I have posted before about a wonderful, albeit tiny northern German wine region called the Ahr. They predominantly grow Spaetburgunder, which is Pinot Noir in Germany, on this tiny valley just south of Cologne. The valley is almost like a canyon with very steep walls built primarily of slate. Because of the steepness and the slate’s ability to absorb heat, the grapes in this tiny valley get a lot of warmth that one would not expect from such a nordic location. In fact, because the Ahr valley is so far north, the grapes here get exposed to the sun much longer than in more southern locations such as Pinot Noir’s home, Burgundy. Also because if the northern location, the nights are quite cool, which is perfect for Pinots. Welcome to one of the strangest wine regions in the world, where they grow truly world class Pinot Noir: the Ahr Valley of Germany.

One of the top producers in the Ahr is Jean Stodden. I had the fortune to visit with Jean back in the fall of 2007. That is when I picked up this gorgeous 2003 Spaetburgunder Auslese. This is one of Stodden’s top wines, probably among the best of the Ahr, if not of German Pinots.

The first thing that hits me is the clean nose of the wine. It is obvious, as soon as you smell it that we have a Pinot in the glass. Then as you taste it, you get a load of acidity, then the same clean fruit and on the finish you get that minerality that probably comes from slate. It has complexity, but much more, the wine has a beautiful structure that would be hard to find in Burgundies. In fact Jean Stodden does not even like to compare the Ahr to Burgundy, he wants to make wines that stand on their own and have a unique quality that resembles the terroir of the region. Let’s just say, after tasting several others like Mayer-Naeckel and Adeneur, he succeeds at that more than any other from the valley.

Name: Jean Stodden, Spaetburgunder Auslese ***, 2003

Rating: 9 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 56 euros

Got it at: Weingut Jean Stodden, Rech, Ahr, Germany

A Fine Ribera Del Duero

August 5, 2008

If I had to choose, I prefer Ribera Del Duero over Rioja as the prime Spanish region for Tempranillo. The wines are a bit more sophisticated, rounder, and I feel there is more oopmh to them than in Rioja. These words are of course sweeping generalizations as in both regions there are vastly different wines, in some cases so different that it is near impossible to tell that two wines you taste back to back are made from the same grape.

Tonight I had a beautiful tempranillo from the Ribera Del Duero. It is a Crianza, which is a quality denomination in this region. In Rioja, which is near Ribera Del Duero, the wine needs to spend at least 2 years in oak barrels in order to be called Crianza. I am not sure what the law is in Ribera, but this wine spent 13 months in new French oak. It gets that vanilla flavor that you can pick up from wine that has not been over oaked. I feel it has that perfect balance between oak and fruit. 2003 was a particularly hot year all over Europe and Spain was no exception. Because of the heat I think a lot of the wines show more fruit than normal, but the winemakers did an excellent job to balance this with the oak. You get the earthiness that is familiar to Ribera lovers, and it has a slight leathery feeling, though you really have to look for that. The alcohol content is only 13.5%, but the finish is quite alcoholy. In a good way that is. Imagine beautiful velvety red wine with a load of warmth as it goes down. Love it.

All in all I love the wine and would certainly buy it again. Especially at this price.

Name: Torremilanos Crianza, Ribera Del Duero, 2003

Rating: 8.5

Body: Medium to Full

Price: Normally ~$20, this one was $10, an absolute steal

Got it at: Dee Vine Wines, San Francisco, CA