Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Baden Wines
The rolling 'Thousand Hills' of the Kraichgau in Baden lie north of Zurich and east of Alsace and are the warmest of Germany's 13 winegrowing regions. Home to the brothers Klumpp, its varied soils belie strikingly modern organic wines made in a hugely contemporary-designed winery. Andi and Markus have extensive winemaking and vineyard experience abroad which has taken their parents' passion project to another level.
Their Auxerrois (almost synonymous with Pinot Blanc) comes from two plots of old vines and has a fuller-body than most. With a golden yellow robe, aromas of Mirabelle plums, quince and papaya lead to a mellow finish reminiscent of tarte au citron. It works a treat with well-spiced Keralan curries or sea bass in a sauce vierge. Its sibling red 'Cuvée No.1' comes from two different plots and is an unusual blend of Blaufrankisch (Lemberger), St. Laurent, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Its supple red berry fruit, cassis and chocolate-covered cherry flavours are underlined by sweet spice and fresh acidity - ideal with duck à l'orange or cherries. Their Weiherberg Pinot Noir benefits from the region's cool autumn nights which preserve freshness in the fruit and allows gentle, slow ripening. The resulting wine has a small percentage of free-run juice (before pressing) which gives an aromatic red cherry lift to the nose and is underscored by cassis, cedar and baking spice and modern use of oak. Great with a cannon of lamb or venison fillet in a simple redcurrant sauce.
To the north-west in the southern Pfalz, Stefan Meyer's estate on the edge of the Palatinate Forest National Park has been transformed in the decade or so since he took over from his father. Certified organic from the 2021 vintage, its varied soils of limestone, sandstone and silt give excellent viticultural potential, particularly for Pinot varietals ('Burgunder'). Using small-berried Burgundy clones, his French-styled (and labelled) wines owe much to Burgundy but with Stefan's unique spin.
His 'aus Rhodt' Chardonnay comes from 2 plots around the village of Rhodt unter Rietburg and has cool, elegant citrus aromas, stone fruit and a little spice on the palate and a bright, energetic mineral finish. Fermented using natural yeasts and aged in various sizes of barrel and cask, it makes a wonderful partner to poultry or stonebass with citrus and fennel. A sibling Pinot Noir is also hand-harvested from 3 plots of clay, limestone and clay-loess soils before a fortnight on the skins and fermentation using natural yeasts. Matured for 12 to 14 months in barrel, it has crisp raspberry and forest fruit aromas, a touch of smoke and spice on the palate and well-integrated tannins. Ideal with roasted sea trout, it has sufficient oomph to cope with peri-peri spiced poultry. A single-vineyard Syrah comes from the Klosterpfad vineyard (a path around a former monastery) which is sheltered from the cooler breezes from nearby valleys so allows fruit to fully ripen. Clay-limestone soils retain moisture which allows for the long, slow ripening the grape requires in such northerly climes. Stefan's peppery Syrah has terrific blackberry fruit, excellent acidity and sufficient spicy, peppery undertones to last a good 5 to 10 years from vintage in good years. Drink with slow-braised pork belly and braised cabbage.
Near Bingen in the Rheinhessen, Jürgen Hofmann and his partner Carolin Willems-Willems make Pinots (Burgunders) from his family largely limestone ('muschelkalk') vineyards. Since taking over in 1997, he has transformed the winery and vineyards to focus on low-intervention, sustainable winemaking. Undergoing organic conversion, his Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) comes from the historic Hundertgulden vineyard and has notable zingy acidity followed by elegant pear and stone fruit notes. Its sibling Weisser 'Burgunder' (Pinot Blanc) has more body, no less delicate citrus, melon and orchard fruit aromas, a little silkier texture and length. A wild-ferment in barrel gives Jürgen's Steinberg Chardonnay a creamy texture, toasted oak notes alongside vif lemon acidity and terrific minerality that finishes on tropical fruit. Ideal with smoked salmon with a beurre blanc sauce or trout en papillote.
Towards the village of Ingelheim lies a plot of small-berried Pinot Noir on the south-facing slopes of the Appenheimer Eselspfad. Characteristically subtle, Jürgen's medium-bodied Pinot Noir has a floral nose, terrific minerality underlining cherry and cassis flavours and – in good vintages – has 4 to 7+ years life. Lightly-spiced pigeon breasts or girelles fried in garlic, butter and parsley would go down a treat as accompaniments.