Citrus and Fresh Herbs. Scents of Honey, Caramel and Toast.
Elegant, but multilayered and sophisticated!

4. Taste:
The flavors are driven by soft Herbs and Spices, like Curry. Reminds me of Gingerbread with Traces of Orange zest and Cinnamon.
Mineral characters.
Finishes medium-long with nice acidity, Spices, Pepper and Anise.
Complex and perfectly balanced! Maybe lacking some midpalate density.

5. Opinion:
A big and well-aged Riesling from one of Germany´s top producers!
Still quite light in color and with healthy acidity, this wine is good for many years down the road. Good structure and very interesting to drink.