Monday, December 26, 2011

Rapturous Reds - Tasting German Red Wines Available in the Washington DC Market, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Riesling Star Ernst Loosen, who also makes red wine in the Pfalz at Villa Wolf

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.

Against this background, the German Wine Society (DC Chapter) organized a red wine tasting earlier this year. I could not make it for the tasting but was very much involved in the preparation of it.

The Tim Atkin Tasting of October 2011

Interestingly, the German Wine Society Tasting in Washington DC took place at about the same time as the now famous Tim Atkin Tasting in London, where German red wines put on an extremely strong performance.

Sponsored by the German Wine Institute (Deutsches Wein Institut), Tim Atkin organized a Pinot Noir tasting in London in October 2011, at 7 of the top 13 wines of the 40 Pinot Noirs from around the world were German Spaetburgunder wines. This tasting has a good chance of becoming a miles post in the ongoing process of international recognition of Germany as a producer of premium red wines.

Rapturous Reds Tasting in Washington DC

The tasting in Washington DC was organized and led by German Wine Society member by Michael Fritze, who gave the tasting the title “Rapturous Reds”. Mike and I spent some time during the summer meticulously researching candidates for this tasting. To come up with a sensible list of wines was not easy. Many wine stores in Washington do not carry any German red wine. Who drinks German red wine? Others do carry German red wines, but these were the red wines that did not meet our standards in the pre-tastings. Finally, we had to be budget conscious. All in all, there were perhaps another 6 wines available in the Washington DC market that were not in included in the tasting for one of the two reasons above.

Here are the wines presented at the tasting.


This very old red variety probably originated in, and derives its name from, Tirol, where it is known as Schiava (Italy) and Vernatsch (Austria). A large yielder that ripens very late, it produces fragrant, fruity, light wines with a pronounced acidity.

We were very proud to be able to include a Trollinger in the tasting; it was the only Trollinger we came across in our research. And it was a NV wine. But not bad, easy drinking, light.

NV Winzergenossenschaft Württemberg, Trollinger


In Germany, the Spätburgunder is to red wine what the Riesling is to white wine: the cream of the crop. In fact, Germany is the world's third largest producer of Pinot Noir. The German name for the grape is Spätburgunder - late (spät) ripening pinot (burgunder). Today, Germany is the third biggest producer of Pinot Noir (called Spaetburgunder in Germany), after France and the US, with more planted than Australia and New Zealand combined. However, despite being the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir, the country exports just over 1% of its production.

2008 August Kessler Spätburgunder Trocken, Rheingau (Assmanshausen)
2010 Vier Jahreszeiten Pinot Noir, Pfalz (Bad Dürkheim)
2008 Meyer-Näkel Blauschiefer Pinot Noir Trocken, Ahr
2008 Knipser Blauer Spätburgunder Trocken, Pfalz (Laumersheim)
2008 Becker Estate Pinot Noir Qualitätswein, Pfalz (Schweigen)
2008 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir, Pfalz (Ernst Loosen owned)

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, one of Germany's Pinot Noir stars.

Picture: Christian Schiller with Helena Becker from Weingut Friedrich Becker in the Pfalz

Frankly, I think this was quite an impressive collection of German Spaetburgunder wines, which included a number of big names when it comes to German red wine.


A prolific, relatively early ripener, Dornfelder produces wine far deeper in color than is typical of German reds.

2008 Georg Albrecht Schneider Dornfelder Trocken, Rheinhessen (Nierstein)
2007 Weingut Binz Dornfelder Trocken, Rheinhessen (Nackenheim)
2008 Weingut Walter Merk Dornfelder Trocken, Pfalz

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Georg Albrecht Schneider from Rheinhessen

Three reasonably priced Dornfelder wines which showed very well what Dornfelder is able to achieve.

Dornfelder (Virginia)

Finally, Michael Fritze, at the suggestion of the German Wine Society (DC Chapter) Board, included a Dornfelder from Virginia in the tasting.

2009 Windsong Dornfelder Virginia

Michael Fritze’s Power Point Presentation

Mike prepared a very nice Power Point Presentation for the evening. In addition to a lot of background information on German red wine, he prepared for each wine a separate sheet.

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In the Glass: A 2007 Pinot Noir from the Gault Millau Shooting Star of the Year - Estate Baron Gleichenstein, Germany

California Pinot Noir Pioneer Walter Schug: From the Rheingau in Germany to Carneros in California

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A Pinot Noir Star: Visiting August Kesseler and his Weingut August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, Germany

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Visit: Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany - for Upcoming German Wine Society Tasting in Washington DC, USA

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