The knowledge is there. No doubt. Eight most competent wine tasters gathered around the table blind tasting some great Burgundy Pinot Noirs, are soon to be tricked by a world class Pinot from Germany! Since I am the one putting the wine into the tasting I am blessed with a ticket on the front row when the tasting squad scratches their heads in confusion!
It is mean, I know – especially since we have just tasted a great bottle of the 2005 Domaine Louis Boillot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cherbaudes (92 p), the even greater 2005 Domaine Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts (95 p) and a wonderfully perfumed 2007 Domaine Perrot-Minot Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru La Combe d’Orveau (94 p). But nonetheless – I have sneaked in a Pfalz Pinot that for some of us tasters challenges the Cathiard and Perrot-Minot, and for some even surpasses the Côte de Nuits!
The 2007 Tafelwein Rhein Pinot Noir (96 p) from Weingut Friedrich Becker is without doubt the very best German red I have tasted – a feeling I believe all around the table more or less shared that evening. Decanted almost for three hours prior to serving the Pinot Noir revealed a lovely light red colour with a great nose of fragrant sweet mashed strawberries, wild strawberries, saddle leather, expensive oak, spices and tobacco.
The elegance, acidity and the chalky minerality is close to sheer perfection and just lovely together with the strawberries, the nicely integrated oak, a touch of licorice and spiciness. An aftertaste staying incredibly long for a Pinot Noir – even if the alcohol content is not more than 13,5%.
So; a wine named Tafelwein doesn’t send signals that we’re dealing with Germany’s best red. Better ask Fritz Becker, the wine maker, what’s hiding behind the label!
Fritz tells me that the 2007 Tafelwein Rhein Pinot Noir comes from the Grosses Gewächs site Sankt Paul - a southern exposed vineyard that can reach quite impressive temperatures during the day but one that is also cooled off during the night, thanks to the surrounding forests and the valley. Sankt Paul consists of a very rocky, stony limestone. The top soil with loam and clay content is only 25 centimeters deep before the more chalky soil takes over. The vines simply has to struggle hard which results in a long ripening period without too high sugar levels.
The average age of the vines is 20 years and two clones are used; the German Mariafeld and the 777 Burgundy. All the work in the vineyard is done by hand; picking with lots of different selections, all treated separately. Different rows, clones, ripening phases, quality of the grape’s and so on. The yield average is around 3000 litres per hectare and the density of the plantings are around 6000 vines per hectare.
Open top fermentation with little movement during an average of 12-14 days of maceration. Both wild and cultivated yeast is being used. There after aged in barrels for 18 months – barrels from Palatinian wood, French oak and some used barriques from Burgundy producers. The wine is bottled without filtration.
There you have it; a Palatinian Pinot Noir that challenges the very best from Burgundy – and the rest of the Pinot world!
(2007 Tafelwein Rhein Pinot Noir, Weingut Friedrich Becker, Pfalz, 96 p)