Spotlight on Spätburgunder: Thomas Hensel


It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that the Merlot grape can turn out some really nice wines in the Pfalz region – not when considering the almost Mediterranean climate some parts of the region enjoys. Pfalz can produce white wines with plentiful of tropical scents, fatness and and an acidity many considers atypical for German wines. The climate also explains why you will find more international grape varieties such as Merlot, the Cabernet’s, Syrah and Pinot Noir here than in any other region in the country. Still, it did surprise me when I had a glass of the 2004 Höhenflug Merlot from Thomas Hensel for the first time.

Let’s go back four years in time. Schlosshotel im Grunewald. Berlin. It’s our engagement trip and the first evening at the hotel bar I am recommended the Merlot. It’s so tasty and delicious that I every evening that stay had a glass. And got a bottle with me home thanks to the very friendly sommelier Fabio Miccoli. There you have it -my very first meeting with Thomas Hensel’s wines.

By sheer coincidence, when trying to find out more about German Pinot, I recently bumped into Hensel again. Without knowing anything at all about the 2007 Spätburgunder Höhenflug I ordered it just for the fact it was a Hensel!

Opened up – half of the bottle was allowed to breathe in the decanter – it showed classic Pfalz Spätburgunder bouquet with strawberry jam, earth, a touch of saddle leather, flowers and compost. Just how I like my Pinot!

Unfortunately the taste is not following the same track. It’s all nicely integrated, the oak and the acidity but the residual sugar level isn’t to my liking. When checking with the producer it’s around 5,5 grams and sorry, that is simply too much for me – even if the balance is there. Still showing lovely strawberries, earth, a touch of vanilla, coffee and fudge from the oak and a nice spiciness though.

Maybe 2007 is just too good in some parts of Pfalz – especially when it comes to Spätburgunder? 13,5% reveals difficulties balancing the sweetness and alcohol. With 5,5 grams it could have been higher but would then most likely enhance the bitterness easily developed in many German Pinot’s. Maybe the cooler 2008 will show better? However, it is still a Hensel and the nostalgia easily conquers over residual sugar this evening!

(2007 Spätburgunder Höhenflug, Thomas Hensel, Pfalz, 86 points)