Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wine Tasting at Weingut Bernhard Huber – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Picture: Arriving at Weingut Bernhard Huber

Recently, Der Feinschmecker, the leading German food and wine journal, carried an article about German red wine. Its message was that Germany had established itself as a serious red wine country during the past 30 years. Der Feinschmecker portraits 10 winemakers behind this wine revolution. One of them was Bernhard Huber. It is not for no reason that he was Gault Millau’s wine producer of the year in 2007.

Bernhard Huber, only 53 years old, died in June 2014, a few months before our visit, after a battle with cancer. His wife Barbara wrote us in a moving email that she and their children try to keep Bernhard Huber's vision of wine making alive and that they will continue to produce top quality wines.

Picture: Julian and Barbara Huber at the 2014 Gault Millau Awards Ceremony in Mainz, see: Germany’s Best Winemakers and Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2015 Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany

The visit to Weingut Bernhard Huber focused very much on the outstanding wines of Weingut Huber. My friend and wine critic Panos Kakaviatos visited Weingut Huber a few months before us and tasted most of the wines we tasted. I am copying his tasting notes. For the whole posting of Panos Kakaviatos, go here on his blog Wine-Chronicles.

See also:
One of the Fathers of the German Red Wine Revolution: Weingut Huber in Baden

Weingut Huber

The Huber Estate is located in Malterdingen in the Breisgau area. More than 700 years ago, Cistercian monks came to Malterdingen, and found the same terroir as in Burgundy and thus started to plant Pinot Noir grapes. Still today, in many reference books on grape varieties, “Malterdinger” is used as a synonym for Pinot Noir.

Although the vineyard has been in the family for several generations, Bernhard and Barbara first began estate bottling, when they took control in 1987 from his father. Before that, grapes and wine were sold to a local cooperative.

Picture: At Weingut Bernhard Huber

In 2004 Bernhard Huber started “Reserve” wines bottled from vineyards individually. Before that, his top wine was a mix of vineyard sites.

The vineyard area totals 26 hectares, with holdings in the Bienenberg (Malterdingen), Schlossberg (Hecklingen) and Sommerhalde (Bombach) sites. 70 % is planted with Pinot Noir, the rest with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Freisamer, Muskateller, Müller-Thurgau, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The red wines always ferment on the skin and lay in the oak barrel for up to 18 months before bottling. Weingut Huber has about 600 barrique barrels and replaces about 150 barrels each year.
Weingut Huber also produces sparkling wine – brut, of course, for Euro 16.50.

A lot of the wines are in the 20, 30 or 40 Euro category. Weingut Huber is clearly interested in super premium wines and not in day-to-day easy drinking wines. Wine critic Panos Kakaviatos: Although the price tag is (very) steep for people not familiar with quality German Pinot (over 100 euros per bottle), the Wildenstein 2011, coming from just over 2 hectares of vines, exuded vivid perfumed violet and lead pencil – a very elegant yet concentrated wine that beguiles winelovers. It was easily the best German Pinot Noir I have ever tasted and I want to put it into a blind tasting of top Burgundies and see how it does.

The Huber Estate is a member of the VDP and the Deutsches Barrique-Forum association.

Picture: Tasting at Weingut Bernhard Huber

Tasting Notes (Panos Kakaviatos)

2011 Spätburgunder Euro 12,80

Baden Spätburgunder 2011: Made from yields of about 60 to 65 hectolitres per hectare for this intro wine, from 3- to 12-old vines. The malolactic is done in older 225 litre barrels. Has ripe and light cherry notes, a touch of warmth, as 2011 was a warmer than average year. Fine tannic structure. Concentration coming from a flowering that was cool leading to some shattering and small, concentrated berries – so a less than average sized crop.

2011 Malterdinger Spätburgunder Euro 16,80

Malterdinger Spätburgunder 2011: Lower yields at 50-55 hectolitres per hectare, made from older vines between 12-25 years old. Unfiltered. A different clone used which explains a noticeably lighter colour – and a rather tart style. Is it just a bit wound up? 13.5 alcohol. The back label was in Japanese – so a bottle meant for the Japanese market.

