Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)

Outside of France, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust headquartered in London, only recognizes one European country as a premier producer of pinot noir, Germany, a country known so well for its white wines that it is often overlooked when in search of a good red wine. It should be no surprise then that pinot noir is the most common red grape varietal grown in Germany. Spätburgunder (/shpāt-bur-gūn-dur/) is the German word for pinot noir though spätburgunder is also labelled as pinot noir occasionally in Germany. The grape varietal originated around the fourth century in Burgundy, France. German being such a practical language, one could glean from the name spätburgunder that it is a pinot that typically ripens relatively later in the fall. “Burgunder” is used in German to mean pinot because most pinot grapes varietals originated in Burgundy and “spät” is the German word for late. In contrast, the German word for early is “früh,” so note also the rare frühburgunder (/frūew-bur-gūn-dur/).

Spätburgunder is a grape varietal that is very picky for where it can be grown to produce premier wine. The Ahr region is regarded as one of Germany’s best wine regions for spätburgunder along with the Pfalz, and Baden. Characteristically, spätburgunder is a color-intensive medium to dark ruby with tones of dark fruit, figs, cinnamon, pepper and black tea. It is usually mild to moderate for acidity and tannins. If you are patient enough to cellar spätburgunder, you can be rewarded by whole new animalic tones and candied plum that turn to fine oak tones of caramel, chocolate, smoke and vanilla.