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

One of the most unique wine regions I have ever been to is the Ahr region in Germany. It is unique, in that the Ahr is I think the northernmost predominantly red winemaking area. In an earlier post I was shocked that they made wine in Holland, but that is white wine. That is somewhat understandable. But the Ahr is almost as far north as the Maastricht area of Holland, and it makes predominantly red wines! Just to put it in perspective, we are talking about a region that is about 350 miles/550 kilometers north of Burgundy.

The Ahr sits in a narrow valley in which the predominantly western cold winds are blocked creating a micro-climate that is fantastic for making Pinot Noirs. Because the Ahr is so far north, it enjoys lower intensity sunlight but for significantly longer hours of the day than the Burgundy does and at the same time the valley cools down considerably at nights, which is very good for the Pinot grape. Couple this with unique slate/volcanic rock that is predominant here and you have a small area (you can drive through it in about 10 minutes) that is remarkably well suited for growing world class Pinot Noirs.

We have visited three of the best winemakers of the Ahr Valley, Jean Stodden, J.J. Adeneuer and Meyer-Näkel. They are all quite different in their styles, Stodden perhaps the most elegant (also most high in acidity), Adeneuer quite Burgundy like and Meyer-Naekel perhaps the most approachable of the three.

Frühburgunder is a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape that is predominantly (or only?) grown in the Ahr Valley. Even in the Ahr it is much less planted than its cousin, the Spätburgunder, which is the Pinot Noir. Meyer-Näkel’s 2006 Frühburgunder is a great representation of the Frühburgunder varietal. It is medium bodied, very straightforward, a bit of berry fruit, some complexity, but somehow something is missing from it. It is elegant, made in Burgundian style but unlike the top end Burgundies (my favorites) this one delivers most of its “value” in the first two seconds as you sip it and then it stops. It is not that it does not have a finish, but the finish is sort of flat, does not say much.

Frühburgunder is an interesting varietal and I think Werner Näkel, the winemaker, brought out much of this grape’s potential, but perhaps because of style in which this wine was made, I have to compare it to Pinot Noirs of Burgundy and I would favor the latter. One thing I liked about the other winemakers in the Ahr, namely Stodden and Adeneuer, is that they are distinctly different than Burgundies, and in my mind they are in a different category. Watch this blog for reviews of other Ahr wines in the future.

If you love quality unique wines you have to give this Frühburgunder a shot. In Europe you should be able to get it from the winery itself and in the US these guys carry it:

Cellars International, Inc.
1780 La Costa Meadows Dr, Suite 100
San Marcos, CA 92078
800.596.WINE (9463)

For more information on the Ahr Valley and our experience there you can read a post here.

Name: Meyer-Näkel’s Frühburgunder, 2006er

Rating: 8 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 17 euros

Got it at: Meyer-Näkel Winery, Dernau, Germany

Meyer-Näkel’s Frühburgunder, 2006er IMeyer-Näkel’s Frühburgunder, 2006er II