Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

After a visit to Central Otago in September at the invitation of COPNL (Central Otago Pinot Noir Ltd),  I have been thinking a good deal about pinot noir in the last 10 weeks.  Thus the November visit of Carsten  Heinemeyer,  Dipl. Ing. Oen.,  Owner and Managing Director of 2B Concept Consulting,  was a great attraction.  His firm specialises in fermentation technology,  and is based in Breisach near Freiburg,  Germany.  His customer list spans France,  Germany and New Zealand particularly.  He brought six German pinot noirs,  and a German methode champenoise,  to present to a small but highly attentive audience at Regional Wines & Spirits,  Wellington.  Incorrigible Wellington wine-man Andrew Swann also produced an Austrian pinot noir,  for discussion.

Carsten's introduction was masterly,  more in the form of a PowerPoint presentation at a wine conference,  rather than your usual public wine tasting.  I do not plan to summarise him here,  though some parallel  information can be found in a recent article on the Net,  by Romana Echensperger MW,  ref. below.

Highlights to make us think a good deal more about Germany as a red wine producer,  from our vantage point here in New Zealand,  were simple statements like:
#  Parts of Baden are warmer than Burgundy;
#  The area of pinot noir in Baden [ 5,855 ha in 2008,  5696 in 2013 according to Robinson ] is greater than all the pinot noir plantings in New Zealand [ 5,564 ha in 2015 ];
#  the area of pinot noir in Germany at c.12,800 ha is more than twice that in New Zealand.  Germany is the world's third largest producer of pinot noir.
#  UV levels in Germany are a fraction of New Zealand's,  the grapes therefore produce much lower levels of anthocyanin pigments,  a factor contributing to the wines therefore being paler;
#  Though the Dijon clones are increasing in Germany,  the clones produced at Geisenheim and Freiburg:  GM 1-18;   FR 5286 (good wine quality,  abundant till recently,  susceptible to botrytis);  FR 1801 (now the most-planted clone in Baden,  maybe Germany,  botrytis-resistant,  good wine quality) and some of the 'Frank' clones,  are still widespread.  There are small differences in smell and taste,  but they are still clearly in the pinot noir family of wines;  
#  In the growing season,  diurnal fluctuation in the grape-growing parts of Europe is typically of the order of 10 – 12 degrees,  due to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream.  This is a fraction of that found in the South Island of New Zealand,  or even in Martinborough,  where the range can be 20° per 24 hours;  
#  The winemaking approach is very different in Germany,  red wine-making traditionally being via a more oxidative approach,  with less new oak,  compared with the tending-reductive and gas-protected approach many New Zealand practitioners adopt,  plus greater use of new oak;
#  Soil parent materials,  and hence the soils,  are also very different in Germany,  with many sites influenced by base-rich old volcanic / igneous rocks,  or more alkaline / calcareous limestones.  [ In New Zealand many sites are ultimately based on on greywacke and greywacke-derived schist,  and soils tend to be more acidic ];  
#  The German consumer wants a savoury dry pinot noir,  in contrast to popular assumptions about German red winestyles,  whereas in New Zealand there is a much greater emphasis on 'sweet' fruit;  
#  [ Reading between the lines ] German winemakers are however currently subject to the peril / temptation of using too much new oak,  which doesn't suit pinot noir,  in effect pandering to simple-minded English judging panels giving higher medals to more oaky wines [ nice to know New Zealand judging is not alone in this ... ];
#  For those who doubt global warming / climate change,  traditional ripening times / hang times in Germany used to be of the order of 120 days to produce 12° of alcohol,  whereas nowadays the interval is more like 100 days hang time for 13.5 – 14° alcohol.  As a consequence,  acid addition has been allowed since 2011;
#  The decline in riesling,  and particularly off-dry riesling,  in Germany has been remarkable,  since the 1970s.

All of this was quite an eye-opener to several of us who over the years,  have tasted every spatburgunder (German pinot noir) that could be found,  which amounted to very few,  and generally found them to be a pale reflection of pinot noir,  relative to the wines of Burgundy.  And that is even allowing for the fact that so many burgundies are paler than New Zealand pinot noir.  Accordingly I approached the tasting with great interest,  an interest heightened by the fact I had 17 New Zealand pinot noirs under ice at home (from a recent Worth Cellaring evaluation,  reported on separately),  which I could use for cross-referencing.  

In the notes below,  I could not easily reconcile some of the pricings given at the tasting with prices on-line,  where for sale.

Romana Echensperger, 2013:  Pinot Noir with an Umlaut: German Spatburgunder:  
www.guildsomm.com/TC/stay_current/features/b/weblog2/archive/2013/07/26/pinot-noir-with-an-umlaut-german-sp-228-tburgunder.  Several pages.
Team Robinson,  no date:  Germany  [ A good / brief introduction to modern German wine ]:  www.jancisrobinson.com/learn/wine-regions/germany.  Several pages.


