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Genau, Genau…

Robert Mason

Posted on March 28 2023

A very good friend of mine and guest at my wedding once proclaimed rather loudly to the entire Breakfast party, “Rob, this Pinot Noir is amazing! Where is it from?” I was rather proud of myself for choosing the wine which impressed all guests and this soon-to-be Master of Wine student. I simply replied, “Pfalz”.

That friend, who will remain nameless, has subsequently completed his Master of Wine qualification and is now a major buyer for an excellent UK importer. Nearly a decade has passed since and that notorious statement is forever etched in my memory. The wine in question was Stepp. I can almost still taste it: graphite, flinty aromas with notes of smoked charcuterie and a bright, vibrant red fruit profile but structured in a Burgundian sort of way, quite apart stylistically from its nearest French neighbour of Alsace. And it was Burgundy which my friend assumed was being poured.

If I am to look back on my own experiences as a wine buyer, I guess the one common thread was my instinct to get ahead of the curve. I have loved German wine for a long time now and the one thing which runs as a backbone, through all the wines, is quality and purity. They are just so well made.

So when I joined The Good Wine Shop late last year, I was ecstatic to see a broad range of quality German producers.

Katharina Wechsler from Rheinhessen was first on my “to taste” list. Starting with the 2018 Riesling from Westhofen. Marked by the classic and specific (but not exclusive to) aroma resembling crushed rocks and chalky minerality. Dry, full and flavoursome...

Incidentally, that petrol/gasoline/kerosene aroma is a natural phenomenon found in various varieties and is the chemical compound known as TDN which certain grapes exude to ward against sunburn. I have also noted this characteristic in some aged Sangiovese Rosé from Washington State (delicious, by the way!), Tokaj’s dry Furmint, Hunter Valley Semillon, some high-quality Japanese Koshu, white non-fortified Pedro Ximenez and even found traces of the compound in some sparkling Cava. [But maybe this is a subject for another time? ~ Ed.]

Noted. Ahem. Back to Wines of Germany!

Perhaps the most interesting discovery to be made is Germany’s potential and quality in the – excuse the pun – growth area of international varieties. I had first discovered the potential of Sauvignon Blanc produced in the Fume style at a similar point in time to Stepp, a good few years before Jancis Robinson spread the news of the maverick Pfalz producer and same beloved wine of mine from Oliver Zeter. Hauntingly complex, fuller, rounder and, in my opinion better than the Loire’s Pouilly-Fume.

A bit of an insider winery and introduced on this same blog just last year by Richard, is Knewitz. Forty million years ago, an ancient sea gave way to coral-rich limestone in much the same way as in Burgundy. I can confirm from recently tasting the Knewitz ‘Holzfass’ Chardonnay 2020 that the similarities are astounding. Think Meursault, mature Puligny-Montrachet. As for the Reserve Chardonnay, one would be fooled into believing it to be Batard!

And now to round everything of perfectly. Genau, Genau... aka Exactly! The stunning Pinot Noir aka Spatburgunder I love at the moment is the truly exceptional Ziereisen from Baden, adjacent to Pfalz. Punching well above its humble Landwein status (perhaps, dare I say it, even better than Stepp?!), this wine is deep and rich with nice meatiness, precise fruit and a hauntingly long finish. Wunderbar!

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