Posts Tagged Pfalz

White And Gray Burgundian

10 July 2013

Tasting at A. ChristmannGerman wine and Riesling are practically synonymous, and considering the quality of fine German Rieslings, it’s no wonder. But Germany grows other varieties as well, of course, and quite successfully at that. Some tend to be duds (like Müller-Thurgau), but some are quite delicious, such as Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder. These varieties, which translate as “White Burgundian” and “Gray Burgundian,” respectively, are in fact nothing more (and nothing less) than German Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Wines made from Weissburgunder or Grauburgunder tend to be richly flavorful, and yet, it’s rare to find them here in the United States. Perhaps these semi-pronounceable varieties are overshadowed by Riesling, or perhaps the Germans prefer to keep these wines all to themselves!

Whatever the case, they are worth seeking out. As you might have guessed from the names, both varieties are direct descendants of the highly regarded Pinot Noir variety (Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc is a mutation of Pinot Gris). This noble pedigree shows in the wines these varieties produce.

I tasted a number of delicious examples of Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder during my recent German sojourn, and there wasn’t a single disappointment:

2011 Weingut Max Ferd Richter Weissburgunder: This wine from the spectacularly scenic Mosel Valley — my favorite German wine region — had a fresh and spicy aroma, floral fruit, limey acids and a tight finish. Cheerful and refreshing.

2012 Weingut Wolf Weissburgunder Trocken: I sampled this wine from the Pfalz region, which is really a northern extension of the famed Alsace, in a thoroughly delightful Munich restaurant called Halali. The Pfalz produces some of Germany’s best wines, though this is quite an inexpensive Weissburgunder, offered for just €5.50 per bottle on the winery’s website. I would have guessed it cost at least triple that. Almost clear in color, it had a bright and spicy aroma in keeping with the variety. Its ripe fruit tightened quickly into tart, focused acids. Not bad for a $7.00 bottle of wine!

2012 Weingut Christmann Gimmeldingen Weissburgunder: Now we’re really getting somewhere — the “climatically pampered” vineyard of Gimmeldingen produces some of the Pfalz’s best wines, according to The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. I had a feeling this Weissburgunder would hit a home run when I smelled its bouquet of rich white fruit. It tasted very fruity, and its lush texture was well-balanced by tightly wound acids, some distinct minerality and a hint of earth. Excellent.

2011 Schnaitmann Grau Weiss: I’m cheating a little bit here, but bear with me — I loved this one. The Grau Weiss is actually a surprising blend of 20% Grauburgunder, 20% Weissburgunder and 60% Chardonnay. It sounds crazy to me, but I suppose if anyone could get away with it, it would be a winery in the warm and sunny Baden-Württemberg region. A green-yellow color, the wine started with tart fruit, giving way to a buttery, sophisticated, almost Burgundian midsection. It sealed the deal by lifting into an aromatic, spicy finish. What a ride!

Weingut Dr. von Basserman-Jordan2012 Dr. von Basserman-Jordan Grauburgunder Trocken: Another Pfalz wine, this Grauburgunder smelled bright and fresh, reminding me a bit of a swimming pool. On the palate, it was sprightly, sweet and green, resolving into some limey acids on the finish. Unusual and fun.

2008 Winzergenossenschaft Kallstadt Erpolzheimer Kieselberg Grauburgunder Auslese: I hereby award the prize for the longest wine name to ever appear on this blog. Only a German could come up with an overblown jumble of syllables like this. The first two words are the name of the cooperative which produced the wine, and the second two words are the name of the vineyard. This vineyard has the misfortune to be located in the Rosenbühl Grosslage, which Sotheby’s claims has “no outstanding villages, vineyards, or growers,” but I beg to differ. This Auslese was sheer delight, with aromas of green apple and spicy pineapple and marvelously rich fruit. The decadent texture didn’t become at all cloying, however, because of some incredibly lively acids and gingery spice. It had me yearning for some choucroute, and a second glass.

