Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Kai Buhrfeind at Grand Cru Wine Bar in Frankfurt am Main
We were walking through Sachsenhausen in Frankfurt, Germany, after dinner, when we passed by one of my favorite wine bistros/bars/restaurants, the “Grand Cru”, which is owned and run by Kai Buhrfeind. I spotted Kai, we talked a bit and it did not take long that he opened a bottle of German Spaetburgunder. We ended up with a very entertaining couple of hours, drinking, reviewing and comparing 2 German Spaetburgunder wines from the Rheingau region.
The Wines we Tasted
2005 Querbach, Pinot Noir, Rheingau
2008 Chat Sauvage Pinot Noir Johannisberger Hoelle, Rheingau
Pictures: The Wines Kai Poured
The Querbach wine costs ex winery about Euro 8, the Chat Sauvage about 3 times of that.
Grand Cru Wine Bistro in Frankfurt am Main
Over the past couple of years, I have regularly dropped by the Grand Cru Wine Bistro (Weinrestaurant) in Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen district, whenever I was in Frankfurt. There is perhaps a handful of brasserie/bistro typ restaurants with a strong wine menu in Frankfurt am Main. Kai Buhrfeindt’s Grand Cru is one of them. The excellent food, the large, well chosen and ever changing wine list – with about 300 wines by the bottle and by the glass - and the French brasserie/bistro atmosphere of Grand Cru always bring back fond memories of the 3 years which I spent in Paris. The expertise and the passion for wine and food of owner Kai Buhrfeindt – a Staatlich gepruefte Weinnase (a government certified wine nose) - shows clearly and everywhere at Grand Cru.
Pictures: Last Guests at Grand Cru
The German Red Wine Revolution
We compared 2 red wines from Germany. There is a red wine revolution going on in Germany. Of course, given its location, the red wines of Germany tend to be not like the fruity red wines we know from warmer countries, but lean and more elegant, with a lot of finesse. 30 years ago, in the international scene, people would not talk about German red wine. But this has changed. Germany now produces red wines that can compete with the best of the world. The share of red wines in terms of production has increased from 10 percent in the 1980s to about 35 percent now in Germany.
Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Kai Buhrfeind
Pinot Noir/Spaetburgunder in the World, in Germany and in the Rheingau
In Germany, the Pinot Noir is called Spätburgunder. It is to red wine what the Riesling is to white wine: the cream of the crop. In the US, Pinot Noir shows great promise in Oregon and California. The reputation that gets Pinot Noir so much attention, however, is owed to the wines of the Bourgogne in France, where it has probably been cultivated since at least the 4th century (first documented, however, in the 14th century). Regardless of where it’s grown, Pinot Noir is not typically a value wine. That is so because Pinot Noir is such a delicate grape that it is difficult and expensive to grow and make into the spectacular wine it can be. It is sensitive to climate and soil, Pinot Noir needs warmth (but not intense heat) to thrive and does well in chalky soils. As the German name implies, it ripens late (spät).
Pictures: Impressive Wine Selection at Grand Cru
The Spaetburgunder’s success story in the Rheingau started with the Cistercians who created a net of monasteries across medieval Europe and with Eberbach Monastery founded their branch in the Rheingau. Present at all times: Spätburgunder, not only the economic basis for many monasteries but also symbol of the Christian mythology of the Last Supper with the blood of Christ. For a long time the Spätburgunder has appeared in many Rheingau vineyards from Hochheim to Lorchhausen but its traditional home in the Riesling country of the Rheingau is the steep slate vineyards behind the roofs of the small wine village of Assmannshausen. Set up by Eberbach Cistercians a hell of a good Spätburgunder grows in the world renowned Assmannshäuser Höllenberg. First mentioned more than 500 years ago the red Rheingau wines continue to be discussed until today. A large part of the hill is cultivated by the State Wineries of Hesse Domain Assmannshausen (“Hessische Staatsweingüter Domaine Assmannshausen”). However, it was August Kesseler who profoundly shaped the style of the Rheingau Spätburgunder in the last 20 years, with the help of harvest reductions, longer mash times and skilful wine processing in big wooden cask or in small barrique barrels and who pushed the Rheingau Spätburgunder into the ranking list of the best German red wines.
Weingut Peter Querbach
Weingut Peter Querbach is located in Oestrich-Winkel in the Rheingau. It is run by Wilfried Querbach and his son Peter. The vineyard area totals 9 hectares, with holdings in the Doosberg and Lenchen (Oestrich), Schönhell (Hallgarten), as well as the Hasensprung (Winkel) sites. The area is planted with Riesling (7,5 ha) and Pinot Noir (1,5 ha). Weingut Peter Querbach is a member of the VDP, Germany’s association of about 200 elite winemakers.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Peter Querbach at Premier Cru
In terms of Querbach’s wine making philosophy, only natural yeasts are used for fermentation, the wines are then matured in stainless steel tanks, and kept on the lees for an extended period. Since the 1999 vintage, the bottles have been closed with a special stainless steel closure system, a type of crown cork, developed by Peter Querbach. The focus of Weingut Querbach’s production is Riesling and Spaetburgunder only plays the secondary fiddle.
We started with the Querbach Pinot Noir, the considerably cheaper wine: A very nice Pinot Noir, light ruby-red in the glass, attack of wet leaves and leather on the nose, coupled with notes of strawberries and cherries, medium-bodied on the palate with more red fruit tones, lasting finish.
Weingut Chat Sauvage
Weingut Chat Sauvage, founded in 2001, is the baby of Günter Schulz, who has made his money and still is making his money outside of the wine industry. Wine, in particular Bourgogne varieties, is his passion. The winery is run by Michel Städter, who is also in charge of fermentation and aging. The vineyard work is under the supervision of Mathias Scheidweiler.
The vineyard area totals 7 hectares. 4/5 of the production is Pinot Noir and 1/5 is Chardonnay. 2/3 of the vineyards are steep slopes. All work in Chat Sauvage’s vineyards is manual work. Considerable attention is paid to keeping the yields low, with first pruning after flowering, a green harvest, as well as selective hand-picking. In the cellar, traditional maceration, 18 months aging in barrique and no filtration are among the guiding principles for making premium wines.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Kai Buhrfeind
Tasting notes: As noted, a much more expensive premium Pinot Noir than the Querbach wine, ruby-red in the glass, notes of cherry, cranberry, sweet spice and earthiness on the nose, a medium-bodied wine, layered soft tannins, bright acidity and a lingering finish, elegant and feminine.
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