2011  Weingut Bernhard Huber Spatburgunder Bienenberg GG
2011  Weingut Brundlemayer Pinot Noir Reserve
2012  Weingut Furst Hundruck Spatburgunder GG
   nv  Hiss Deutscher Sekt Zero Dosage [ Pinot Meunier ]
  2010  Weingut Knipser Spatburgunder Kirschgarten GG
2013  Weingut Meyer-Nakel Spatburgunder
2012  Weingut G H Mumm Spatburgunder Assmannshauser Trocken
2011  Weingut der Stadt Mainz Spatburgunder Handselektiert

nv  Hiss Deutscher Sekt Zero Dosage [ Pinot Meunier ]   17 ½  ()
Baden,  Germany:  12%;  $ –    [ champagne cork;  a €10 wine = $16;  full MLF;  the base wine in 3,000-litre fuder briefly;  4 years en tirage,  hand-riddled;  one website gives the RS as 2.8 g/L;  www.weingut-hiss.de ]
Light lemon straw.  Bouquet is the high point in this bubbly,  showing both strawberry / meunier immediate  appeal,  and beautifully expressed brioche-level autolysis from the extended tirage.  And then you taste it,  and immediately think,  if the German people can make bubbly with dosage as low as this,  what on earth is wrong with the people who make Lindauer,  persisting with their tacky 11 – 12 g/L.  The label says zero dosage,  but it doesn't taste like it.  Whether this is a function of the soft meunier fruit character,  or again,   better dry extract than most New Zealand methode champenoise wines,  I cannot say.  It tastes more like 4 – 5 g/L.  Somewhere in the later palate there is a slight phenolic awkwardness,  but this is pretty lovely wine.   Deutscher Sekt was never like this.  A €10 = $NZ16 wine,  so head-on competition for Lindauer Special Reserve and many more expensive New Zealand methode champenoise wines.  Cellar 2 – 5 years only,  being meunier.  GK 11/15

2012  Weingut Furst Hundruck Spatburgunder GG   18 +  ()
Franken,  Germany:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork 50mm;  €80,  say $NZ130;  4-7 days cold soak @ 10°C;  all wild-yeast fermentations,  whole bunch avoided in general,  stems don't ripen fully;  cuvaison 18 – 21 days;  press wine incorporated;  wines at this level matured on lees up to 18 months in French and German 225s,  up to 50% new;  some large older oak too;  www.weingut-rudolf-fuerst.de ]
[ GG denotes Grosses Gewächs (great growth),  a designation used to designate top-level dry wines from  selected sites . ]  Pinot noir ruby,  below midway in the German pinots,  lighter than the lightest New Zealand wine.  Bouquet is a delight,  a total expression of tea-roses florality on red and even black cherry fruit,  with a remarkable volume of roses florality.  It is closest to the Greystone in the New Zealand set,  but deeper and more sensual.  Flavours likewise are deeper,  richer and riper than the Greystone,  but also there is a curious hint of that weakness reminiscent of the earlier spatburgunders,  which the best New Zealand (and Oregon, from limited experience) pinots avoid.  Dry extract in this German wine is exemplary,  eclipsing nearly all the New Zealand wines,  likely to be over 30 g/L – we really need to take note of this.  Leaving aside colour,  the closest analogy in the New Zealand wines is the 2014 Maude where I see I recorded 'very gentle,  not showing the tannin structure…'.  This is a lovely pinot noir,  in truth a gold medal pinot noir by New Zealand standards,  so we can be thankful that it is an 80-euro wine in Germany.  Jamie Goode (UK) quotes Furst as saying:  My interest in Pinot Noir is to have silkiness, not strong tannins … Pinot Noir and Riesling are both varieties that have to dance on the tongue.  and for the pinot noir:  It is important not to find the oak in your mouth: if the wine has oak then it is a big mistake.  That observation is so relevant to some producers in New Zealand.  Incidentally Goode rated the 2005 of this wine 93 / 100.  Cellar 3  – 10 years.  GK 11/15

2013  Weingut Meyer-Nakel Spatburgunder   17 ½  ()
Ahr,  Germany:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork 46mm;  given as a €48 wine = $NZ78;  small oak used in addition to large;  www.meyer-naekel.de ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  above midway in the German wines,  about the same depth of colour as the  Martinborough Te Tera in the New Zealand wines.  This is a much darker bouquet among the German wines,  darkly floral,  clearly black cherries,  but just a hint of a dull edge too.  Flavours immediately compete with good New Zealand pinot noir,  clear cherry fruits in a similar weight and texture to the Roaring Meg example,  though the flavours a little darker,  gentle tannins,  dry finish.  The oak shows through slightly,   making one think also of the Pencarrow wine,  and on checking they do compare closely.  If this Meyer is a 48-euro (NZ $78) wine,  since it closely matches two of New Zealand's best 'second wine' pinots,  this  offers exciting scope for us in the EEC market.  Jancis Robinson in 2010 offered the general comment:  It would not be exaggerating to say that Meyer-Nakel makes some of the most outstanding Spatburgunder in Germany.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 11/15

