The Explore 4: German-Speaking Reds

The Explore 4: German-Speaking Reds

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SommSelect’s “Explore 4” surveys the vast landscape of wine and breaks it into small, digestible bites. Each month, we select four bottles that fit a theme, allowing members to experience a diversity of styles while developing their own palate preferences. It’s an ongoing exploration of wine through a sommelier’s eyes and there’s no more effective, and enjoyable, way to learn about wine

They go by many names, most of which are long and hard to pronounce, but the red wines of Germany, Austria, and other German-speaking regions of Europe don’t merely merit a closer look—they demand respect! More familiar but no less overlooked is Pinot Noir, called Spätburgunder in Germany and Blauburgunder in Austria, which has always been a great fit for cooler, more northerly European growing zones. Some of the best Pinot Noir values on earth right now are German, which inspired us to create this selection.

Here is what is in the box, Prost!

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Schiava 2022

The name Alto Adige refers to the “upper” Adige River Valley, a picturesque landscape of vineyards and orchards climbing from the valley floor up toward the Alps and Dolomites that surround it. Abbazia means “abbey” in Italian and this is indeed a historic monastic winery operated by the Augustinian order since 1142. 100% Schiava (Vernatsch) grapes harvested from vineyards in the village of Cornaiano—where vineyards face north and climb to altitudes of about 350 meters. This wine is a mash-up of lots of woodland berry fruit, mountain wildflowers, and a faint whiff of woodsy smoke in a softly contoured, easy-drinking format.

Bio-Weingut Schreiner, Burgenland Blaufränkisch 2020

Burgenland is centered around Lake Neusiedl near Austria’s border with Hungary and Gernot and Victoria Schreiner organically farm six hectares of vines in the celebrated Burgenland village of Rust. Hand-harvested fruit (100% Blaufränkisch) from their Certified Organic vineyards is fermented and aged in used, large-format Austrian oak fuder barrels. The wine spends 14 months aging in those barrels before bottling (in a 1-liter screwcap bottle). It’s medium-bodied and full of energy, with soft tannins. There’s a unique quality to the acidity of Blaufränkisch reds—they’re bright and fresh but also softly contoured.

Familie Friedrich Becker, Pfalz Pinot Noir 2019

Pfalz is named for a Rhine tributary and runs all the way to Germany’s border with Alsace. The soils highly variable and include pockets of clay/limestone marl reminiscent of what’s found in Burgundy. The Beckers source fruit for this wine from vineyards rooted in limestone, with vine age ranging from 18 to 42 years. The wine is a relatively light ruby red in the glass, with a slight smokiness that is typical of many German Pinot Noirs.

Paul Achs, Burgenland Zweigelt 2021

After a period of travel that included a winemaking stint in California, Paul Achs returned to his family’s farm in Gols and shifted it from mostly white wine production to 90% red. The Achs vineyards are in and around the village of Gols, in the Neusiedlersee district of Austria’s Burgenland region. The vineyard source for this wine is called “Heideboden” and is characterized by gravelly black soil mixed with loamy sand. Aromas of black and purple woodland berries, violets, black pepper, juniper, and crushed stones. The texture is at once pleasingly plump and refreshingly tangy, melding fruit and mineral sensations seamlessly.

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