When the subject of German wine comes up, the particulars referenced are usually regarding white wine, and more specifically, Germany’s greatest variety, Riesling, and rightly so; the many styles of German Riesling from multiple regions are among the finest and most distinctive white wines made anywhere in the world. But there’s another, shall I say darker side to German wine…
To the great surprise of many people, Germany makes red wines too (gasp), and most of them are pretty damned good too (gasp again). Aside from a few tiny regions dotting the map, most of the reds produced in Germany come from two large regions in the southwestern corner of the country abutting the French border near Alsace growing zone, namely Baden, and a bit further north, the area from which tonight’s wine springs, Pfalz.
Just like the rest of Germany, Pfalz also raises a lot of Riesling, but unlike more northerly German regions like Nahe, Rheinhessen, or Mosel, due to the sunnier, warmer weather that can fully ripen the relatively late-maturing Riesling, most of the Pfalz’s Riesling wines are just off-dry to fully dry, with some of them reaching 13% alcohol. It’s this sort of climate that makes the production of red wines consistently possible.
And because Alsace is a close neighbor where the great Burgundian variety Pinot Noir is a staple red variety, and because Pinot Noir is pretty cold resistant, The Pfalz has adopted the now very international variety as its signature red (along with more obscure native varieties like Portuguiser and Dornfelder). And this adoption didn’t happen last month, mind you. It’s hard to say precisely when Pinot Noir came to this area, but it’s been here long enough that it has not one but two German names: Spatburgunder and/or Blauburgunder.
Pinot Noir is an infamously terroir-sensitive vine, and not surprisingly, the Pinots that come from Pfalz bear a greater resemblance to the more direct and fruitier Alsatian Pinots than they do the funkier, super complex Pinot Noirs from the grape’s homeland of Burgundy, but for my palate well made German Pinot Noirs are truer to the core nature of the grape than almost any example that comes from California or Chile, for example. The wines of the Cote d’Or or even Oregon’s Willamette Valley they’re not, but Pfalz’s Pinot Noirs are almost always really well made and very competitively priced, and this one is no exception.
To go with this charming little wine, I dished up a pureed soup of butternut squash, leek, apple, sage and sour cream, followed by some pan-fried knockwurst accompanied by green lentils with veggies and thin egg noodles.
Borell-Diehl Pfalz Spatburgunder 2011
Transparent, slightly pinkish ruby color. Honest and warm nose of dried cranberry and raspberry fruit ably supplemented by notes of mixed brown spices, fallen leaves, linseed oil, wood smoke, and touch of dried roses. In the mouth the wine shows a medium-light but very well-balanced character with a silky texture, tart acidity, and softly dry tannins that frame slightly earthy flavors of wild strawberries, cherry, subtle roasted red peppers, a touch of eucalyptus, and a sapid minerality. Discreet notes of blueberry on the moderately long finish.