Keep your eyes peeled for these wines. You won’t see them everywhere, but a large wine shop may very well carry one or two, and a more ambitious restaurant wine list might also contain an example. Your hunt will be well rewarded.

Teutonic Pink

7 November 2012

I know I claimed to be done with rosé for the season, but I had one on my shelf too tempting to leave unopened until the spring: A 2011 Reichsrat von Buhl Pinot Noir Rosé from Germany’s Pfalz region. I remember when I saw it on the shelf at Binny’s. A Pinot Noir from Germany would be odd enough on its own, but a Teutonic Pinot Noir rosé? That’s unusual and obscure gold.

According to The World Atlas of Wine, the Pfalz, a region between Saarbrücken and the Rhein, is “today arguably [Germany’s] most exciting wine region… famous for an increasing number of seriously ambitious individual wine producers.” Von Buhl makes its wines in Deidesheim, a Pfalz town surrounded, if the Atlas is to be believed, by “excellent” and “exceptional” vineyards. This is the southern end of the Mittelhaardt, long known for producing some of Germany’s finest Rieslings, with “succulent honeyed richness and body, balanced with thrilling acidity.”

But Pinot Noir? This thin-skinned variety, notoriously susceptible to rot, does surprisingly well in the Pfalz, which is “Germany’s sunniest, driest region,” according to the Atlas. Since the vineyards receive only about 16 inches of rainfall a year, mildew and rot tend not to be a problem. And if you look at map, you’ll see that the Pfalz (also known as the Palatinate) is not too far from Burgundy, home to some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world.

I’m not sure the Pinots of the Pfalz quite reach those lofty heights — that’s for another blog post — but I can tell you that the Reichsrat Pinot Noir Rosé was no insipid White Zinfandel. It had a honeydew aroma mixed with something a little spicy, and the melon notes continued onto the palate. A blitz of sharp, limey acids blasted the fruit out of the way, leading to a spicy finish. There was a prickle on the tongue as well — a hint of bubbles. And indeed, the von Buhl website notes that this wine “is actually a product of [their] sparkling wine production.”

This rosé isn’t “fun,” exactly. It’s not a wine I would serve at a pool party. It demands attention. But paired with an Asian “salad” of wheat berries, beef, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, red peppers, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, it worked beautifully. The acids rounded out, becoming more orangey than limey, and the wine felt bigger, rounder, and, most interestingly, smokier.

If you’re hankering for a rosé this autumn or winter, the von Buhl would be a great choice.

SUMMARY

2011 Reichsrat von Buhl Pinot Noir Rosé: Verging on sparkling, with melony fruit and sharp, racy acids. Excellent with food. Chill well in the refrigerator.

Grade: B+

Find It: I must admit I don’t recall what I spent on this bottle, and it’s not available on Binny’s website as of this posting. I did a quick search online and found a number of stores selling it; the lowest price I found was $18.

Pinot Mutant

8 September 2012

The first time I heard of Pinot Meunier was back in 2004, when I visited the Pommery Champagne caves in Reims. There I learned that it is one of three grapes allowed to be used in Champagne blends (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the others). According to “common wisdom,” The Oxford Companion to Wine somewhat dubiously notes, “Meunier contributes youthful fruitiness to complement Pinot Noir’s weight and Chardonnay’s finesse.” But though we tasted Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) and Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir), we never tasted a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne. Even then, long before Odd Bacchus was even a teeny glimmer of an idea, I was most intrigued.

In the intervening years, I’ve never forgotten about Pinot Meunier, especially once I discovered that it occasionally did appear as a varietal wine. Perhaps three or four times, I’ve even seen Pinot Meunier on a wine list or in a shop, but I never got up the courage to order it. It tended to be expensive, and I didn’t want to risk it, especially if I had to select a wine for the table in a restaurant.

Finally, at Binny’s on Marcey, I broke through the fear and plunked down $20 for a bottle of German Pinot Meunier. I mean, if anyone could make a great red wine from Pinot Meunier, it would be the Germans, right?

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