2011  Weingut Bernhard Huber Spatburgunder Bienenberg GG   17  ()
Baden,  Germany:  13%;  $ –    [ cork 55mm;  a €38 wine,  say $NZ62;  up to 50% new oak;  cropping rate this wine c.3.9 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac;  www.weingut-huber.com ]
An older pinot noir ruby,  in the middle of the German wines,  close to matching the lightest New Zealand wine.  Bouquet is both floral,  and vanillin-new oaky,  but in a lighter style,  tea-roses only and red cherries at best,  just a hint of red currants.  Flavour is more along the lines of spatburgunder as we used to know it,  but  the level of new oak is totally new,  maybe highlighting Carsten's comments.  Even though it smells and  tastes of vanillin new oak,  the wine is not tannic.  Weight of fruit is good,  but there is a suggestion of residual sweetness filling the wine out a little.  Though lighter,  it has the same magic quality that the Tom's Block wine showed in the New Zealand set,  all red fruits but no leafy under-ripe suggestions.  The well-known British wine merchant Justerini & Brooks considers Huber 'famed for his Pinots, in particular his world class Pinot Noir' … and quote Gault & Millau similarly.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/15

2012  Weingut G H Mumm Spatburgunder Assmannshauser Trocken   16 ½ +  ()
Rheingau,  Germany:  13%;  $ –    [ cork 50mm;  a €13 = $NZ21 wine;  all German clones;  mostly older 1000-litre fuder,  a new oak component up to 20%;  www.mumm.de ]
A good weight of pinot noir colour,  but a slightly drab hue,  the second deepest of the German wines,  about in the middle of the New Zealand ones.  This wine maybe illustrated Carsten's thoughts on the desire for savoury pinot noirs in Germany.  Bouquet is fragrant to a degree,  some ill-defined red fruits,  but also a suggestion of heavyness reminiscent of some high-solids chardonnays.  There is also quite a lot of oak.  Palate is better,  good red fruits,  attractive flavours,  some older oak apparent too.  Again the dry extract is good,  better than many New Zealand pinot noirs,  so much so you wonder if there is trace residual,  but I think not.   As with Roaring Meg,  when the fruit is good,  it can be hard to tell.  There is just a reminder of some paler but oak-handled Cotes du Rhone,  here – again pointing to the savoury approach.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/15

2011  Weingut Brundlemayer Pinot Noir Reserve   16 ½  ()
Langenlois,  Austria:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork 51mm;  a $US63 wine = $NZ96 wine;  hand-picked;  average cropping rate across all varieties 5.2 t/ha =  2.1 t/ac;  'maceration' of 2 weeks,  so cuvaison presumably longer;  elevation 12 – 14 months in predominantly 300-litre Austrian oak casks,  new and 1-year,  for 14 months;  bottle courtesy Andrew Swann;  www.bruendlmayer.at ]
Dark pinot noir ruby,  out of line with the German wines,  more matching one of the deeper New Zealand  wines,  e.g. the Wanaka Road.  It doesn't smell anything like the Wanaka Road however,  the wine essentially lacking pinot noir florality,  subtlety and charm.  Yet there is a dusky fragrance,  on black cherry (just) and plummy fruit.  Palate is rich,  dry and savoury,  more in line for a darker kind of Cote de Nuits wine,   but tannic and clunky.  I suspect the simple answer is a good dash of zwiegelt in this wine (which comprises 7% of the vineyard plantings),  adding colour and subtracting 'pinosity'.  The closest smell and taste comparison in the New Zealand set is the Dry River,  but the Austrian has a good deal more charm.  Cellar 5 – 15-plus years.  UK winewriter Tim Atkin MW rates Brundlemayer as one of the 10 most influential winemakers in Austria.  GK 11/15

2010  Weingut Knipser Spatburgunder Kirschgarten GG   16 +  ()
Rheinfalz,  Germany:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork 50mm;  a €28= $NZ45 wine;  RS 0.8 g/L;  www.weingut-knipser.de ]
Light and older pinot noir ruby,  more what spatburgunder used to be,  the second-lightest of the German wines,  so not on the New Zealand scale.  This wine has that frail pinot aroma that used to characterise spatburgunder,  more red currants at best but here older,  nicely matched on bouquet by older oak.  Palate is delicate to a fault,  fading strawberry and redcurrant,  a trace of leaf,  seemingly not bone dry [ but it is ],  but as with all these German pinots,  still good dry extract.  So it is not weak in terms of body,  just in flavour.   Be good with light foods though.  Noteworthy that in a community where wine is a long-established part of life,  this 2010 vintage is still 'current',  ie on sale.  The contrast with the New Zealand obsession for drinking wines before they have even come together,  let alone gained a hint of maturity,  could not be more vital,  given a wine as light as this.  Delightfully easy drinking.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 11/15

2011  Weingut der Stadt Mainz Spatburgunder Handselektiert   15 ½ +  ()
Rheinhessen,  Germany:  13%;  $ –    [ cork 50mm;   a €14 wine = $23;  no detail;  www.weingut-fleischer.de ]
Lighter and older wine,  the palest of the German pinots.  Bouquet is lesser on this wine,  like redcurrant jelly  showing age,  a little VA,  the latter giving the impression of the wine being 'savoury'.  Fruit in mouth is light too,  a little strawberry (faded) joining the red currant,  new oak a bit too apparent for the fruit level,  all maturing quite rapidly.  Dry finish though.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 11/15