Riesling may be the most famous grape variety in Germany but there is great diversity in the wines from Germany. Pinot has an impressive history in Germany and the wines are worth venturing away from the traditional classic Riesling that Germany is known for. When it comes to Pinot, there is more to it than Pinot Noir, there is also Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. If you love Pinots from France and Italy, be prepared to have Germany knock your socks off as well.
What exactly is Pinot?
Pinot is an old ancient variety, that is over 2000 years old. It is the great- grand-daddy of lots of grapes. Its offsprings are some of the most popular and most influential grape varieties in the world. The word Pinot is derived from the word “pin” meaning pine because the clusters resemble pine cones.
Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigio, and Pinot Blanc all have identical DNA’s. Pinot is the most complex of all grapes. Pinot along with Gouais Blanc has produced many offsprings like Chardonnay, Aligote, Auxxerois, Melon de Bourgogne and Gamay. Pinot is also the father of Savagnin(an ancient varietal), which is important in that it gave forth prominent international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Gruner Veltliner.
German Wine History – How Did Pinot Get To Germany?
German wine history began when the Romans brought grapes to Mosel in 100BC. Subsequently, in medieval times, Cistercian and Benedictine monks began to organize, study and give structure to German vineyards, In 884, the Pinot grape was brought to Baden from Burgundy by Emperor Charles III. This is an important fact as Rieslings came later. Riesling was not brought to Germany until 1435, during which time Pinot had already become widely planted.
Historic monasteries like Kloster Eberbach started to put their focus on Pinot. It was much later that Kloster Eberbach first planned late harvest botrytized Rieslings in Rheingau. Fast forward to the early 1900s, the price of wines in Germany reached the price of first growth in Bordeaux. Germany had begun to establish itself as a great wine-producing region.
In the 1950s German wines became highly popular in the United States with the introduction of Blue Nun wines. This created an era of sweet wines from Germany that were considered to be of low-quality. Times and perceptions of German wines have changed. Today, German vintners are introducing innovative ideas to modernize their centuries-old traditions. They continue to celebrate iconic varieties like Riesling and Pinots while experimenting with new grapes, styles, and techniques.
You Had Me At Pinot – Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir
Pinot Blanc is the white mutation of Pinot Noir. In recent years Germany has become the largest producer of Pinot Blanc in the world. In the 90’s Pinot Blanc became quite glamourous and was known with unique names in different regions. In Alsace Pinot Blanc is known as Klevener while in Germany it is known as Weissburgunder and it called Pinot Bianco in Italy. The main characteristic of Pinot Blanc is its roundness of flavor with a sense of sweetness due to its low acidity. The wines are typically dry, with medium to full body, bright flavors, and high acidity.
Selbach-Oster has 24 hectares on some of the steepest slopes along the Mosel River. The winery started in the mid-1800s but the family has 400 years of history-making wine. Many of their vineyards are ungrafted, some up to 100 years old. This is a medium-bodied wine with high acidity and intense minerality. There notes of tropical fruit, pineapples, and pear with nice intensity. It is super fresh and refreshing. Selbach-Oster is a very classic and traditional producer in Mosel.
Pinot Gris(Gris means grey) gets its name from its skin color, which is slightly grey. Germany is the third-largest producer of Pinot Gris. Italy is the number one producer followed by the USA, where Pinot Gris is wildly popular in Oregon. Pinot Gris is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy and Pinot Gris in France. Germany has several different names for Pinot Gris(Rülander, Grauburgunder, and Grauklevner). The flavor profile of Pinot Gris varies from region to region but common characteristics include notes of pears, apples, stonefruit, tropical fruits, and sweet spices.
Located on the border between Germany and France, Friedrich “Fritz” Becker makes some of the most profound Pinot wines (Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris) in the world. The estate is located in Schweigen, on the far south side of Pfalz, bordering Alsace, where they dedicate 60%. of their vineyards to Pinot.
The wine is biodynamically farmed. It is macerated for 12-18 hours and spends 5 months on lees. A unique and exceptional wine that is not quite a rosé nor is it an orange wine. The wine has a beautiful faint copper hue. There are strawberry, citrus, spice, and floral notes with nice natural acidity. This is a very unique example of the Pinot Gris grape variety.
Pinot Noir(Noir meaning dark), is also known as Spätburgunder in Germany. Since Pinot has been grown for a long time in Germany, they have specific clones that have developed for their specific terroir. Germany is known to produce cool-climate Pinot Noirs that are expressive with notes of cranberries and cherries with earthy mushroom notes. German Pinot Noirs often have notes of baking spice(cinnamon & nutmeg) on the finish.
The Rebholz family history in Siebeldingen in Pfalz dates back to 1632. They are pioneers in organic and natural winemaking. This Pinot Noir Rosé is light, crisp, and delicious. The wine has trapped gas and so it has a light spritz on the open, which dissipates quickly. There is an elegant and subtle bouquet of wildflowers. On the palate, it is dry and crisp with notes of sour cherries and cranberries with a hint of smokiness on the finish.
The Schmitt Pinot Noir is an incredible wine with a bit of age, which makes it complex, earthy, and woody. There are mature aromatics that jump out of the glass, which is nice and intense on the nose. You get limestone, salty, savory, herbal, and dusty notes. It is a lovely Pinot Noir with nice bracing acidity that grabs you till the finish.
Drink More German Pinots
Germany is one of the most prestigious wine regions of the world where you can find great quality wines at affordable price points. It is a wine region that is fun to explore since you will always find cool and uniques wines. Go out and discover these fun wines and drink more German Pinots.