Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Baden Wines
Six years ago, we unleashed a small range of characterful German wines on our unsuspecting customers. To our absolute delight (shared by our tutor in all wines Teutonic, Alison Flemming MW), customers responded with much enthusiasm. Surprisingly, it is varieties more commonly associated with Alsace and Burgundy which are coming to the fore as new clones and higher temperatures mean ripening is not the problem it once was. Locally, the obsession with Burgundian varietals has its own moniker 'Burgunder Wünder'!
Despite a damp summer in 2021 (as in England) and disastrous floods in certain parts, harvests were decent and with good-quality fruit. This is especially true in the southern Pfalz, where Stefan Meyer's eponymous domaine sits amidst the Pfälzerwald National Park in picturesque Rhodt unter Rietburg. Stefan took over from his father Willi in 2011 and makes terrific expressions of single-varietals including a characterful Chardonnay 'Aus Rhodt' from two plots in the village that is matured for a year in large oak tonneaux. Elegant and creamy, it has stone-fruit flavours and citrus zing and pairs well with chicken in a creamy tarragon sauce. Stephan Reinhardt (robertparker.com) was charmed by its sibling 'Aus Rhodt' Pinot Noir, calling it 'seductive, in fact spectacular' with its nose of cherry fruit, floral notes and spice. Completing Stefan's trio of wines is a single-vineyard Syrah from the clay-rich 'Klosterpfad' site that owes much to the Northern Rhône. Only 125 cases are made and the wine is matured in barriques (40% new) for 12 months and will undoubtedly last a decade from vintage. Its peppery spice and bramble fruit flavours make it the ideal partner to slow-braised pork dishes.
Further to the north in the Rheinhessen, Jürgen Hofmann and Carolin Willems-Willems make wine near Bingen from his family's vines locally and from hers in the Saar. Jürgen's Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) is grown on the limestone soils of the Hundertgulden vineyard and has a refreshing lemon sherbet zing and elegant pear and lychee notes. His companion Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) was highlighted by Jancis Robinson OBE, MW as 'firm and concentrated with good drive'barriques, giving this wine an extended time on the fine lees for flavour and texture. The perfect pairing with pan-fried white fish or a buttery roast chicken. Its counterpart Pinot Noir comes from Ingelheim and is aged in French oak barriques for 16 months giving zippy red fruit, a touch of spice and lovely length.
Over in Baden, the brothers Klumpp farm various plots organically. Their Auxerrois (often synonymous with Pinot Blanc over the border in Alsace), sits between Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay in terms of body and owes much to Burgundy in style with some maturation in oak. Crisp, mineral and with lovely stone-fruit notes, it's an ideal partner to trout or smoked haddock risotto. Andreas and Markus's red credentials are no less impressive, making an energetic red blend named 'Cuvée No. 1' which usually comprises around 50% Blaufränkisch (aka Lemberger locally), 20% Saint Laurent, 20% Pinot Noir and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. With ripe forest fruit scents and a juicy dark cherry and plum palate, it is already drinking well and will soften with 3-5 years bottle age. Their Pinot Noir from the chalky slopes of the Weiherberg in Bruchsal is packed with berry fruit and spicy oak notes. Matured in French oak barriques for around 18 months, it's approachable from release yet has sufficient concentration to age for up to a decade. With bottle age comes flavours of leather, forest floor and mushrooms making this ideal with game - grouse in particular.