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

Inexpensive Burgundies

July 23, 2008

I love Burgundy but do not love the price levels of these beauties. So I am always on the lookout for decent Burgundies at a good price. Today I got one that is fantastic value for the quality. The wine is A. Chopin & Fils “Les Essards” Cote De Nuits Villages. It is fairly high in acidity, still young, but already shows nice complexity and if it spends some time breathing it can become fairly soft. Definitely recommended, especially if you consider that I paid a whopping $25 for the bottle.

Update: the wine really exhibits much deeper, complex characters once you let it open for a couple of hours. I highly recommend to decant this pinot, it will thank you for it.

Cheers–Zoli

Name: A. Chopin & Fils, “Les Essards”, Cote De Nuits Villages 2005

Price: $25 (discounted off $35)

Body: Medium

Got it at: Dee Vine Wines, Pier 19, San Francisco

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

photo

I had written about the Ahr region, the northernmost Pinot Noir region in the world (perhaps the northernmost red wine region) in an earlier post. At that time I reviewed a Frühburgunder, a little known clone of the Pinot Noir grape. What is planted most in the Ahr is actually Spätburgunder, which is identical to Pinot Noir. Some Pinots from the Ahr stand up to the best of Burgudies in terms of complexity and elegance and today’s wine is one of these examples.

JJ Adeneuer’s Ahrweiler Rosenthal, 2005 is entirely from a Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) vineyard. Adeneuer is one of the top producers in the Ahr valley and to me his style is probably the closest to Burgundy. Comparisons are difficult and unfair, though, because Pinot Noir in the Ahr do not need to, in fact probably should not taste like Burgundies. The soil is quite different, the Ahr is mostly slate, and the climate is also unlike the Burgundy with cooler days, but longer hours of sunshine.

The Rosenthal Grosses Gewächs is a stunningly beautiful example of a top German Spätburgunder. The nose is very similar to a Burgundy, you can definitely smell the Pinot grape, but it also exudes quite a load of alcohol. The wine has a relatively high alcohol content at 14%, but you can mostly detect it on the nose, not so much in the taste. As I sipped on it the first thing that stunned me was the absolute perfect balance of fruit and acidity. It is obvious that this wine maker is highly skilled, the wine is superbly executed just as a German engineered car. I tasted plum, black cherry, slight roasted coffee and on the finish just a hint bitterness with a vanilla undertone (which I can appreciate that it is weird, but the complexity of taste is amazing). What is perhaps even more beautiful than the taste is the structure of this wine. It is silky, creamy, a bit earthy, extremely seductive, as you want a Pinot to be. Great finesse and absolute elegance is the best words I can use to describe the way it comes across.

We had the fortune to taste several of Adeneuer’s wines with the wine maker and the Rosenthal was one of my favorites. I liked the J.J.Adeneuer N° 1 and the N° 2 as well, though the Rosenthal is in a different league. The N° 1 is relatively light and has a bit less complexity than the N° 2, though both are very nice and elegant. They are not cheap wines and honestly if I were to buy a bottle from Adeneuer now, I would definitely step up to the Rosenthal. The only other Adeneuer that I would compare to the Rosenthal was the Walporzheimer Gärkammer Grosses Gewächs, of which I still have a bottle at home. Look for that review soon.

Name: JJ Adeneuer, Ahrweiler Rosenthal, 2005

Rating: 9/9.5 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 49 euros

Got it at: Adeneuer winery, Ahrweiler, Germany

JJ Adeneuer’s Ahrweiler Rosenthal, 2005

Name: JJ Adeneuer, N° 1, 2005

Rating: 8 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 35 euros

Got it at: Adeneuer winery, Ahrweiler, Germany

JJ Adeneuer, N° 1, 2005

Name: JJ Adeneuer, N° 2, 2005

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 25 euros

Got it at: Adeneuer winery, Ahrweiler, Germany

JJ Adeneuer, N° 2, 2005

Pannonhalma Pinot Noir

December 9, 2007

Hungary does ok with some International varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but Pinot Noir is generally not one of them. For one thing it has only in the last few years become a fad to make Pinots in this country and with such a finicky grape I think more experience is necessary to work out the kinks. As a result, with a few exceptions, Hungarian Pinots I have tasted were borderline bad, but at best mediocre. This was the case with the Pannonhalmi Apatsagi Pinot Noir, 2006.

Now I realize that they make Pinots in many regions outside of the Burgundy and there are horrible examples of this varietal from Alsace, to me still Pinot Noir is supposed to be a complex, mult-layered, smooth wine with a long finish in which you can discover different tastes over time as you sip on it. In contrast, this wine is super simple, has little complexity and you will definitely not find the treasures you would in a nice Burgundy. It is more similar to a Sancerre Rouge than it is to a Burgundy Pinot, though it lacks the heavy minerality of the Sancerre as well. I am not a huge fan of red Sancerres either so perhaps that is the reason I do not like this Pinot.

Some wine makers here are experimenting with more Burgundian style Pinots, particularly in the Eger region, such as St. Andrea and Gal Tibor. Both of these are pretty good, though quite expensive for the quality. In Villany they are working on more concentrated, heavy, almost new world style Pinot Noirs. There are a couple of decent examples I have had, such as Ebner’s and Tiffan’s. Andreas Ebner, who is originally from the South Tirol Region of Italy but is now living in South Hungary near Villany, particularly makes Pinot in a Cabernet Sauvignon style. This may sound weird, but the result is actually really interesting in a positive way. Innovation is good and Pannonhalma should also take a different, more individualistic route with their Pinots.

Name: Pannonhalmi Abbey’s Winery, Pinot Noir, 2006

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Body: Light to Medium

Price: 12 euros

Got it at: Bortarsasag, Budapest, Hungary

Pannonhalmi Abbey’s Winery, Pinot Noir, 2006