Today we have a fun and informative post about Austrian and German Pinot Noir. This post is from my friend Helen who occasionally shares her journey in wine appreciation with the readers of this blog. Please note, this is not a sponsored post – just one woman’s story of a glamorous evening and her introduction to the unexpected pleasures of German Pinot Noir. GREG
I was recently invited to the Grand Opening of the Gran Seiko Watch flagship store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It was an exclusive affair, beautifully catered by Nobu… but alas, I am a vegetarian and had to make do with the delicious freely flowing sake (Nobu, The Sake, Iunmai Daiginjo) and Champagne (Louis Roederer). The festivities continued at The Peppermint Club, with Jazz, Japanese Whiskey, Champagne, and sushi.
One of the servers at The Peppermint Club kindly took pity on me and had someone in the kitchen whip up an avocado roll, but it was too late – I was already happily tipsy and talkative, which is how I got to chatting with a young man, Carl Morandell, who informed me that he was a wine importer. There is a scene in the movie Love Actually where Laura Linney takes a moment to do a private happy dance… I mean, chatting to the CEO of Japan Airlines was also lovely… but wine!
In my defense, I did not know that Carl specializes in importing German and Austrian wines when I innocently mentioned that I didn’t like them. Specifically, I don’t like the quintessential German white wine, Dry Riesling, with its petroleum nose and oiliness. No matter how dry a Riesling is, I always perceive a fruity sweetness, not to my taste.
German Pinot Noir
“Ah, but have you ever tasted German Pinot Noir?”
“Wait, what? That’s a thing?“
I had unwittingly thrown down a glove and Carl was invigorated at the prospect of proving me wrong. Before I knew it, my arms were full of Austrian and German wines and I was about to get schooled. I can now say that German Pinot Noir most certainly is a thing. A thing of beauty, if you overlook the German word for Pinot Noir, Spätburgunder!
I decided to enlist Greg and Ken in order to get a three-palate opinion of the wine. We made an evening of it and Greg made a yummy Pinot Noir-friendly vegetarian dish of roasted butternut squash and green beans with a nod to Thanksgiving Harvest flavors. We decided to compare a 2010 Martin Wassmer, Schlatter Maltesergarten Spätburgunder from Baden, and a 2011 Hundsdorfer Neckenmarkter Pinot Noir Reserve from Burgenland, Austria. The more you drink, the easier the names are to pronounce.
The Wassmer has a beautiful nose with classic Burgundian Funk (mushroom, forest floor, and hints of Black Forrest Gateau). All three of us fell in love with this complex yet light and elegant wine, which is supremely food friendly and our unanimous favorite. It brims with red cherries, spice, and lace in a perfectly balanced feminine dance on the palate.
By contrast, the Hundsdorfer is a much bigger wine at 14.5% Alcohol, with oaky tannins creating a spine of pure masculinity. At first, this wine does not give up much on the nose and holds on pretty tightly to its charms, but given time, it opens up to seduce with dark fruit and sandalwood. I have a feeling that most California consumers with the patience to let it breathe would love the oomph of this wine.
For wines of this quality from California producers, you would expect to be paying at the very least, $50 a bottle. At around half that price, these wines are a fantastic find and a stellar steal by comparison. It’s akin to paying for a cast of unknowns in the first season of a TV series when you have a window to enjoy the bargains before the show takes off and you are dealing with stars who can demand more money. Helen
In Los Angeles, you can find Austrian and German Pinot Noir at Vendome in Toluca Lake and online at Morandell Imports.