2011 Spätburgunder Alte Reben Euro 27,00

Alte Reben Spätburgunder 2011: A noticeable step above this old vine Pinot Noir, made from 25- to 60-year old vines. It clocks in at about 13% alcohol, with 35 to 38 hectolitres per hectare. It is aged 9 to 10 months in new oak then racked into one-year old barrels. There is a touch of sweetness from the new oak but mostly harmonious. It has an elegant cherry fruit expression with some creamy elements. The palate conveys tannin and structure, but a smooth velvet like aspect. I noticed a different cork, and Huber explained that he spends about €1.30 per cork, not including vat tax and he buys corks from different producers to limit risk of TCA taint. I love the red label of this wine as well – it is a cool looking label that he has used since 1990. I bought three bottles of this Pinot Noir for €27 per bottle.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Panos Kakaviatos in Germany at Weingut Schaetzel

Celebrating Riesling and my Birthday at Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany

2011 Bienenberg Spätburgunder GG Euro 40,00

Bienenberg Spätburgunder “R” GG 2011: A €40 bottle that exhibits racy elegance. The GG stands for great growth or grand cru. Tobacco and mature fruit, plum spice on the nose lead to graphite and stewed cherry on the palate. Same winemaking as with the Old Vines wine, but slightly lower yields at 30 hectolitres per hectare from 6 prime parcels in the Bienenberg vineyard. As much as I liked the attack and the mid palate, the wine seems to have a bit of a tannic wall on finish… Give it time!

2011 Sommerhalde Spätburgunder GG Euro 40,00

Sommerhalde Spätburgunder “R” GG 2011: Another great growth, also from five parcels but the main one is facing the Black Forest, so a cooler terroir – probably good in a warmish vintage like 2011. I preferred this to the previous wine and it sells for the same price. Really smooth expression of ripe black cherry and a real creaminess here enveloping serious tannic backbone for a longer haul.

2011 Schlossberg Spätburgunder GG Euro 55,00

Schlossberg Spätburgunder “R” GG 2011: Nothing to do with the first Alsace Grand Cru of the same name, this wine costs €55 bottle and comes from the very best slopes of the Schlossberg which all belong to Huber, who bought his plots in 1995. Made from whole clusters up to 90 per cent (previous wines tasted were fermented between 15 and 50 per cent whole cluster). There is plenty of power and tannic bite, which needs time to calm down. It is rich on the palate, concentration, but I could get just a hint of stem-derived flavour. Give this one time.

2011 Wildenstein Spätburgunder Reserve Euro 120,00

Wildenstein Spätburgunder “R” GG 2011: This was certainly a “wow” moment. Much like tasting Hill of Grace amongst other Barossa Valley reds. This did not have the intensity or evident tannic whoosh of the preceding wine but was far more elegant: like perfumed violets and lead. I told Huber that this simply stood out way above the preceding wines. And then I learned how much it cost: €120 for end consumers. Well the price is a bit high, but the wine clearly proves that one can have superb red wine made in Germany.

2011 Hecklinger Schlossberg Chardonnay Reserve Euro 55,00

The Schlossberg Chardonnay “R” 2011, for the same price, is a bit too oaky for me. The yellow colour was a tell-tale sign, after having undergone malolactic in new oak and aged up to 14 months in new oak. Why? Anyway, it would fit the profile for some fans of Chardonnay I suppose. There is enough freshness to make it interesting but I wonder if it would have been more balanced for my taste had it not been aged in 100% new oak or not undergone malo in new oak.

2011 Kenzinger Riesling Kabinett Euro 11,00


Panos Kakaviatos: All in all a magnificent visit to what is indeed a legendary German domain. Any serious and passionate wine lover who is visiting the Baden region in Germany or Alsace, France should contact the domain and schedule a visit and tasting.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013 

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