Spatburgunder Revisited: From North to South

5/6/2008 -

(Werner Nakel's tasting room in the Ahr - - - an old Roman Ruin)

Spatburgunder is hotter than ever and the great ones that have been hoarded in Germany by top restaurants and collectors are finally arriving on our shores. Why is that? Because more and more American tasters are going there and tasting these spectacular wines. At Chambers Street Wines, Lyle, our resident Spatburgunder fanatic, has compiled an array of interesting Spatburgunders from all the top regions. Spatburgunder is grown as far north as the Ahr (North of Mosel) and as far South as Baden. With such a great distance between growing regions there are obvious differences. Throw in winemaking decisions and philosophies and you can see where I'm going which brings us to today's offer.

Friedrich Becker is an iconic figure in the world of German Spatburgunder. He is considered the quality leader for great Spatburgunder in the Pfalz and arguably all of Germany. He became famous in Germany for his detailed and lovely whites but has always been improving his red wines. Saptburgunder needs stony, chalky soils to succeed in this area and the soils that were appropriate were on the Alsace side of the German/Alsace border. There is a law that enables this grower to label their wines with German nomenclature despite being the vineyards being in Alsace proper. He makes red wine by "guts and instinct" as he says and his legendary 1989's proved that. Now son and daughter Fritz and Helena are heavily involved in the family business. I have visited the estate twice and Fritz is passionate and involved and has wonderful ideas about the direction the estate will go in. The wine in todays offer is the 2006 Becker Pinot Noir "B". It says Pinot Noir on the label for marketing reasons as many consumers are scared by big words like Spatburgunder. But as soon as you smell this wine you know this is Spatburgubnder with lovely red fruits, mineral, herbal notes and a palate with a lush mouthfeel and wonderful prickly acidity. A wine that is gulpable and is a great value, as it is difficult to find this quality at this price in Burgundy or especially California. But be aware this is no California Pinot Noir or Burg wannabe. It is unabashed Spatburgunder and proud of it. A lovely wine and will be tasted this Saturday at our huge non-Riesling German tasting. Now that is the South, here comes the North.

The Ahr is a region that has been largely ignored by the American consumer. Not that it is their fault! Not many Ahr wines are brought into the United States and it is predominantly a red wine region which is highly uncommon for Germany. Nevertheless, Meyer-Nakel is the quality leader of this region north of the Mosel. Werner Nakel is the man behind this picturesque estate. The soils are mostly slate which is common to its southern neighbor, the Mosel. His 2006 "Blauschiefer" Pinot Noir is glorious with deep, rich fruit, and lovely slatey minerality. The depth on the mid palate is incredible and the finish long.

This Saturday we will be tasting some Spatburgunders and comparing them to Pinot Noirs from Burgundy. Plus on the undercard will be some other great German Burgunders like Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder.

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