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Wine Pick of the Week

Friday, 10 February 2017 21:11

Affentaler Spatburgunder 2015 Picmonkey

2015 Pinot Noir





Baden, Germany

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $17-20

“When you think of German wine, the image might be Riesling, or perhaps Sylvaner or Müller-Thurgau. That’s understandable. In general, Germany’s colder conditions are better suited to those white varieties. However, Germany also produces red wines, notably Pinot Noir, which is known in that country as Spätburgunder.  This week’s pick comes from Affentaler in the Baden district, which is Germany’s southernmost grapegrowing region.  Apparently, Affental is a convoluted linguistic evolution from Ave Tal (Ave Valley), which was named in honor of a pilgrim chapel (Ave Maria) adjacent a vineyard tended by the Cistercian order. In the local vernacular Avetal eventually became Affental, which translates to Valley of the Monkey. Or so that’s the way we understand the story. In any case, history indicates those Cistercians were cultivating grapes in the Valley—some of them Pinot Noir—as far back as 1250 A.D.

“Your reviewer is a Pinot Noir fan. Yes, Pinot Noir from Burgundy, California, Oregon, New Zealand and almost anywhere else that makes a decent wine from this grape. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t had much of it from Germany. A sit up-and-take notice moment, though, was a retirement luncheon for the late Walter Schug (1935-2015). Walter was born into a German winemaking family and emigrated to the U.S. to pursue his own career, working in the early days for Gallo, then becoming winemaker for Joseph Phelps before opening his own Schug Carneros Estate in Sonoma. He made fine wines from many varieties, but his passion was Pinot Noir. The luncheon was splendid—plenty of friends and colleagues on hand who were happy to pay their respects to a classy guy-- a gentleman and a significant contributor to America’s wine history.  

Eventually, some older wines were opened: First a jug wine made at least 30 years earlier (though the label had no vintage date it was recognized as a long-abandoned graphic style). It was from the era that Walter and Julio Gallo were hopscotching around California’s North Coast in a light plane to source the best vineyards for grapes that would go into Hearty Burgundy. This aged jug wine was not only drinkable, it was damned good. Shortly thereafter Walter produced a few bottles of German wine. These were wines he had brought with him when he came to the U.S. around 1960, he explained. They were Spätburgunders made by his father. I don’t remember the vintage, but they had to be around 50 years old when they were opened for us.  They were marvelous—evolved, but still vibrant.  It forever changed my opinion of how good German Pinot Noir can be.

“This week’s Pick may not be in that same exalted category as the wines made by Walter’s father, but since it’s not likely we’ll have the opportunity to re-taste the 2015 vintage from Affentaler 40 or 50 years from now, we can’t say for sure. For those used to bigger, syrupy Pinot Noir bottlings from the New World, it might miss the mark.  Those who appreciate subtlety are likely to find it light, but not insufficient. Much of the charm of Pinot Noir is in the nose and we liked the herbal aspects reminiscent of dried flowers and wet tea leaves. There was plenty of flavor on the tongue and a nice, lingering finish. Definitely in a lighter style, but a good example of another interpretation of this grape variety.”

Food Affinity:  “Remembering the menu from Scheidel’s Bavaria, I think their Rouladen and maybe the Sauerbraten would be appropriate. But this wine needn’t be limited to accompanying German fare.  Would be a winner with the pork and clams dish that was so good in Portugal, too.


Editor's note:  Wines reviewed in Taste Washington Travel are encountered by our staff in several ways. They can be discovered at trade tastings or visits to wineries. They may also be purchased by staff members for their own tables or be those sent by wineries for possible review. This is an editorial feature, not advertising, and appearance cannot be secured by payment. More information can be had by contacting info@tastewashington travel.com

Last modified on Thursday, 02 March 2017 12:55


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