Spätburgunder Spotlight (Spätlight?)

Posted on: August 23rd, 2018 by

Can’t say I’ve had a lot of German Pinot Noir. So when I had the chance to attend a dinner celebrating Spätburgunder (that’s the country’s name for Pinot Noir), there was no way I was missing it. Hearty thanks to Icy Liu for the invitation. (Her IG is full of incredible wines.)

Our Master of Ceremonies was Lyle Fass of the eponymous Fass Selections. He brought most of the wines, along with a final two bottles courtesy of Brad Trent. (Check out his photography.) We were joined by a few wine industry pros.

Overall the wines were excellent. I haven’t had that much good Pinot at one sitting in a long time. These are wines that belong on the table and in the cellar.

One thing I was wondering before we started is, “What is German Pinot Noir?” Does it have a style, a signature?

Of course, that’s not a good place to start. It’s a big country. You have to dive into the regions (Mosel, etc.) and get to know the producers. And probably the vintage. It’s a lot like learning about Burgundy. Dedication, with a touch of obsessiveness/madness, is key.

I’d also advice anyone stymied by German Pinot Noir to flip the bottle over. If you see Fass Selections, it’s going to be something on the elegant, earthy, spicy side. No pumped-up PN here. (This is advice I would give for wine, period. Find an importer you like and if its name is on the back of an unfamiliar bottle, take a flyer.)

One way to think about German Pinot Noir came from Lyle himself. He likes to refer to it as “Red Riesling.” All the things that make Riesling from this part of the world compelling and complex can make an appearance in a fine bottle of Spätburgunder. (Except sweetness. These are totally, completely dry red wines. Also, a ton of German Riesling is now dry. I digress….)

Splendid Spätburgunder

Here are the eight bottles with comments. The wines were arranged in flights of two.

Eight bottles of Spätburgunder Pinot Noir from Germany.

Mosel Flight

Weingut Spater-Veit 2008

We started with the oldest bottle. Very smooth, low tannins, and lots of mushrooms peeking out from forest floor kinda thing going on. Would drink now.

Marbleous 2015 Winniger

Was it marvelous? (Sorry.) Yes. Probably tasting it next to a wine almost a decade older made the Marbleous show noticeably different/better. But I loved the fruit and the intensity. This is from a warmer (lower) part of the Mosel.

Limestone Flight

Ziereisen Jaspis 2014

Earthy and a wine you want to brood over, nice acidity and a little touch of tannin. #ambrooding

Thörle 2015 Probstey

Rich, dark, and juicy. Mellowed the longer it was open/in the glass. Bodes well for a long future. Lyle considers Probstey to be a “Grand Cru” site.

Weingut Josef Walter Flight

2011 Pinot 274 Centgrafenberg 

Lots of twigs and smoky/savory notes on the nose. Wonderful vegetable (I like veg in my red) component, spice, and then you get a nice fruit pop at the end. Intriguing blend of 40% Spatburgunder and 60% Fruhburgunder, the latter a Pinot Noir variant. 

2012 “J” Hundsrück

This wine was peachy, as in peaches. Which is strange when talking about smelling/tasting a red wine, but that what makes wine so dang compelling. Nice richness.

Enderle & Moll Flight

2015 Buntsandstein

Li’l smoky, high acid. Perfect. (Because of the night progressing and darkness descending, my notes got more, ahem, compact.)

2015 Muschelkalk

Fruiter and richer than the B. Hell of an end to the evening’s festivities.


The moral of the story? Above all, seek out Spätburgunder, and from a good importer. Really, there are lots of countries you may not think of for Pinot Noir that may surprise and delight. Add Germany to the list.

Marbbleous Spätburgunder

Finally, we met for dinner at Riverpark. The patio (where we sat) has marvelous waterfront views. We could even see my home neighborhood of Greenpoint from our table. Of course, being the stupid magnanimous person I am, I chose to sit facing the restaurant. The crab and cornbread dish with peekytoe crab, charred corn, heirloom peppers, lime, onion, and beurre blanc was excellent. I also had a very nice cavatelli dish with smoked chicken, corn, fresno chiles, parmesan, and fines herbes. I love corn in the summertime!

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2 Responses

  1. Valerie says:

    Super summation of Spätburgunder, Jameson! Since Germany is the third-largest Pinot Noir producer in the world and quality has risen so quickly over the past decade, these wines definitely deserve to be better known. Thanks to you and Lyle for shining the “Spätlight” on them!

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